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A bug’s life

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ants are fascinating… when you are not overrun by them. A few days ago, I saw a few of them in our entrance, and didn’t really pay much attention, but last night they finally found our larder in the kitchen. At 1 a.m., Jeff and I were still cleaning the kitchen and the entrance, and we had to throw away some food, but we managed to save some produces (my agape syrup and other honey jars are now in the fridge.)

Kato is of no help. I must say he’s disappointed me. I think he is such a deluxe cat that he is no longer able to “protect” his own food (the ants seem to like his wet food), or maybe he doesn’t care for the extra proteins. I’ve tried to show him the ants with my finger, with no result.

Jeff told me: “What did you expect? He is not a tapir!” He is neither a hunter, the little sound he hears very well from the other side of the house when Jeff opens a tuna metal can excites him more than the view of a mouse.

I don’t mind having a few unexpected guests, like spiders, I can easily see them out. After all we live in the countryside. But a colony of ants it’s different.

I’ve read many tricks to get rid of the ants on forums while using “natural” methods:
- Cleaning the paths with white vinegar: worked for a few hours, but they managed to get used to it or to find a new path.
- Coffee grounds: it seems to surprise them; the result is not conclusive, though.
- Basil leaves and mint leaves: not working at all. I might try teabags as suggested by Lafemmedelalune rather than fresh leaves.
- Lemon and lemon juice: we thought we had found the solution. At first, they seem disoriented enough to beat a retreat. Unfortunately, they’ve now made their comeback stronger than ever.
- I read chalk works: you have to draw lines around your house, and they cannot cross it. I couldn’t find any chalk at my little supermarket this morning. I might ask my aunt who is working in a high school to give some to me.
- I also read about wet salt, and flour on their tracks(and Dalai_Lala recommend grits): but it seems that it kills the whole colony. I don’t want to kill them, they are not pests. I’d like them to leave my house, and to find their own food in the nature. On that point, their similitude with humans is bluffing: they like process food, and prefer to “shop” rather than to seek out their own food.
- For more alternative solutions, I’m studying the website that Wildflower sent me:

So it has led me to use one of my last tricks. Please don’t laugh (DH already did, though.) I read on forums that you have to talk to them and ask them to leave. While talking, you have to convince them that they can find more food outside the house. It seems to have worked for a Danish forumite (French pun intended—“ant” = “fourmi” in French).
I was a bit puzzled, not only by the technique, but also in which language do I have to speak to those ants? Do they only understand Danish? If it is the case, my career as an “Ant Whisperer” is in a dead-end; I can’t speak a single word of Danish. My second concern was talking to them close to their anthill—that’s to say outside the house, and as it is a beautiful day, all my neighbors are outside, and to top it off, I’m not sure I’ve found their main anthill. What do I have to lose? Expect that my neighbors might be convinced once for all that I’m a complete looney.

So I’ve just tried it outside, after making sure that no one was watching me. I don’t know if my little speech was convincing (I opted for French), I wonder whether I talked to the “right ants”, with their cast system you never know. I didn’t talk very loud in case a neighbor was listening, and anyway how loud is loud for an ant using ultrasounds and antennas? I tried to look at some of them in “the eyes” to look more persuasive. Hopefully, they will relay my message to the others, but how many times should I repeat my message so they get it? When Jeff saw me on all four in the entrance and talking in direction of the floor, after thinking we had lost me for good, I had to explain myself, needless to say he didn’t seem convince at all by my technique—to say the least, anyhow I wasn’t trying to convince him but the ants.

Be that as it may, in case it doesn’t work, I can always blame him for being skeptical in front of them.

“After all we did to them: the white vinegar, the cleaning, the coffee grounds, the leaves, and the lemon, I think they are up in arms against us now.” He said, antagonizing me and my method.

I wonder whether a little white flag outside the house could help. You may say I’m crazy, but I’m not the only one, as the twisted lyrics goes, on the forum where I read about the “ant whisperer”, someone even wrote little signs and banners asking them to “Go home”; the story doesn’t say whether she also used mint teabags for her tea-party against ants.

At this point, I’m ready to learn how to do a headstand if it could work, but I’m not ready to kill them nor their colony. I know ants are as warriors as men, but I don't believe in the Lex Talionis, and maybe my non-warmonger side can surprise them.

It might be a sign for us to stop eating sugar. Should we be a sugar-free house, they wouldn’t have paid us a visit in the first place. We have something they want, that’s why they want to annex our territory. Sorry to draw a daring parallel but have you ever wondered what would have been the fate of the Middle East territory if their main produce was broccoli?


On a different topic: Tomorrow is the Chernobyl's infamous anniversary. Remember the Liquidators who saved us. I’ll post some poems written by a talented Russian poet in memory of those who died, directly and indirectly, in this accident—my mum died of a thyroid cancer after this nuclear accident, and I’m having an under-active thyroid since then; oddly enough as our Government told us “Our country is safe, the radioactive cloud stopped at the Belgian border” (sic).
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Good for you for standing by your ways of kindness!

    Good luck!
    Even things that have worked for me seemed to take a while (as if the ants were mulling over the changes I'd made, or still trying to find the food I'd hidden :P ).

    2313 days ago
    The only way to stop the ants is to find what they are going for. Get rid of the food supply and the ants will quit coming.

    For the cat food - put Kato's bowl into a try with a lip and put water into the tray - kind of like a moat around the food. I don't know why it works, but it does.

    Good luck!
    2314 days ago
    I agree, a few uninvited visitors are okay. Sometimes if I see a spider (if it doesn’t look too menacing) I’ll scoop it up and take it outside. But you’re right about ants. They can be overpowering. When I was a kid, a friend of mine had an ant farm in this huge table top colony in an 18” by 14” glass container. He dropped something on it and ants went everywhere. It was horrible. Just a few extra ants can be bothersome. But when you have hundreds of them all at once, that’s completely unbearable. They had to move into a hotel for a few days and they hired an exterminator to come in and handle the problem. Anyhow, this was a great topic. I enjoyed reading it.
    2314 days ago
    Ahh, it is indeed the season of ants here too. They have not yet entered our house; but it is only a matter of time. We are invaded for about a week every Spring & have already seen them milling about busily outside.

    You'll probably think this is very bad of me... but I admit to using "unnatural" means to eliminate them or try to block them. I applaud your attempts at a natural solution; but I am not so patient and have not found one that truly works -- if any exists, I have confidence that you will discover it. We use little traps that they walk on and pick up something on their itty bitty feet that they don't like, and we will resort to a spray to try to put a barrier around doorways and other points of entry. Sorry to the ants; I just can't abide them in the kitchen.

    Good luck!
    2314 days ago
  • v LEELYNN2
    put up a picture of the kind of ant it is... some kinds no bid deal if they happen to be wandering around your kitchen, but other kinds would be an ominous sign. I used the borax and sugar water with mine as well. It kills the colony by dismembering them from the borax grit. You can also track them back to where they are coming from. Walk carefully around the house and if you aren't seeing them head back to the woods you may have them in the wood of your house. we found several colonies under our roof shingles. Needless to say they don't do anything particularly helpful to the house structure.

    good luck with the ant whispering thing.
    2314 days ago
    LOL, ohmygoodness, too funny - the thought of you on your hands and knees, pleading with the ants!!! :D Maybe you could try luring them outside with something as well?

    My solution is to dissolve sugar and borax in water, and leave little bottlecaps of your nice poison sugar elixer. The sugar attracts them and the borax poisons them. They take it back to the colony for food, and it kills the whole colony. Not nice, but effective! But it sounds like that's a last resort for you.

    Good luck!!
    2314 days ago
    I have used 100LBLIGHTER's trick. My Grandmother and Mom also used it. Boric acid, yup- we always use the powder form... like the soaps for mechanics, that old gritty stuff, or detergent that says it is '100 % Boric Acid. It's called Mule Team here stateside. It's a really mild stuff, not at all what it sounds like. I put it in cracks, and basically create a safe ring around my space... and when I've diverted them, it washes my hands, floors, etc. Good stuff!
    2314 days ago
  • v LOPEYP
    Unfortunately there is sugar in everything. We once found a string of ants coming out of a plum that was sitting in a fruit bowl on the counter. That was pretty gross and frightening.
    Good luck with the whispering. Hope the ants pass the word onto the spiders and centipeds.
    2315 days ago
  • v DDOORN
    Wonderful words of humor & wisdom...!

    Broccoli rules! I keep saying that if the great advertising minds behind all this highly processed sugary, high-fat awful foods were to be put to work writing jingles and commercials for broccoli and other cruciferi our collective health would be SO much IMPROVED! :-)

    2315 days ago
  • v 100LBLIGHTER
    I am not an ant expert by any means but I know some thing...I thought Texas the ant capital of the world. There is nothing more revolting than to open a box or crackers in the middle of the evening and pour a mouthful of antcrackers onto the tongue. We have fire ants here ....the name is accurate for it feels like fire where they bite and stays on fire for hours. Some ants like oils and fats rather than ants in particular. I recently read on the internet that ants do not like boric acid and to sprinkle it at their entrance to the home and they will turn around and march the other way. It gave the impression that it did not kill them ...although I question this in my mind....but one or two casualties....they might leave without a whole colony being harmed. After all they will get trampled to death in the doorway. We can purchase boric acid at the drug store...we used it as a eye wash years maybe it will not harm the little fellers after all.

    I have a slow thyroid also...who knows what harmful thing I ingested, breathed or touched to cause that ...this ole world is full of harmful things.

    Loved your blog....Blessings, Grace
    2315 days ago

    Very enjoyable blog, like always. I am sorry about your mother being an indirect victim of Chernobyl. In some ways it reminds me of the World Trade Center explosion when our illustrious head of the EPA (and former New Jersey governor) Christie Whitman proclaimed the Ground Zero area safe. Now many of the first responders have become sick and/or died.

    BTW I am absolutely amazed at the way you write. I would never guess that English is your second language.
    2315 days ago
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