Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Great Ant Invasion

Ants can make you see red like they are doing with my friend Sharon Robinson. She writes:

The small brown ants crawling on the cabinet and stove top (what Mom always called sweet ants) started as less than a dozen. I suppose they were scouts. I cleaned and removed everything I thought they might be attracted to. (Too late, Sharon, they have your number. )

I thought - now they'll be gone. I don't like to use poison on anything...if there's any other way.

For a few days the ants were almost gone, and I forgot about them. That was my first mistake. Still not wanting to give in, I thought "I'll give the ants two more days (Two more days???? Why didn't you just hand them the keys to your house and move out?) or until my next convenient trip to town. In a couple of days this voice in my head was whispering, "You might want to re-think this strategy."

That was when I decided to go to Fred's for some Taro ant killer. I had thoughts of a wind chime that was advertised and on sale for $12. Fred's had six wind chimes and a couple of boxes of he six-pack ant houses left on the shelf. Apparently I wasn't the only one with ants. I bought the wind chime and one box of ant houses. (There had better be something about wind chimes that gets rid of ants or I am going to start to wonder.)

Fred's didn't carry Taro.

I placed two of the six ant houses from Fred's in the kitchen and thought that should do it. They'll be gone in a couple of days, I thought. In a few days the ants were in the small honey jar on the cabinet on the other side of the sink. (Was it the gingham curtains you hung in the windows of the ant houses that turned them off and caused them to head for the honey?)

They had ventured that far before, but I thought they won't go there because I've got the honey jar sealed tightly. But I was wrong! (I bet they unscrewed the lid.) The jar has a top like maple syrup jars you find in restaurants. You just push down the top and out it p0urs onto hot pancakes. (Please...you're making me hungry.) The lid was not sealed 100%. There was a tiny crack under the spout. The ants found their way in and to the honey. They were in ant heaven. (And you were in ant hell by then.)

The jar of honey had a dozen or so dead ants floating on top of the golden brown clover honey. (I've heard of chocolate covered ants, but not honey covered ants. So, how did they taste?)

The other honey jar, with the regular screw on top and a tight seal, went into the refrigerator. I kept the dishes washed and the cabinets wiped clean immediately after every meal thinking that would do the trick. Again, that small voice whispered "You might want to re-think this strategy."

A week passed and I had to give up on the ant houses. (I tell you, Sharon, it was the gingham curtains...)

The next trip I made to town I bought some heavy duty Taro. Dad always put out a little Taro ant killer in a soda bottle cap and placed it strategically around the kitchen. (So how many cats and dogs did Dad lose due to Taro poisoning?)

I suppose the Taro stopped a full-blown invasion for Dad, but honestly, it never eliminated them in 14 days like the label on the container said it would. In time, I am sure Mom learned to live with a couple of ants on the cabinet top. She would wipe up a few, like I do, and move on. I think she waved the white flag years before I noticed those soda bottle caps with Taro in them just like I have waved the white flag over the mole hills in the yard. And over the deer population too.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I whispered to myself. I don't know if there is a line somewhere about "fool me three times", but...I am sure you have already guessed what it was like the next morning after I put out the Taro poisoning. (I'm afraid to venture a guess. Doesn't sound good.)

The next morning the ants were back and they brought reinforcements. As I sipped a cup of hot tea, I watched the ants move in a steady stream up the wall in front of the kitchen sink and toward a small clay flower pot on the window sill. They had "moved in." (But not into the ant houses, because they could not stand the gingham curtains, eh.)

The entire bottom of that small clay pot was BLACK with ants. In case you have never had an up close and personal relationship with ants (Hope I never do...) and in case you do sometime in your lifetime, ants love moist dirt and they adore flower pots. (Had you put a few flower pots in the ant houses, they might have moved into them.)

I knocked off the ants from the flower pot and moved it to another room so the ants would not be tempted. A lot of good that did.

It has been six weeks and I am still dealing with ants although their population has diminished due in part to the Taro, but mostly because I have become combative with them. (Now that's the fighting spirit!)

First thing in the morning I notice them and the chase begins. They run like the devil is at their heels as I nail first one then another with my thumbs. They now know that this is dangerous territory and that it is already occupied. They know I intend to stand my ground.

This whole ant business is taking its toll on me psychologically though. I am becoming paranoid and imagining that the ants are only toying with me, wearing me down until I give up completely and let them have the run of the kitchen. (Don't give in, Sharon. Keep on keeping on. They are bound to give up eventually and go to someone else's house and honey jar. )

I can't seem to find the humor in all of this ant business. Or the moral of the story except maybe that everything is looking for a home. Everything is looking for a home around our place for sure: the ground hog; the opossum; the raccoon; the squirrels; the deer; the snakes; and the rabbits. They all behave like they own this piece of property too. Even the skunk thinks it has a stake in this place. She has moved in under our wood pile in the southeast corner of the yard...and I think she has babies. I guess I will just have to share this place with God's other creatures and try to be happy about it.

Your friend Sharon with news from

Down on the farm

(Maybe if you would try the wind chimes, Sharon....)


  1. Yes, I have ants too. I have done everything except a blow torch to get rid of them. I think the boric acid is nurishing them insteard of killing them. I did find that clorox keeps them away for a while.....If she ever gets rid of her ants, let me know how she did it.

  2. I had carpenter ants, and I had to get an exterminator in to kill them. And they were BIG. Yuck.

    I share my yard with raccoons, squirrels, skunks, crows, Steller's jays, and wolf spiders. I figure they were here first, and they letting me live here :-)


  3. LUCY, it seems all of us have had to deal with these little pests. I hate to use poison products too, but we finally had to break down and call the Orkin man. Maybe the wind chimes hold promise. It is worth a try. :-)

    JOSIE, we had to call the Orkin man on account of the carpenter ants here. We live in a wooded area like you. These ants can cause major, major damage to a house and you won't know it till the damage is done. I'd much rather deal with the sweet ants as Sharon's mom called them. At least all they go after is the honey in the house and not the house itself.

  4. It seems like we get ants in or kitchenette off the lower level family room each spring. They are a pain. This was a very funny post. I like the play by play you added.
    Just wanted you to know that I've successfully added links to three comments including one to you at POI. You're a good teacher!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I can relate to not wanting to use pesticides Sharon. I used have a big black dog that couldn't resist sticking his nose into places where it didn't belong so I had to be careful using pesticides. Luckily I only get flying ants once a year in my garage for about a week so no need to go overboard with them. Most consumer available pesticides are designed for ants but are very weak and you shouldn't worry too much about using them.

    My Mother's house was an entirely different story though. The old family homestead was situated on a small postage stamp sized lot in suburban Philadelphia It had two huge maple trees on it. The carpenter ants that fed on the roots of the trees also fed on the wood framing of the house and would get everywhere inside and outside of the house. My Father called Terminix to treat the house and most of the time it kept them from getting inside the house. The grounds outside of the house still contained large quanities of these wood eating montsters.

    Later, after my Father died I talked to a friend's brother that was a grounds keeper for a major Uninversity in the area about these little chainsaws. After explaining and a little bribing (Philadephia protocol) he gave me some of his private stash of powerful and federally banned substance that all major groundkeepers have and keep hidden that is effective on all insects.

    I applied the subatance as I was instructed. It was maybe a month or two and the change was quite noticeable. No more ants all over the sidewalks and a the tree in the front yard was completely absent of the timbering crew. Mom never knew why the carpenter ants just up and disappeared. When she asked me what I knew about it I told her that the terminix had finally paid off after all those years of paying them to keep the ants a bay. I didn't tell her that they were spraying a minimally effective and consumer available pesticide to do an industial sized task. My Mom knew me well and asked if there was more to the story but I just told her I got some advice from some professionals and that was the end of the story.

  7. Murphy's Oil Soap is the cure. You use it to wash away their scent trails that they use to find their way into the house. You have to wipe down all the windowsills and anywhere you see them coming in in their single file lines. The scouts come first and lay down the scent trail for the rest to follow. Get rid of the trail and they won't know where to go.

  8. Thanks for all the "moral support".
    At least I know I am not alone with
    these ants.
    I will say that continued Taro for
    the ants to feed on has almost
    elinminated them. I will also try
    the Murphy's Oil Soap on the window
    sill, as that is where they are
    coming in.

  9. TOM (PATTERNS): No one escapes the torment of ants I guess. Glad to see that you are an accomplished "linker" now.

    JG: I am surprised your parents' house was still standing with all the carpenter ants that infested it. My husband has me scared of them now and all the damage they can do. So your mom never did find out the true story as to the magical disappearance of the ants. We still use Orkin. It keeps the ants at bay and away from the house. This time the Orkin man put down something that if carried back to the nest is supposed to kill those in the nest. We will see. Gotta get rid of he Queen ant somehow, although I think they just make another one to replace her.

    ROSIE: Murphy's oil soap? I wonder why Murphy's and not some other soap brand to eliminate the scent of the trail. Enjoy your stories over at your blog by the way.

    SHARON: Keep us posted about the Murphy's soap cure. And thanks for contributing this story of your plight with the ants. We will do this again sometime.

  10. I have never used store bought ant killer. I never seen it work perminatly for any one, I seen use it. As I was poor once and the place I was staying at only had sweet ants invading the place, the only poison around was rat decon in it. My creative mind thought....... grind up the rat poison mix with sugar/jam or honey and see what happens. Three hours- and a thich trail of busy workers hauled the poison to the coloney. Two weeks time to mix more it molded. Three weeks no trail. This worked. I have done this in 1983. Again in 1987 at a different place this is the place I am still at. This year the ants are back. The nieghbors cut back thier grape vines and spayed the ground to kill black berry bushes. I have battled this batch of ants for two months now and I do notice small young ones consintally. this colloney has to be huge and hatching constintly a new bunch of workers. they hind different routes to inter the house. I watch where the are intering and put the mix as close as possible to entery. I do not want to crawl under the house but maybe I will have to to place the poison even closer. Mya be dig them up. Or pour liquid amonia right around and on top of their coloney nothing can live with that.

  11. To J.G.--Those flying ants you have, may be termits. Check there wings, flying ants two and termites have four or vice versa. You can look up which is correct, they both swarm in the spring.

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