Here’s proof this blog is about anything and everything. Tonight I’m writing about tiny ant season. Tiny ant season came early this year. I griped about having to perform an Unscehduled Ant Eviction on Facebook, that led to a conversation about how I get rid of tiny ants, and I promised I would write it out for some people.
And here we are.
I apply a four-step strategy to ant warfare: kill it with fire, salt the earth, raise high the walls, and poison the well.
Step 1. Kill it with fire
This is the most labor intensive phase. Everything comes off the kitchen counters. E V E R Y T H I N G. The counters all get washed w/soap & water, the floors get vacuumed & wiped down. (I confess I do not mop because I do not mop anything. Ever. Scrub on hands & knees, yes. Mop? No. ANYway.) If you suspect ants got into drawers, the drawers get opened, anything with crumbs or possible food smells on it gets tossed & the drawers get washed with soap & water.
It’s a royal PITA. And avoiding having to do it more than once a year is why I’m big on the salt the earth & raise high the walls prevention elements.
Step 2. Salt the earth.
Diatomaceous earth, to be precise, or DE for short. You have to block ants from returning once you’ve cleaned away the ant scouts & their scent trails. DE is my first choice for barrier protection. It’s non-toxic, safe for pets, and a generally fabulous insect death- dealer. You’ll want to wear a dust mask while working with it, because tiny dust particles are bad for your lungs in general and awful for triggering allergies, but hey! Everyone has masks lying around these days, right? How convenient! A little line along the baseboards does the trick if your only choice for barrier protection is indoors, and you can dust generously along the foundation of a house outside as well. Yes, it’ll wash away in rain, but it’s cheap & you can re-apply.
ALTERNATIVE: you can combine steps 1 & 2 and engage in chemical warfare. The windows get opened, the fans go on, and I spray permethrin-based ant death spray along every baseboard and at the bottom of the tile backsplash, also the wall behind the stove, and around any plumbing pipe accesses under the sink. (pick your own brand. I recommend ones that use no fragrances. But only permethrin ones. None of that heavy organophosphate bullshit.) It’s death and barrier all in one.
But if you want to go pesticide-free, you can skip the spray. Wash everything, then lay down DE.
And shouldn’t have to write this, but…yeah. NO POISON NEAR FOOD SURFACES EVER.
And let’s pause for a quick commercial.
Step 3, Raise high the walls.
Eliminating the temptation of food is THE essential aspect of long-term victory over ants. I was raised in an area where bugs & mice were impossible to keep out, so I know all open food has to be kept in sealed containers & all dishes have to be washed or inside the dishwasher before bedtime. But I don’t live in a pine flat converted to a subdivision anymore. So every winter Spouseman & I get slack about defenses…until one of us discovers a gleeful parade of ants partying on the countertops or lurking inside a kitchen drawer. So. Once the house has been reclaimed and the defenses are built, everything gets sealed in glass or plastic. Period. The cat’s food (when we have cats) goes on a tray with just a teensy bit of water in the bottom. (It kills the ants dead. So delightfully simple.
Pro tip: If it’s REALLY bad, upturned lids filled w/water or oil under table legs keep ants off the dining room table. Or other furniture.
Step 4: Poison the well.
Put out ant baits near any potential entry point. Ant baits do work, but they work really slowly and not universally, so they’re basically a long-term maintenance element in the defense effort. Thus, they come last. And they’re the simplest. I mean, there isn’t much to them other than, “unwrap & place where the cat can’t sniff them out & decide to play with them.” Oh, wait. Ant bait granules outside around the foundation too. Outside the line of DE, if you’re using that. Two layers of protection are better than one!
And there’s no need to feel quilt about laying out something that might be bad for other insects. It isn’t. Baits aren’t pesticide. It’s borax, like for laundry. Chemistry!
That’s it. That’s the post. How I get rid of ants. I know, in my last post I said I would write about the books I’ve read this spring, but this was overdue. Also I’m a little mush-brained from dealing with…life stuff.
NEXT-next time I’ll list off the books, most of which I’ve already recommended online here or there. Pinky swears.