Jim McMillen's Blog


Thirteen years ago, I built a bluebird house using scrap lumber from a nearby house that was under construction. The bluebird house was mounted on a metal pole and installed in the large, mostly wooded green-space common area located behind our North Florida subdivision lot because bluebirds like their houses in open areas. The pole was longer than I needed, and I had no way to cut it off, so I pounded it into the ground as far as I could and mounted the house six feet off the ground.  That’s too high for bluebirds’ preference of four to five feet above the ground. To my knowledge, no bluebirds ever occupied the house.

During the next few years scrub trees, shrubs, and weeds took over the area around the house, and I forgot about it until recently when a next-door neighbor showed interest in the house. He had an open backyard, perfect for a bluebird house. I told him that he could have it if he could pull the deeply-pounded pole out of the ground. At separate times we both took turns trying to free the pole and house. Apparently, I had poured a bit of concrete around the pole 13 years ago, so it wouldn’t budge. At the time, I noticed through the opening that the birdhouse was full of debris but thought nothing of it.

Last week, I hired a man to trim trees. He was a big, strong guy, so I asked him if he would give the pole-pulling a try. After unsuccessfully trying, the pole broke off beneath the surface. As he was carrying the birdhouse and remaining pole toward our backyard, he dropped it suddenly and let out with few choice words I won’t repeat. As he was jumping around slapping his back and arms, I glanced at the dropped birdhouse on the ground. Fire ants were “boiling” out of the entrance hole and cracks beneath the roof. Fortunately, the man wasn’t stung.

To paraphrase Casey Stengel, “Who’d ever thunk it?” That’s right: a colony of fire ants had built a nest six feet above the ground in a birdhouse. It was their penthouse. The debris I had seen earlier was dirt, apparently carried up the metal pole into the birdhouse.

The birdhouse, still attached to its seven foot pole, is where it was dropped. Amdro has been placed around the opening. Hopefully the colony of ants will be gone soon, and my neighbor will have a bluebird house for his backyard. 

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