Every summer there is an epic battle of insect races in our home. Two insect hordes descend in order to prove their dominance in the kitchen. One insect horde lives harmoniously with its surroundings and has no negative impact upon family life. The other horde insists upon making its presence known at every moment, making even basic tasks an annoyance and even creating disturbing scenarios for the family to stumble upon. I am referring to the yearly home invasion of the fruit flies and the sugar ants and I’ve actually learned a lot from both of these insect species.
For years Tanya and I have tried to find ways to avoid both of these insects taking up residence in our kitchen and other rooms during the summer months. We’ve tried chemicals, traps, and yes, even home remedies like vinegar, to no avail. There is just no avoiding our summer guests. However, one of these guests lives semi-harmoniously with our family, while the other is seen as a plague upon us.
Sugar Ants are a small species of ants that tend to feed on sugary things, hence their name. These insects generally take up residence on our counter and around the dish drying rack in our kitchen. Occasionally they find their way into cabinets but, generally, the sugar ants stay in the same general area. In some ways we welcome the arrival of the sugar ants every year. They are tiny, cause no harm to anything, and generally keep to themselves. If I am cleaning dishes or Tanya is preparing dinner, they scurry out of the way and go about their business elsewhere.
While some might consider them pests, I admire the sugar ants for their orderly way of life. They make their way to and fro on the counter without making themselves obtrusive. Their young/larvae are kept safe in some unseen and undiscovered location. The sugar ants work as a team to provide for their colony in a very ordered, almost monk-like way. They toil all day, working as a team, keeping to themselves. When an obstacle it put in their path, they gracefully move around it and continue their daily task.
Then there are the fruit flies. These insects are a plague upon all who encounter them and are truly the scum of the insect world. Fruit flies seem to know they have only a short time to live. So, they don’t give a crap who they bother, where they go, or what they do. Unlike the sugar ants, the fruit flies basically live for the most basic things in life. They want nothing more than to eat, mate, and lay their eggs wherever they can. They don’t live in a colony or group. Fruit flies are their own beings free from care for others. They exist solely for themselves and their own survival.
Interestingly enough, fruit flies and sugar ant workers have similar lifespans. According to Google, the average fruit fly lives 40-50 days, while the average sugar ant lives 60-70 days. Yet, when it comes to life, these creatures have two fundamentally different existences. In fact, you could say their short lives represent a microcosm of the possibilities of our own.
On one hand, we could live lives in harmony with communities around us. We could work together to provide food, fun, shelter, and love to our families, friends, coworkers, and communities. We would choose to focus on working hard for the benefit not just for ourselves, but for others.
On the other hand, we could also live totally for ourselves. We may actively choose just to look out for number one. We could spend all of our money on things we don’t need. We might ignore those around us, and simply focus on seeking out nothing but pleasure for its own sake without allowing others to share in that pleasure with us. We could live our lives with our own desires being the core focus with no care for anyone else around us. We may just shout/buzz “me, me, me, focus on me” on social media sites and wonder if we have gotten enough “likes” to validate ourselves.
Many of us are in-between the two. We are neither fruit flies nor are we sugar ants. However, in my opinion it would be better to take our cues from the sugar ants. No, we don’t have to live in a hive-like carefully structured environment. However, I believe that we find our truest selves through participating with and serving others. That doesn’t mean I am good at that yet. In fact, I am more like an annoying fruit fly than I want to accept.
The question is, who do you want to be? Do you want to be more like a fruit fly, or more like a sugar ant?