All Creatures Great and Small

Ants

Spring will be here soon and so will some ants that want to visit you.  Ants are very beneficial but sometimes you have to deal with them.  Here is some information about ants.  You don’t hae to spend a lot of money having your home sprayed with pesticides as that is the least effective way for controlling them and the pesticides are more dangerous than the ants.

Are ants really pests? Not in most cases. First, they are great aerators of the soil. Their tunnels go deep and long which allows oxygen to seep into the soil and to the roots of plants. They are very beneficial in that they breakdown organic material to a large degree. A colony with 10,000 ants in it will bring back many pounds of organic material to their nest in one day. They often transplant seeds by carrying them and then just dropping them and they can pollinate some plants. Not to the degree of bees, of course, but plants with flowers low to the ground are frequently pollinated by ants. They also will feed on some bugs they encounter, so are technically in the pest control business. So, basically ants are very good at aerating and oxygenating the soil, adding nutrients to the soil, transplanting seeds, some pollination and aiding in decomposition of organic material.

How are ants harmful? Not very much. Carpenter ants in some parts of the country can do damage to wood in homes, but that isn’t a problem in the southwest. They need damp wood and we are too dry. Carpenter ants may wander in your home looking for food or water, but in the southwest, they will not do any damage, unless you have a plumbing leak in a wall and there is a lot of wet wood. Other ants, usually called “sugar” ants will get in your home and help themselves to any food left out. They usually like areas around the sinks for the water. When I had acrobat ants on my kitchen counter, I put out a piece of paper with some pancake syrup on it. The ants fed on that for a couple of weeks and then went back outside. I didn’t have to kill them. I just fed them, and they left. When you get ants in your house, common sense will work each time as there are safe and effective methods of dealing with them.

There are several things you can do to prevent ants from entering your home. The first step is exclusion.  Go around the outside of your home and inspect it very carefully from an ant’s point of view. Ants can sense cool air and aromatic odors emanating from your home and will try to gain access. Check around the house at ground level and look for cracks in the foundation, voids around pipes, areas under stucco, peepholes in bricks and similar areas that ants can use to gain entrance. All these areas need to be sealed, caulked, screened or otherwise altered to prevent ants from using them to get into your home. Check around your windows and doors to make sure they close tightly.  If the doors aren’t tight, you may have to install door sweeps on them.  Check your bushes, shrubs and trees to make sure you don’t have any branches touching the roof.  Don’t stack firewood, bricks or anything else next to your house or ants and other insects may find a good place to nest.   If you have bushes or shrubs next to your house, periodically inspect them for aphids, scales and similar bugs as ants are attracted to the honeydew they produce.  The ants will get on the plants and eventually find their way into your home.  Don’t put flagstone or flat boards on the ground too close to your home or some species of ants will nest under them.  On the other hand, mound-making ants will generally stay outside.  They rarely leave their complicated and efficient living conditions in the mound to enter homes.  If you don’t want the ants making mounds in your yard, you can flood the nests with white vinegar or food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). If you use the DE, mix 4 tablespoons per gallon of water. You can also use 1 gallon of orange juice diluted with 2 gallons of water and a dash of soap.

You can repel ants with a wide variety of products, including cinnamon, baking sodar, cedar oil,  talcum powder, chalk, coffee grounds, borax, garlic, broken egg shells, bone meal, black or red pepper, peppermint, paprika, chili powder and mint leaves.  If you have ants going into your hummingbird feeder, you can put duct tape, sticky side out, on the wire holding the feeder, to deter them.

The best way to control them when they get in your home is with baits.  Different species have different food preferences. Some species will take a wide variety of baits, while others are more particular. You can use a bait containing half baking soda and half powdered sugar and place it where you see foraging ants.  You can also use instant grits, which they can’t digest. A good commercial bait is Terro Bait, which is a liquid bait made from boric acid.  Place it wherever you see the ants. It is very effective against many ants.

If you have any ant questions or any pest questions, you can email me at askthebugman2013@gmail.com and I will help you to the best of my ability.

About askthebugman

I have been in the pest management industry for over 40 years. In that time I have used almost every pesticide available to control so-called “pests”. With this experience, I have learned over the years that the pesticides we use are far more dangerous than the pests we are trying to control. As a result, it has become a passion for me to improve the quality of life for humans and the planet, by assisting people to not only become more educated and aware of their environment – but also by learning to manage their home and business with a sustainable and healthier approach to tending to unwanted infestations of bugs. Please enjoy my blog posts, check out my publications, utilize my services, or simply stay in touch if you have a bug question…

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