Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Ants go Marching One by One - Not in my house they don't.

I know Spring has officially arrived when the ants storm the gates and get into the house.  Little ants.  Over the years, I've perfected my method of getting rid of them.

The first noticeable signs of an ant infestation are just a few ants, looking like they aren't going anywhere in particular.  I'm assuming these are the scouts.  They've found a way into the house and they're just looking around for food.  God forbid you leave a crumb (or in our case, a chunk of apple) on the floor.  Within a matter of hours, there might be hundreds.

First things first: Get rid of any food that they could find.  Scrub the table and countertops.  For this I use distilled vinegar as a final rinse.  I don't think ants like vinegar.  Make sure all food is sealed in plastic or glass.  I go as far as putting my dry goods in the pantry in glass containers because of a fear of pantry moths.

Sweep the floor.  This will probably involve sweeping ants up too.  IMMEDIATELY take the vacuum bag or dust pan contents outside of your house.  We have a detached garage, so I just bag up the dirt/ants and take them out there.

Mop the floor.  I have one of these beauties.  I can add any solution I want and the pads can be thrown into the washer and reused.  To combat ants, I use a glug of distilled vinegar, hot water, and a few shakes of Peppermint Essential Oil.  There's a lot of discussion about quality of oils, but for cleaning, I don't know if it really matters.  I've read a few places that ants don't like mint, so it's worth a shot.

Put down some sort of trap for the ants.  You want the ants to eat the bait and die, but also take the bait back to the colony.  I tend to use these traps and they've worked well.   The active ingredient is Borax (from the laundry aisle), but I like the design of this trap to keep kids and pets out.  If you don't have these concerns, there are lots of instructions out there to mix up your own bait. 

Here's the important part that I've found:  When the ants die, DON'T CLEAN THEM UP.  It's going to gross you out, it's going to make you gag, but don't clean them up.  Ants seem to have a "no man left behind rule.  They'll carry their fallen comrades back to the nest.  By doing so, they're bringing more of the bait back to the nest too.  Want proof?  The trap below had at least 50 ants inside and scattered around outside.  Now, there are like 6.  My theory is that these were the asshole ants that no one wanted to carry. 

This process will take 2 days, 3 tops.  You'll possibly have reinfestations throughout the summer, but I usually only have to do this once each Spring.  If you want to add one more layer of protection, we sometimes spray Home Defense around the perimeter of the house.  With a very active toddler, I'm in the market for something a little less chemically so we haven't done it yet this year.

Feel free to add your tricks and tips in the comments!

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