Ants in My Pants

Ant takes honeydew from aphid
Photo by Wikipedia

I try to appreciate all the critters, I do. But the ants are wearing on me. I remind myself that famed biologist E.O. Wilson illuminated the intricate societies of ants and called them, “the little creatures that run the world”. But I also remember the invasion of the flesh eating driver ants that chased the village residents to the river for safety in Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible.
Ants are widespread in our yard, scrambling along in lines, sometimes dragging larger insects to the openings of their holes and stuffing them in. I’m okay with that, but a number of the yard ants also must plot constantly to find entrance to the house. Once inside, the tentacles of the colony spread quickly, inevitably finding a source of food. Once a source is located reinforcements pour in and a supply line forms instantly to ferry the crumbs back to the nest.
The creepiest invasion came from behind the light switch plate in the family room. By the time I noticed, there was already a living roadmap of industrious ants spreading on the walls. The vacuum cleaner was my weapon of choice. I plugged it in and switched it on. No sooner had I sucked up one line of ants than the reservists began boiling from behind the switch plate, piling over one another in their desperation. I ran to the garage for duct tape and sealed the cracks before taking up the vacuum hose again.
The ants’ favorite point of entry into our home is through holes in the grout around the floor tiles, especially near the baseboards of outside walls. I’m pretty sure they have a campaign going to dig through from below, and imagine ants charging one by one to take a swing at weak points in our grout.
If the ants are coming in fast, or I have no time to stir up grout, I use Patch and Paint lightweight spackle. I keep a jar of this stuff handy, and gleaming white patches of spackle shine from areas of color coordinated grout. But often the initial invasions are covert. Rather than marching boldly in lines, the ants scatter across the floor, tracking along agreed upon routes in smaller numbers, and each ant that passes another pauses for a quick conference before scurrying off again. E.O. Wilson explains this is an informative exchange using chemicals called pheromones. Ants are one of the most successful species on Earth and their societies demonstrate division of labor, communication between individuals and the ability to solve complex problems.
This morning a black spider lurked on the floor in the laundry room, and since I’ve an ongoing ant situation in there I figured he might work on my behalf. Not twenty minutes later I looked again, and several ants were dragging the spider off by one leg, while he struggled feebly. The laundry room invasion came in along side the washing machine, yet another line of grout compromised. I patched it with spackle several times over a couple of days and the ants just kept pushing through, mightily motivated by meager leftovers in Boo’s cat food dish.
Finally I shot a thin stream of Raid at the tiny hole along the baseboard. Hated to do it, but I’ve run out of patience. Over the past two weeks I’ve tried removing the food source (they waited us out), spraying vinegar (effective short term) and sprinkling Borax (completely non-effective – I think boric acid might be what I was supposed to use).
A couple summers back when the ants came in below the bathroom sink I used Terro poison. You cut a square inch of cardboard around a dotted line on the packaging and squeeze a small dot of poison goo on it and put that where the ants are coming in. Later that evening ants swarmed crazily on the counter. But in the morning? Every trace of the ants and the poison goo was gone, only the square of cardboard remained.
I just can’t see signing up to have poison sprayed inside and out on a monthly basis. I know many people save themselves the annoyance of ants in the pants and just pay for the service. But to me, its overkill.


One response to “Ants in My Pants

  1. The ants go marching one, by one, hurrah, hurrah..

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