Monday, May 18, 2009

Me vs the Ants: I'm winning I tell you

For years, we had an exterminator come in to take care of our ant problem. He'd come in and spray poison (but not poison that was like, you know, harmful to my kids or anything....) around my home - particularly on my kitchen counters where I prepared food.

Before we initially called the exterminator, I did try some natural methods of removing the ants - not for environmental reasons but because I didn't want to pay an exterminator. 

I tried putting grits in their path because I had read that the ants would take the grits back to the queen who would ingest it. It was suppose to expand in her stomach when it got wet, and she'd explode and the ant colony would die away. I don't know if the queen ever exploded - I was too impatient to see if they'd die away naturally.

I tried sprinkling paprika on the counters because I had read the ants wouldn't cross over paprika. I'd wake up in the morning to find ants lined up on one side of the paprika like it was a starting line for a race. But if the paprika wasn't there, the ants would take over the countertops again.

I tried other methods, too, but none of them worked in the two or three days I tried them so I called an exterminator. About a year ago, I stopped the exterminator. I couldn't live with the poisons in my house near my children or the knowledge that they were ending up in the soil and groundwater any longer. 

This year, when the ants arrived, I didn't even try the natural remedies. I cleaned. I found what they were going for (the honey in a corner cabinet), moved it to a remote location, cleanedthe cabinet really well with an earth friendly cleaner and then cleaned the top of my counters really well. That stopped the onslaught of ants.

I still get scout ants that are searching. Each morning I come down to find a dozen or so desperately searching for something. I get rid of them and clean again. At night I make sure that the counters have been wiped down before going to bed. Believe me, this is a chore for me. If you read my little bio to the right you'll see I'm a really bad housekeeper.

This morning, I found only two. I got rid of them and cleaned again.

Every time I see an ant in my kitchen it drives me crazy, but I'm learning to live with it. I keep telling myself that eventually, the ants will realize there is nothing for them here and they'll try somewhere else, and that I can live with it till then because the way I'm handling it is much better for my family and for the earth than my old way.

My husband keeps mentioning the exterminator but he hasn't picked up the phone himself to call so I'm taking that as an unspoken acceptance of my determination.

How do you deal with the ants in your home?

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Jaelithe said...

I use Terro -- it's a boric acid and sugar solution. Boric acid is no more toxic to humans or pets than table salt, but it kills ants. As insecticides go, it's one of the most environmentally friendly ones you can buy.

(And no, I don't work for Terro. I just hate ant invasions and struggled mightily to find a product that was cheap, effective, and safe for kids until I found this. And it works really well.)

Robin Shreeves said...

Thanks for the suggestion - is something you use around the house or is it something that you use outside the house?

Jamie said...

I second the Terro, and also really like Orange Guard. It can be found at most natural food stores like whole foods I think. It's a little pricy at around $12 for a 401 sized spray bottle, but it is very safe to use around kids as it is made with orange peel extract. You can spray directly on the ants to kill them, or spray areas and they won't want to go near. I sprayed my kitchen window where I saw ants coming in from and it worked nicely.

BTW, the terro is syrupy, so you put little pea sized dots on squares of card stock and strategically place around your home to attract ants.

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