GIMME SHELTER-Planet ant: Give em' the sweet bait
John Ashcraft, Holistic Pest Solutions
Q: Now that it's warm, ants are invading my house! How do I get rid of them?
Although most people think of ants as pests, it's important to remember that without ants, our planet would cease to exist. That's because ants aerate the soil, and without aeration, the grass and trees would not grow. Of course, other insects, worms, and moles also help aerate the soil, but there are simply not enough creatures in the ground to replace what ants do.
However, once ants begin to invade our homes, it's important to draw the line. Some people think ants are harmless, just little picnickers snarfing up crumbs and hauling them back to the colony. But ants are associated with a lot of diseases, because they haul and track all kinds of matter in and out of the house. Ants also leave bits of chemicals everywhere as they produce pheromones to mark routes for other ants to follow.
The first line of defense is prevention. Keep your kitchen clean, run your dishwasher more often, remove sources of moisture near the house, and seal off any travel routes into the house.
Ants are very ingenious when it comes to figuring out ways to get in. One client had a problem with ants in his study, which was at the front of his house, but we couldn't find where the ants were coming from. Eventually, we found the ant colony in a mulch pile in the back of the house. This particular ant, known as the "acrobatic ant," had created a travel route along a telephone line that ran over the house and into the study.
If you see large black ants, they're probably carpenter ants. These insects are trouble because they excavate the wood in the house to build galleries. In this case, you're going to need an exterminator.
However, for small sugar ants, homeowners can use something called Terro, a liquid sweet bait you can get at most home and garden stores. It's not good enough to kill the ants you can see because these are just front-line ants.
In a process called trophyllaxis, the front-line ants don't actually eat the food they find; they simply carry it back to other worker ants, who then carry it back to the colony where it is fed to the ant larvae. The ant larvae then produce a liquid that the worker ants feed on.
That's why the Terro or other baiting methods of extermination work so well: the "bait" doesn't just kill the ants on your counter, it makes it back to the heart of the colony where it can do the most damage.
PHOTO COURTESY JOHN ASHCRAFT