Ant prevention and control
when coexistence becomes impossible...
I've gone out of my way to try to live peacefully with the resident ant population in my yards. I like ants. I think they're extremely cool. I admire their efficiency, their tenacity, even the borg-like way in which they communicate with each other en masse. Ants are the trash collectors of the insect world, one of them anyway, and I do my best to let them go about their business unmolested. For the most part, we respect the other's boundaries. They do their thing and I do mine. There isn't complete separation.. they encroach on my space all the time and I generally let them do it. Buddy drops food constantly when he's eating and on occasion the ants find it before I can get to it and pick it up. If their only interest is in the one piece of food on the floor and not the food bowl itself, I'll leave them to their work. I mean they've got a job and a half ahead of them getting that piece of dog food through a paper thin crack in the wall and back to their nest.
The ants cross the line when they get in stuff that I plan to eat. I realize it's my fault for leaving my food vulnerable. Put stuff up sealed tight and they can't get into it. Ant problem solved. Yeah, well, whatever. A piece of dog food on the floor is one thing. Finding them in the cabinets going after my cookies is something else entirely. That's when I get proactive. Ortho TotalKill lawn and garden insect killer is as good as any bug killing product I've used. I didn't buy it for the ants per se. We had a little run in with fleas a few years ago and I went totally ballistic in my battle against them... completely over the top. You can't fight fleas with just one weapon. You need a small arsenal and even when well armed it's still a lot of work. You can't afford to get "most" of them. You better make damn sure you get them all or it's going to be an ongoing issue until you do. Or until it freezes, whichever comes first.
With ants it's a different story. It's impossible to kill all of the ants but you can kill quite a few of them, enough of them that their ranks are thinned and their potential to piss me off is greatly diminished. There are also a few things I do by way of prevention that are probably as effective as the chemicals are. The ants want food. That's all they're looking for. Every now and then I'll toss a couple pieces of dog food out in the back yard away from the house. I don't ever follow up on it to see if they've found it and verify whether my diversionary tactics have worked, but I'm guessing it works at least to some degree. I'm feeding somebody anyway.. birds, other bugs, the ants... they all love dog food.
I've found that spraying a concentrated band (using either of these bug sprays) about a foot wide around the entire perimeter of the house helps a lot. That's preventive spraying, creating a chemical barrier the ants can't cross. It doesn't kill the ants. It puts up a fence to keep them out.
Spectracide (with Triazicide) makes a good bug killer too. Honestly, I don't know of any significant differences between these two products - Spectracide and Ortho TotalKill. They both claim to kill bugs and that's exactly what they do. Is one brand more efficient at killing bugs than the other? I have no idea, nor do I plan to run any benchmark tests to find out. Neither brand is selective. They kill everything. I've even noticed fewer moths and flying insects around the porch lights at night right after I've sprayed. They always come back, of course, but for a week or two it gets pretty bug free around here.
This year our ant problem is about as bad as it's ever been. It's not just us because I've heard several people say the exact same thing. Whether it's all the rain we've had or what, I don't know but in the 5 years we've lived here we have never had as many ants as we do this year. It's really starting to piss me off too.
I've already sprayed several times with Spectracide and it's had little effect so I'm trying something new this year. Ant baits. Set them out, the ants eat the bait, carry it back to the nest and voilą - no more ants. That's the theory anyway. There are numerous ant baits on the market. I went with Raid ant bait mainly because of the "Raid" name brand recognition and also because they happened to be a lot cheaper than some of the others I saw. $3.49 for a box of 4 individual plastic baits. From the first box I set two of the baits outside directly in the path of an ant trail. For several hours the ants avoided the baits completely, detouring around them and continuing on their way. Eventually they did seem to take an interest in them but it was getting dark and I really couldn't see too well so I'm going to hold off until later today before forming any opinion on their effectiveness.
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