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Ant Controls

Back to Insects

Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive. -Robert Pirsig

For ant control we have: 1600 X-Clude, Spinosad, Tanglefoot and Bonide Liquid Ant Bait

Yes, ants can be a real nuisance at the same time we must admire them for their ability to lift 50 times and pull 30 times their own weight. We don't want them in the house, biting us or "farming the insects" of their choice on our plants. Ants themselves don't do much damage to your plants, however they protect and farm herds of aphids, cottony scales, mealybugs, soft-type scales, and whiteflies. Ants save the eggs of these insects in their nests over the winter and bring them out in the spring. These insects produce honeydew while feeding on your plants which the ants just love. If you closely observe ants streaming up a tree and tending their aphids, you will see them take their legs and rub the aphids which stimulates them to produce the honeydew. This activity is known as "milking" the aphids. The honeydew that is secreted by the insects favors the growth of sooty mold. This is a very destructive black fungus that spreads on plant leaves. The aphids are also responsible for spreading many different viral diseases. What you want to ultimately do is to disrupt the ants from tending to their insect flocks, getting in the house etc. This involves locating and destroying the nest and queen.

There are 455 different types of ants found in North America and around 8,000 worldwide that have been identified. They are black, brown or reddish-brown in color. Size varies from 1/16 of an inch long to 1 inch. The queens may from 1 to as long as 15 years! It is the carpenter ants that invade decaying areas of lumber in buildings hollowing them out and causing serious structural damage. Stinging ants like the red imported fire ant (reddish color, 1/4 inch in length) and the southern fire ant (brownish-red with black of brown abdomen and head, 1/16 to 1/4 inch in length) inflict highly painful stings. They can be quite dangerous to babies and young children.
Fire ants aside if you can tolerate some ants they are fascinating to watch. They do aerate the soil and destroy some caterpillar pests.

Of interest is research in Switzerland shows that European wood ants harvest conifer resin to disinfect their nests. The ants gather grains of the hardened sap from the coniferous trees that surround their nests. Conifer resin contains antibiotic chemicals which protect the trees against infection. The researchers created nests with and without resin. Those without had three times more fungus growing in them and contained many more disease-causing bacteria. Ants’ nests are a good breeding ground for disease, being crowded, warm and damp. But their public-health systems keep infection at bay. They groom each other carefully, and dump corpses outside the nests.

  • For sugar and grease eating ants we recommend Bonide Ant Bait
    CAUTION: You want to place the bait where the ants will eat it but not where children or pets can get it.



A Word on Boric Acid

Boric acid is a white, inorganic powder chemically derived from water and boron, which is mined from vast mineral deposits in the ground and used in consumer products such as laundry additives, toothpaste and mouthwash. Deadly to cockroaches, boric acid is low in toxicity to people and pets, and is even used as an eyewash albeit in a 1% water solution. It is also odorless and contains no volatile solvents. Boric acid has been a favorite weapon against ants and roaches for more than a century, and is one of the most effective cockroach control agents ever developed, provided that it is used correctly. CAUTION: It should be kept away from children and pets.

 

Here is another ant bait recipe:

  • Mix three parts peanut butter with two parts jelly and add one tablespoon of boric acid per six ounces of mix. Place the bait on pieces of paper so stuff it into large straws and place where you see the ants foraging. Again keep out of the reach of pets and children.

Predators
Groundbeetles, humpback flies, parasitic wasps, praying mantids and the yellow-shafted flicker all dine on ants. Woodpeckers are voracious ant eaters. You may see them also pick up ants in their beaks and crush them on their feathers. What are they doing this for? Crushing the ants bodies releases tannic acid which in turn protects the bird from parasites!

Here is something interesting: it is said if you take a shovelful of ants from one hill or nest and put it in another ant hill then take a shovelful from that hill and put it where you took the first one the ants will then wage war on one another and do themselves in!

Repellent plants
Catnip, pennyroyal, peppermint, sage, and spearmint. Tansy which is often recommended as an ant repellant may only work on sugar type ants. These are the ones that you see on peonies and marching into the kitchen.
Warning: You do not want to plant Tansy anywhere that livestock can feed on it as it is toxic to many animals. Do not let it go to seed either as it may germinate in livestock fields.

Barriers
Sprinkle leaves and flowers from sage, mints or tansy around the outside of your house or plants that are bothered by ants. These plants can also be used as a living barrier for ant control, bearing in mind that they are invasive in their growth habit and using cuttings from these plants as a barrier is more effective. We grow tansy in an out of the way place to harvest the cuttings.

  • Vinegar sprays in and around the hose foundation will repel ants. Keep way from the soil and concrete. Lemon juice concentrate can also be used: mix 50/50 with water and spray.

  • Ants will not walk through a line of talcum powder or chalk dust. Diatomaceous earth may also be used as a barrier in and out of the household.

  • Using a silica areogel/pyrethrum spray applied to the base of plants like eggplants and peppers can control fire ants from girdling the stems and killing the plants. This is a good barrier as it stays "put."

  • Caulk all cracks and crevices in the building to deny them access. Be sure to use high quality pure silicone caulking as these are less likely to shrink or crack once applied.

  • Distribute cucumber parings as a repellant. Cucumbers contain a compound known as "trans-2-nonenal" that repels ants as well as cockroaches!

  • Try sprinkling some of those instant grits around the nests. See what happens!

  • For fire ants: We recommend Spinosad or try this: Pour half a cup of Epsom salts into the nest and all around it.

  • Sticky barriers like Tanglefoot makes an excellent barrier and can be applied to tree trunks to disrupt the ants from farming of aphids. This will naturally biodegrade itself towards the end of the season. NOTE: On young trees with smaller trunks or those with thin bark (aspens, birches etc.) do not apply directly to the bark surface. Instead use some thin fabric tied around the trunk with the sticky stuff applied over this. Remove at the end of the season.

  • On smaller plants a bit of petroleum jelly smeared around the base will stop ants immediately.

Direct Controls

  • Pour apple cider vinegar down entrance holes to the nest.

  • Using a sugar soaked sponge works well for light invasions of ants. Use a large sponge with big holes in it. Soak it in a strong solution of sugar water and place it where you want to catch the ants. Rinse the sponge out every day in a container of soapy water. Fix it up with the sugar water again and repeat as often as necessary.

  • Dusts such as Silica Aerogel can last a long time. Their mode of action is to dehydrate the ants. They work slowly and are easy to use in tight areas such as cracks or crevices.

  • Make a strong hot water and hot pepper tea. Use the hottest peppers you can find, finely chop them in a food processor, mix with hot water. Pour directly on the nest.

  • Douse the nests with boiling water several times. Cruel and can be effective.

  • Repeated flooding of the nest every few days using your garden hose can often be enough to get them to relocate. You must be persistent with this method.

  • Use equal parts of sugar and baking powder. Place around ant infested area and nests.

  •  

Make herbal teas to use as ant repellant sprays from tansy, catmint, peppermint or sage.

To make teas: Take enough cuttings from these plants to tightly pack one 8 ounce cup. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Stir in the plants. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Strain this mixture, add 1 teaspoon of castile soap and use as a direct spray. You can also substitute 1 teaspoon of coconut oil soap in place of the castile.

Last Resorts

  • Pyrethrum mixed with isopropyl alcohol kills ants on contact. Take 16 ounces of ready to use pyrethrum, mix in 1 tbsp. alcohol. Use this as a drench directly on the active nest.

  • Boric acid: Mix 1 cup of sugar, 4 teaspoons of boric acid and 24 ounces of water in a glass screw top jar. Shake thoroughly until you can see that all the crystals are dissolved. Now put 1 cup of this mixture into a smaller jar which you have filled halfway with loose cotton. Firmly screw the lid back on, seal around the band with weatherproof tape and using an awl punch a few small holes in the center of the lid. Put this near the entrance of the nest or wherever they have made a path to your house. The key is the ants will get into the jar to eat the sugar and return to the nest and pass it on to the rest of the colony. If you find many dead ants by the jar dilute the solution and try again. With a proper mixture the colony may be destroyed in a few weeks. It does take the destruction of the queen to completely eradicate a colony. Keep this away from kids and pets!

Update: 08/03/14  

 

 

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