Sunday, February 1, 2009

Up the Ante

My self-imposed Sunday chores include bleaching the parrots. Not the actual birds, just everything they may touch, or eat out of, or stand on. You can keep your fancy disinfectants; bleach works. And it degrades in sunlight (plenty of that here) and doesn't smell of lavender or 'potpourri' or some sickly throat-grabbing lemon-like olfactory assailant. Some clean-freaks advocate alcohol, but I believe this substance has a higher purpose. Anyhow, bleaching parrots gives one time to think (as does vacuuming or mowing the lawn) And my thought for the day as I was been bitten every 10 seconds was "what use are fire ants?". Wikipedia wisely tells me "not a lot".
Naturally we can't use any form of poison or insecticide; can you imagine the headlines? "Belize Bird Rescue poisons 160 domestic fowl, 12 parrots and thousands of wild birds". Who am I kidding. Headlines? Ha. You have to be a machete-wielding maniac or a politician to make headlines these days (yes, there's a difference). As a fire-ant killer, Ms DuPlooy ( recommends degreaser, molasses and warm water - but this acts only as a topical murderer, knocking off the top 2% of the nest. We tried dousing them in boiling water, but this offended my sensitivities toward these innocent helpless creatures. Only kidding - didn't really work either. A friend suggested white lime, but this will burn unsuspecting bird-feet and probably isn't too healthy as a midday snack. It seems to be one of the few battles we will not win in Belize (plus I am supposed to support the 'share the planet' theory). The best we can do is confound the enemy. Parrot food is neatly arranged in plastic chip baskets, with threaded bar and cabinet knobs screwed on for legs: these little restaurant islands live in a baking trays full of water. Regular cleaning of the tray is required as the crafty little beggars use peanut shells as boats. Honestly! Human feet are usually encased in wellies and the perches we position between the trees and the feeding platforms have to be moved regularly, or they become a route-march for the clean-up team. I once witnessed a parrot fall off a perch as it tried to pick ants of both its feet at once. I know it shouldn't have made me laugh, but I don't get out much.
I am reading about phoridae, a wonder-fly that eats fire-ants. Get this: the 'ant-decapitating' fly reproduces by laying eggs in the ant's thorax, the larvae migrates to the head and starts to eat it. After about two weeks, they cause the ant's head to fall off. The fly pupates in the detached head capsule, requiring a further two weeks before emerging. Now where can we get some of those from?


  1. Hi Nikki
    Have you seen this website:

    Even if it doesn't work I bet you could correspond with a few fellow fire ant-haters! Jens x

  2. fire ants are the bane of our existence here too! we use the "moat" thing with the dogs' food, and these pesticide stakes that are tapped in the ground near the mound that are supposed to get rid of them. Frankly I think all that any of it does is chase them from place to place!

  3. Have you tried using bait stations? They're a lot less toxic than other pesticide solutions.