Over the Hill

He’s waged war on invasive ants. And so far he’s winning

Odorous house ants, the most common household pest, seek food and water indoors.
Odorous house ants, the most common household pest, seek food and water indoors. Courtesy of National Pest Management Association

For much of the past two weeks I’ve been in armed combat with tiny, dark brown ants. It seemed like there was at least a million of them. I discovered them one afternoon in my kitchen.

They were scurrying in and around the microwave oven above the stove. I turned the microwave on for 30 seconds, but the ants didn’t seem to mind. They were also on a counter top and the cookie jar.

I squashed several with my forefingers and thumbs but the dead ants were quickly replaced.

The ants scurried around. So did I. They seemed to know what they were doing. I didn’t.

I panicked, but then vaguely remembered I had a half-full, trigger-operated bottle of bug poison in the garage. I hoped to use that to stop the ants before they went any farther. That was a dream.

Our last previous ant attack was a year or two ago. They streamed up out of the ground, climbed a few inches of exposed concrete-slab and then disappeared into the back wall of our house.

Now I planned to squirt the insecticide all along the crease where the house foundation meets the dirt.

But nothing is simple. A low hedge of leafy bushes grows along much of our house’s back wall. So I found my pruning shears and butchered any hedge branches that touched our back wall or came near it.

I then aimed my bottle of insecticide at the crease where the house foundation emerges from the dirt. Next I squeezed the trigger as fast as I could, while moving along the wall. Pretty soon I had sprayed the dirt and foundation along most of that back wall.

But I was almost out of spray. And I hadn’t seen any trace of ants. So I decided to inspect the rest of the house. Sure enough, I found this year’s ants were invading under a front corner of the house. So I saturated a few inches there with my remaining poison.

Then I went back into the kitchen and used my small vacuum cleaner to suck up all the ants I could find. I then put the vacuum cleaner out on the patio in case any of those ants had survived.

The next morning I saw only few ant stragglers in the kitchen. I mashed them and felt very satisfied.

But the next day more ants showed up. And in a few more days there was another full-scale ant invasion.

Still, I’d learned my lesson. I bought insecticide in gallon jugs with attached sprayers.

I cleared a strip around the house’s entire foundation. Then I generously sprayed insecticide wherever the ground touched the foundation.

Since then I haven’t seen even one ant in the house. I’ve also washed the cookie jar and I frequently wipe the kitchen counters.

But please don’t take my word on this. I’m not a pest control expert. I’m probably only lucky. I just want you to have hope. There are ways to control ants. Expert advice can help.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to the Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades and his column appears every other week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or pmdirkx@sbcglobal.net.
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