Q: My backyard anthill is now 2 feet wide and growing. How do I get rid of it? And how do I keep ants from coming into my house?
A: It’s hard to look at an ant the same way after you’ve heard Woody Allen’s voice coming out of one of them. Yet despite the Hollywoodization of colony life in the late 90s, most of us have no problem crushing the little buggers.
Still, you’ve gotta admit, they’re pretty damn fascinating. Some of these mini-Navy SEALs emit propaganda pheromones to confuse enemy ants. Others are odd little farmers that actually “milk” aphids by stroking their bellies until they release a sugary juice.
The thought of killing one of nature’s workhorses is enough to send some serious karma-peddling pacifists into a tailspin. They’ll even put a jar of sugar outside to keep ant bellies full so they don’t come knocking at the kitchen door for dinner.
But what if the harmony’s gone and ants are taking over fast? One large anthill can soon become five, and before you know it your yard is the New York City of ant colonies. Lots of rural folk facing massive mounds go medieval on their ass by dousing them in gasoline and setting them ablaze. I don’t have to tell you that’s really bad for our air/soil/lungs/planet.
So what do you do? Well, there are lots of greener options. One popular route involves pouring a large pot of boiling water into the anthill. It kills most but not all of them instantly, but it’ll also kill your grass and won’t necessary put an end to your problem.
You need to get to the queen. This requires stealthy assassination plans along the lines of the CIA plot to poison Castro’s filet mignon. Method one involves sprinkling lots of cornmeal around their home. They’ll all chow down, including the queen, and the next time they drink water, they swell up and, well, explode. No joke. This should even work on fire ants.
Your last resort involves taking a litre of honey (or sugar), stirring in five tablespoons of borax, then pouring globs of it near the colony. The ants should take it back to their queen and croak. Too much borax, though, and the carriers die en route. If you have tiny thief ants, you’ll have to mix something greasy like peanut butter in there to attract them. To keep pets, kids, birds, and other critters away put the honey mix in jars with puctured lids.
Now, for those ants making a beeline for your kitchen. First, sprinkle diatomaceous earth (fossilized algae powder available in bulk for cheap at Grassroots stores) wherever they’re coming in. Ants were wandering in my back door heading straight for my cat’s bowl, and a line of the powder at the bottom of the door put an end to the situation overnight.
If they’re already in your pantry, you’ll want to put some citrus peels or cucumber parings out. They hate the stuff so much, they should vacate. You can even sprinkle orange peels in your garden if you get ants eating your sweet peppers like I used to.
Also, be sure to caulk all cracks or gaps in your home that might tunnel to the outside. And don’t be a slob (says the pot calling the kettle black). A clean house with well-sealed pantry items isn’t as tempting.
Q: I’ve got a carpenter ant problem. What do I do?
A: I’ve lived in peace with carpenter ants chewing up the retaining wall next to my patio for years now. But this year the infestation was starting to spread en masse, so I reached for the only thing I had in my cupboard: diatomaceous earth. I dusted it everywhere, squashed some flying breeders and they retreated. At least it kept them from coming near my pad.
If they’re showing up on your door, you want to prune nearby trees and bushes, move firewood away from the house, fix leaky pipes, seal up any holes and start praying they don’t find a way inside.
If that happens, you’ll need a pro.
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