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I feel like most humans have judged value of life by size since beginning of the universe, but I tend to not share that same viewpoint.

For example, when something sweet is left in my kitchen, thousands of ants come and then they are killed by my mother. (I am 15 and live with my parents.) This upsets me, because I feel like they have just as much right to live as we do.

How can I tell her, and anyone else I see doing it, that it's upsetting for me to see them kill these creatures?

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    Have you tried telling her yet about your beliefs? If so, how does she respond?
    – Em C
    Jan 23 '18 at 15:31
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    I think the IPS answer on this question should address how he can voice his concerns about killing animals (in general) and make it persuasive enough so his mother would do a more thorough job of cleaning the counters/not leaving anything sweet in the open. Imho that is an IPS question. That fact that having a 1000 ants in the kitchen is a good idea is probably more related to 'Health'. And how to keep the ants out is perhaps more something for 'Pets'.
    – Diether
    Jan 23 '18 at 16:38
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    With the limited knowledge I have from the original post, I have tried to edit this a bit to seem more unbiased and more on topic for IPS (asking how to convey opinion VS telling others they are wrong).
    – Jess K.
    Jan 23 '18 at 18:03
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    Nice edit @Jess K which prompted me to cast the 5th reopen vote: it is indeed an IPS question in terms of asking how to communicate a contrary point of view effectively to another person. Jan 23 '18 at 20:36
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What you have is a conflict of belief systems - yours, in which all life is equal, and your mother's, apparently in which not all life is equal. Also, it is obvious that your mother does not want ants in the house.

You can start by explaining to her your beliefs. Keep in mind that if it is her house she has the right to determine what constitutes a pest and what is not a pest. Therefore, if you want her to not kill ants, it's up to you to demonstrate that you share the same goal: keeping them out of the house.

I would suggest taking it on yourself to ensure that there are no sources of food or water available to ants. Keep in mind that they don't require a lot, so your kitchen and dining area need to be kept very clean and cooking ingredients need to be kept in sealed containers. You will need to find and seal up any entrance to the house. If they decide to set up a colony, it will be up to you to humanely relocate the colony before they do damage to the house. (in the US, there are some species of ant that can become very destructive if left alone in a house)

Also, I'd suggest re-framing your difference of belief. Your mother is apparently not against ants living and does not appear to be trying to exterminate all ants. Rather, she is against ants living in the house. That's something very different. Again, if you don't want them killed, you will need to demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that they don't come in and if they do come in, ensuring that there is no reason for them to stay.

An important IPS is to note that expecting others to conform to your beliefs without doing anything to make that easier or productive for others is, in my opinion, a high form of hypocrisy. It's great to have beliefs, but we have to demonstrate our commitment to our beliefs through action that consists of more than telling others to conform.

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    +1 "we have to demonstrate our commitment to our beliefs through action that consists of more than telling others to conform" Excellent point! Thank you for articulating it so clearly. Jan 24 '18 at 0:37
  • Upvoted especially for the "Therefore, if you want her to not kill ants, it's up to you to demonstrate that you share the same goal: keeping them out of the house." part.
    – Markino
    Jan 24 '18 at 11:53
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I've been in a similar situation with my mom and sister (particularly with spiders and wasps), and had great success (eventually)—but it takes time. Don't expect results overnight. People can change (if they want to), but it might take a while.

Ants would seem to be a more difficult situation—because what are you going to do about them if you mother doesn't do anything? You'll need to find an alternative to killing them. I'm not sure that your mother wants to coexist with them (it's pretty easy to coexist with bold jumping spiders, and to put a single wasp outside here and there). You could try getting an ant farm, and say you need the ants for it.

Anyway, back to my experience. I told my family that the spiders were my friends, and talked about the virtues of spiders. I wouldn't swat flies (people notice that). Convincing them that the creatures aren't harmful (if they're not harmful), and that they don't have ill intent, may help with some people (but it's sometimes pretty difficult to convince people that the bites they've received in the night aren't definitely from spiders, despite the fact that they never saw a spider do it). I would talk to the spiders, wave to them and stuff (spiders do notice when you pay attention to them).

If you have religious reasons not to harm the creatures, that may be helpful, too (especially if you can cite your source). If your family has the same religion, that may also be helpful (but try not to shame your family).

Your family members may eventually allow you to remove the creatures from the house, or they may even tolerate them in the house if they're not too distressing). Focusing on calming your family and helping them to realize that the insects aren't harmful may help. If they're distressed by the creatures, they may not listen to you.

Anyway, I just recommend showing your family that you love the creatures. Eventually, they may come around, and leave them alone (or ask you to handle them) out of respect for you. They might not, but yeah. It worked for me.

Persuasion and longsuffering—that's my recommendation.

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  • Yeah, spiders are a horrid experience for an arachnophobe that has a live and let live approach to life. I can attest to that. But you can trap them in drinking glasses by putting it over them and sliding a paper under. But you can't stop the heart from hammering at 220 bpm, some day my unwillingness to kill spiders is gonna give me a heart attack. Especially the aptly named "Giant House Spiders". To OP: Just move the critters, or let them kill them. Don't imagine you can convince THEM to move them, that is both lazy and rude. Your view, you have to suffer for it =) Jan 24 '18 at 9:30
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You need to focus on telling others how it makes you feel and avoid telling them that it is wrong. If they don't share your point of view on the morality of killing an ant then they won't listen to you. But if they care about you (and your mother almost certainly does!) then they will hopefully want to modify their behaviour to avoid hurting you.

Choose a time/setting that is relaxed and informal to speak to her. Don't wait until after she has just squished a load of ants and you are emotionally charged! When in the right setting you could perhaps say:

I need you to understand something that is very important to me. I feel very strongly about preservation of life. I don't even like to see insects killed, it upsets me deeply. I know that you might find that extreme, but I can't help how I feel. I recently felt very upset about the ants that were killed in the kitchen. Please can we find a way to keep the ants out, and if they do find their way inside, or any other insect, please can we remove them humanely?

Understanding other people's point of view is important for you, too. Don't take moral high ground. I'm sure your belief that we should try and coexist with all life on earth doesn't extend to germs, and many people see bugs in the home as the same. Arguing about the rights and wrongs wont get you anywhere, so try and seek solutions instead.

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I think "how to ask" might be to appeal to reason.

In most places if people or animals are killed there are laws concerning that but when it comes to insects it's more about the laws concerning pesticide and disposal, not about the insects at all.

If there's an insect in my home I have a 'catching jar' so I can catch and release them outside, if it's a flying insect I can usually open the window further and direct them outside - not sure if my neighbors have figured out or thought much of my example but it's there for them to learn from, if they are so inclined.

You might inquire of your mother's reasoning and what example she hopes to set ...

Is it that she's lazy with leaving food out and cleaning up, that the ants are simply little pests that remind her of this?

Is it more simply that she's big and they are small?

Is it because they are insects, what if it were a cat, dog, or bird; would she swat it?

Does she enjoy the extra mess and work of cleaning up the deceased bugs?

By asking what she is trying to do and how successful she thinks her efforts are might encourage her to be tidy and not take it out on the bugs.

What if she bugged the neighbors, should they be rid of her?

Maybe she fears being bitten or of disease, she is looking out for you. By asking what she is doing and why will better equip you with how to put forth your beliefs and solutions.

Telling people they can't go anywhere and walk outside because they will step on a bug is a non-starter; educating people about cleanliness and respect for others is likely to be an argument, a belief, that is better received.

Ask to get a frog or lizard to eat the bugs, that too will probably be rejected. Not leaving the burglars an invitation is the way to go.

Education and reason will work better than a conflict of belief.

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Ask your mother if you can keep the ants as pets, and educate her

As an insect lover, I understand how it feels when insects are harmed or killed, most probably by people who simply do not possess knowledge of these often misunderstood animals. This means that if you want to go the interpersonal way, you may want to start researching these insects and then convince your mother they are not the evil pests people proclaim them to be.

Ants love sweets and sugary food. Drop a bit of honey or sugar next to a worker ant and watch as she gets excited in finding the food and then returning back to her colony to inform the other ants. You can check as they move their antennas around when communicating to one another, this is just like how you'd imagine gossip to be.

If the food source also contains a sustainable living place for ants (with proper temperature and humidity conditions), many worker ants will start moving to this new territory and eventually the colony will also move their queen over.

One solution to the problem you're currently having could be setting up a food trap for the worker ants to investigate and trap as many as you can. The outsider ants do not want to be left behind by their fellow sisters (who are inside the trap), and will want to move in. Eventually they'll bring their queen over.

Keep this in mind, as the queen is the most important element of the colony. You don't know where the queen is located, and even if your mother knew where she was, and killed her, the colony would slowly die, but you wouldn't have a proper answer to your interpersonal question. Also keep in mind that the food trap would have to contain the proper settings for the ants to build a graveyard and a dump yard (Yes, ants are this hygienic and organized).

In essence, if you don't want people to kill insects you love, you have to research these insects and educate the people around you about them.

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    While you do a good job of describing the behavior of ants, it's unclear how inviting an ant colony into the OP's mother's kitchen will make her not want to kill them. When you mention that the OP should keep them as pets, where should those pets reside? In the walls, or kitchen cabinets? What about the fact that the OP is most likely living with his mother? Her wishes should be accounted for here. You're also not addressing the historic reasons why people don't like ants in their homes: hygiene, and destruction of property.
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 23 '18 at 15:36
  • @AndreiROM ants as pets are usually kept in a glass terrarium. This is even somewhat common.
    – Erik
    Jan 23 '18 at 15:39
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    @AndreiROM It's understandable how you might feel about ants. However, keep in mind that in many households all around the world, ants will come over whether you like it or not, and trapping them inside a controlled setup will ensure your household is purged of most of ant disturbance, since there's a richer source of food elsewhere, and the queen is located inside the setup instead of somewhere in your house. Also, you don't need to "stream honey or sugar water all over the counter tops", as you only need a tiny drop of honey to attract several of them. Jan 23 '18 at 15:48
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    @AndreiROM Also, as mentioned before, I feel, as an insect lover, that the proper interpersonal solution is to educate humans about how ants behave, communicate and live. OP's mother is only killing the worker ants, while the queen will pump out more newly born ants than the mother can kill, and you don't even know where the queen is located, so the source of the problem, as seen by OP's mother, is not known, as she will just hope that killing the worker ants with spray will eventually get rid of them. Jan 23 '18 at 15:52
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    @AndreiROM That would depend on what OP actually wants from his question, as it's not that much clear either. Maybe OP worships ants and I should've given an answer OP wants by saying that ants are the ultimate enlightenment to the human soul. Or maybe OP accepts ants as the new masters and rulers of this planet. Jan 23 '18 at 16:08
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Assuming your mother didn't take your initial request seriously, proactive prevention and leading by example are the only remaining courses of action left for you.

You can stop ants from accessing an opened container full of sweets. It's just a matter of placing that container on a larger plate with water in it. The water acts as a natural barrier against the ants and it doesn't hurt them one bit (note that this advice is for India only, if you live in Southern California during a water shortage, that same water could attract those ants).

This is how you ask people not kill insects. You ask them not to, and then you lead by example. Leading by example shows how serious you are. The more actual work you put in into backing up your beliefs, the more respect others will have for your beliefs and your wishes.

And if flying insects are a problem, the next step is to buy and put a larger mesh container on top of both the water plate and the original container.

And when the container of sweets is not in active use, the issue is to seal it properly in a plastic container, wash the outer rim, and wipe the outside properly so as not leave residues for the ants to find (placing the dish rag in soapy water afterward). And of course, these are not the only preventative measures you can take against insects, there are others that are just as safe to them, you just need to research them yourself and do the actual work to implement them.

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