Lessons from Nature
When I left California to move to Europe almost six years ago, there were ongoing reports of killer bees and stinging Argentine ants coming to the Western United States from South America. Happily I moved to Europe before I felt the sting of the invasion.
However, I have come to find out that the tiniest of red ants that have been colonizing my stone house in Mallorca, are the very same stinging (I would say biting) ants from Argentina that have made there way over here on boats and planes–whether they hitch hiked intentionally searching for new land or they were brought here as captives unknown to their transporters.
They crawl all over me when I sit outside and bite like the dickens, invade my laptop keyboard, sneak underneath my clothes, and swarm the dog dish within minutes after my dog has eaten. They terrorize my dog Bear, and they come streaming down the walls by the thousands from minuscule cracks in the ceiling, wood or walls. This doesn’t happen every year but this year happens to be a bad one. Trouble in paradise.
I abhor using any kind of toxics so I try all sorts of things, such as cinnamon, but it is no match for these tenacious creatures. All they do is find a way around it. I try spraying lemon and water on them, vinegar and water, and finally Simple Green. Nothing works. As a last ditch attempt, I make a truce with them and plead that if they just stay out of the bedroom and kitchen, we can try to co-exist. However, they they march on.
These ubiquitous insects finally ware me down and I purchase a product called Bio Kill, being a sucker for products that have the words Natural, Organic and Bio in the title. As a precaution, I cover my face in a wet towel while spraying and run out of the room. Hurrah!
This works. Until . . . they just find another way in. You see, they have colonized the house–they live in the walls and ceilings. Like a dike, you plug one hole and it springs a leak in another place. I win a few battles but I am losing the war.
When I find out that these are the Argentine and therefore, non-native invasive ants that have no natural predators here, I am able to partially rationalize my decision to use Zum! This is the real deal, the no nonsense product that guarantees ants will not return for a year. No more messing around!
Armed with Zum and a wet towel over my face, I spray their entry points, hold my breath and run out of the house. A few hours later I return to find dead ants dropping from the walls. It gives me a certain amount of satisfaction. I have mixed emotions as I would like to comfortably cohabit but it does not appear to be an option.
Interesting to reflect–under what circumstances are you willing to an make exception and violate your own values? Quite honestly, this still bothers me. After all, values are values. I hold myself to pretty high standards. When is it OK to do something not aligned with one’s values? No easy answers.
Back to my story. After some research about these ants, I come to realize that even the famed Zum is only a stop-gap measure. I have to kill the queens. Next–boric acid and water which is a slow, non-toxic to humans and effective. As I read on, my euphoria gives way to the realization that the colony is global and stretches for 1000′s of miles. Surrender. At some point we are going to have to learn to co-exist.
What can these ants teach me? After all, they are real survivors, they co-operate and are even welcome in the other ant colonies of different types, take over abandoned nests of other ant species, are extremely strong, tenacious, and when one thing doesn’t work, they try another.
They do fast prototyping–scout ants explore quickly looking for sources of food or for a place where they can set up a nest. As I continue to build my international business, I could use some of what the ants have.
Don’t give up, be relentless, find a way, collaborate, learn about and respect the local culture, rapid prototyping . . . all this aggravation has not be for naught. Nature will always be my teacher, even if it is sometimes painful.
And you? What does nature teach you? How do you apply these lessons to your business life?