Lum: Dealing with infestations |

Lum: Dealing with infestations

My friend Squeek, who was in Aspen recently for a family reunion, returned for a week to play the piano for the rehearsals of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Part of the time, she stayed with me in my recently vacated back shed, which is quite a nice little pad, conveniently out of earshot of the books on CD that I use to put myself to sleep.

The first night went splendidly. On the evening of her second night, Squeek, my friend Hilary and I had an early supper, after which Squeek repaired to the shed to change for the rehearsal. Immediately, a series of blood-curdling screams erupted from the shed. WTF?

Hilary dashed out and found that in the couple of hours that Squeek had last been in the shed, two enormous armies of ants had invaded the premises, swarming all over the floor, the walls and the ceiling, apparently engaged in some kind of personal warfare.

There were smallish black ants and even smaller red ants, the red ones attacking the black ones, Squeek attacking both sides with a broom, sweeping them into the yard in red and black clouds, while Hilary ran for the hose and aimed it at their points of entry.

Long ago, I had read a tip about dealing with ants using a common household product. Every time I saw a number of ants, I’d wonder, “Now what was that simple solution?” Just last week I heard it again somewhere and quickly posted it on the paper on my kitchen wall, which is a reminder of things I keep forgetting. The common product was cinnamon, of all things. I rattled through my spices in the freezer, grabbed a tin of cinnamon, and ran to the door calling, “Take this! This is the cure!”

As the little Southern girls say in the Shake and Bake commercials, “And I hailped.”

My oxygen leash didn’t reach to the shed, but I finally got their attention after sprinkling a substantial amount of cinnamon on my own doorsill lest the ants get the idea to come into the main house.

I suspect that the eviction of the ant infestation came from the spray can of Raid that Hilary found among my cleaning supplies in the cabinet under the kitchen sink (a formidable task in itself), but suffice it to say that between the water, the cinnamon and the Raid, the ants disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.

Squeek returned from her rehearsal two hours later, and there were no signs of ants, black or red. As with most wars, we’ll never know what they were fighting about or who started it.

Over the years, I’ve had my share of infestations, most of which were dealt with by exterminators. There was the summer of the spiders, the autumn of the fleas, the spring of the cockroaches, the winter of the skunks.

Don’t believe it if people tell you we don’t have cockroaches or fleas at this altitude. The good news is that they only have to be exterminated once because they’re not indigenous, and if you wait three or four months, they’ll probably die off, but I can attest to hundreds of dustpans filled with cockroach corpses, with the strongest ones still staggering up the walls and plopping, in the death throes, onto tables.

The roaches were the worst — it was not a pretty sight. After the spider infestation and extermination, I came home through the yellow contamination tapes to write about it and, out of the corner of my eye, saw the tiniest spider I’ve ever seen, marching across my desk.

Su Lum is a longtime local who hopes this is it for the next few years. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at

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