Of Ants and Gnats and Men

P1050983 The joys of being a homeowner raised their ugly head again a few weeks ago. 

First, the toilet was loose and rocked back and forth.  While that can be quite soothing during those middle-of-the-night trips to the outhouse, you should bear in mind that we just completed a full remodel at the end of November (“completed” is kind of a relative term) and this included replacing the toilet.  No reason for it to be unstable already.

Upon his return, the plumber announced that his original installation had been good but that some other worker must have either bumped the toilet, put something on it, or stepped on it while the adhesive and caulk were setting.  He removed the toilet – ceremoniously placed outside in the hallway, right – cleaned up the marble underneath, and then remounted the toilet.  Then gave us strict instructions to not even so much as walk in the same room as the toilet, lest the wobble return.

With that commandment, we called a travel agent and found a good deal on a mid-range hotel in the Nana district, the convenient, touristy and seedy section of Sukhumvit Road that too many people end up staying at because it is touted in the tourist guide books as being “convenient” and “close to everything”. 

Sigh… the US dollar doesn’t buy what it used to in Khrungthep!  The Manhattan Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 11 is a nice work of faded glory.  It was clean, the people were friendly, and the interior was a bit faded and worn.  Still, it was only 1500 baht ($50) at the last minute and that included free parking and a pretty decent buffet breakfast.  That’s the price to pay for a stable toilet, I guess.


Actually, Tawn remembers the Manhattan Hotel from his childhood, when he would accompany his father to the barbershop there.  Popular with members of Khun Sudha’s (Tawn’s father) generation, the barber was an Elvis Presley fan who kept his white hair in a pompadour in homage to the other King.  The barber didn’t like to cut children’s hair and Tawn, just a little squirt, had to sit on a washing board laid across the armrests in order to raise him up, as the barber’s hands trembled with nervousness.

The barber was also popular with Japanese expats living nearby.  In the corner of the waiting area was a stack of magazines for customers to read and Tawn remembers finding some manga, Japanese comic books.  Waiting for his father to finish, he was flipping through the comic books, bored, until he reached the more… ahem… adult depictions in the story.  (For those who don’t know, there is a popular subculture of Japanese comics that contain a startling amount of pornography.  Interesting Wikipedia article here.)


The joys of home ownership continued with the invasion of ants and gnats.  The ants have been a recurring problem since construction.  They seem to come from the wall or floor behind the clothes washer.  Boy, are they clever.  Each time they find their way to the kitchen, I crawl along the floor following them back to their nest (or, at least, wherever they enter the wall) before I do any spraying.  One can just imagine the conversation:

Ant #1: “Hey, do you notice anything strange?”

Ant #2: “No, why?”

Ant #1: “That giant.  I think he’s following us.”

Ant #2: “Nah, that’s just your imagination.  You’re working too hard.  Why don’t you take a vacation?”

After locating their path, I would spray the path and the area around their portal through the wall with Raid and then they would disappear for a week or so.  They would find another path soon thereafter: exit through a gap in the shower tile grout; a corner of the door frame; from somewhere behind the washer; through the edge of the electrical outlet in the bedroom.  Clever ants, I must give them credit for their tenacity.

You have to appreciate the distances we’re talking about here: at first they were traveling three meters or so through the foyer, past the refrigerator, and up the counters.  The shortest route is always the most direct one, right?

As I closed off various routes, they became more creative, exiting the bathroom through the bedroom, then out into the living room, past the fireplace, then cut across the floor and run along the edge of the rug, then into the kitchen from the side near the patio door.  That’s the same tour I give guests when they first visit the condo!

The ants seemed pretty manageable by myself.  As much as I don’t like to use chemical sprays, the non-chemical options didn’t seem effective.  But we decided it was time to call in the heavy artillery when a swarm of teeny-tiny gnats started swarming around the bathroom sconces.  Where the heck did they come from?

P1060003 We finally determined they were reproducing in a dead space under the sink countertop, escaping through the narrow gap at the top of the under-mounted sink.  Some spraying would leave dozens of casualties but reinforcements would appear the very next day.

On the recommendation of a homeowner friend, we called a local pest control service.  A trio of men arrived, one clearly the boss, a second one sort of a mid-level manager, and then finally the poor sap who had to do the work, pictured left.  (Have I mentioned before about the hierarchical nature of Thai society?)

To say that there are no health and safety protections for workers handling toxic or otherwise unhealthful substances would be patently untrue: This young man was wearing a pair of coveralls.

Sure, he had no mask as he filled the spray tanks with water, releasing fumes that nearly knocked me out while taking the picture.  No gloves, either.

The boss assured us that there were no harmful effects and that after leaving the house closed up for an hour or so, we could return home, air it out, and then continue living our pest-free lives with no worries.

As for how the exterminators’ work has worked: In the two and a half weeks since their visit, the ants have not returned.  The gnats, just like when I sprayed, died in large numbers but were replaced the next day.  I’ve had to follow up with additional under-counter spraying to get their population under control.  But considering that the exterminators’ 12-month contract is quite inexpensive, about $12 a month, I figure I can do some of the heavy lifting, too.

Up next, I tell you about the bathroom drain that has no U-trap and how we’re tackling that.  All that and more on the next episode of “This Old Thai Condo”.   


11 thoughts on “Of Ants and Gnats and Men

  1. hmm, it’s the dry season so i guess they’re looking for food. but those with wings come out if rain starts pouring, same as the other insects do.

  2. Ah home ownership. Aint it grand? I have heard that if you sprinkle Comet Cleanser at the location the ants come into the house they won’t cros it anymore. Old folk remedy I guess.

  3. Chris,
    Not sure if they have Taro in Thailand, but it is liquid bait traps. Work very well at eliminating the nest, but you have to endure sometimes weeks of ants as guests until they all die.

  4. Those ant traps work well too, same mechanism…ants carry it back as food and kills the colony from there. Takes a week or so to work though between the ants “discovering” the food and trekking it back to the colony…

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