The Ants Go Marching


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Summer is ant season. The pesky little beggars come sneaking in every crevice they can find. We are currently dealing with regular house ants and the little black ants, aptly named Monomorium minimum. In addition to being a nuisance, both bite (or sting). “Expert” sites will tell you the minimum ants have a stringer, but it’s too small to be effective. Not true; it’s like having a small needle jabbed into your skin. So I’m currently on the warpath against ants. Years of experience have taught me some useful strategies.
First, ants are attracted to different food sources. House ants generally go for the sugar or other sweet foods. However, they also like commercial dry cat food, in my experience. The minimum ants like grease, oil, meats, fruits and corn meal, but they’ll also eat sugar. Obviously, one way to keep them from invading is to make sure you always have food put safely away and to clean up spills, crumbs and such immediately. But the other thing they’re looking for is water, and that’s a little tougher. The worst place for minimum ants in my house is the kitchen, where they hit the sink. Third, most ants travel on scent trails, which is why you see them marching in line. To get rid of them, you have to attack on all fronts.
Some people tell you to always feed your animals outside. Not at my house. That just attracts meat bees – which hurt a lot worse than ants – raccoons, feral cats and bears. Oddly, the ants in the house don’t pay much attention to the pets’ food dish, but the ones outside make a beeline for the open bag of cat food in the wash house. So I focus on spraying scent trails and put out bait. The two most successful sprays I’ve found for scent trails are plain white vinegar (full strength) and peppermint spray. For the peppermint spray, add about two teaspoons peppermint oil to a mixture of two cups vodka or gin and one cup water. Shake well before using and periodically as you spray. The peppermint spray will even kill the ants if you douse them thoroughly. Peppermint tends to linger longer than vinegar. I can spray twice a day instead of three or four times a day. A mix of borax and powdered sugar – one part borax to three of sugar – makes a good bait. They eat some of it, but they also carry the borax back to the nest, which eventually kills other ants. It also kills the queen, which is the one you really want to get rid of. You don’t need much. A teaspoon or so in a pill bottle lid or similar small container placed at strategic points along their trails is sufficient. Don’t place these where your pets or kids can get into them, however. Those plastic strawberry baskets with something like a saucer on top allow the ants in but keep cats from taste-testing the bait.
Be patient – expect that it will take a week or two of consistent effort before these tactics are successful.

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