Ants live everywhere but while in Britain they live in the garden and have their own lives, here they unfortunately prefer the comfort of indoor life – and dealing with ants is part of the course. What I have learned, certainly in this part of the world, is that there are 3 ‘waves’ of the species. I call them waves as that’s just what it feels like when dealing with them.
The early spring season kicks off with ants with atittude. Dark black, very fast-moving medium sized insects that bite hard, leaving very itchy bite marks in places it’s best not to think that an ant has got to. These are hardy ants forming exceptionally long and often complicated trails from food source to nest and amongst them very large knobbly scouters – the ones that single handedly seek the food source. These fast moving biters like to nest in soil and you can often spot their nests in freshly dug earth mounds. All ants have a basic language and communicate simple messages through their pheromones such as FOOD and DANGER. Scouter ants will send out a message when they have sourced food which alerts all its friends to follow the scouter’s pheromone based trail. Where there was once one solitary ant within minutes there will be a hundred.
The next wave, at the beginning of summer brings a smaller ant, also a biter, lighter in colour but just as hardy. These are just as clever, and just as fast, finding routes into your home through crumbling power sockets or cracks in skirtings. These also have larger ants as scouters and an extraordinary sense of smell, locating food sources in the most unlikely places, often a great distance from the floor or through apparently well-sealed cupboards. Quite how they do it is mind-boggling.
The last wave of this prevalent insect, which stays around all summer until autumn (fall), is the tiny ant – so small that they will make a home in the tiniest hole in a ceramic tile and seemingly live off any food source, from a food crumb to a blob of vegetable oil or a gloopy shampoo bottle. These ants move slower, are all the same size, are more delicate, but are quick-acting and seem to get everywhere and I will often find this ant climbing up the sofa or table leg for no apparent reason, with a line of its tiny friends in tow.
How do I deal with them all? I make washing-up borders – lines of liquid which they seemingly do not like to cross. The result is a sticky floor but less ants reducing ultimately to no ants. I use Ecover which is an Eco-friendly liquid which appears to contain real lemon juice, a fruit acid which ants do not like. Real juice squeezed directly from a lemon does not seem to have the same effect though. I also use boiling water straight from the kettle (when I find their entrances in and out) and directly onto ant hills. I keep spray bottles of Ecover washing up liquid, diluted in water, in rooms around the house. I continually spritz this diluted washing-up liquid along skirting boards, crumbling holes, edges and possible routes in. I also use Ecover lemon based multi surface cleaner, also Eco-friendly, for continual mopping. The lemon washes away the pheromone trail leaving a lot of confused ants with no direction – easy pickings for me to clean them right away.
It has to be noted that some ants are so robust that boiling water does not phase them initially. It may kill some head on but they are soon back at the same spot doing their thing. It may take a while for the ants to realise the boiling water will not stop until they have evacuated. You must persevere until they give up – they will.
Refrain from poisons. Poisons only kill on contact which is the exact same result as lemon based washing up liquid. The lemon in the washing up liquid will kill them stone dead on contact too but is not poisonous to you, your kids and pets.
One thing I will say is that in the end one can become obsessed with watching for ants and dealing with ants. With eyes permanently glued to the floor and spray bottle of washing-up liquid at the ready, to be successful in dealing with ants you need a system that suits you and to stick with it. In the end the ant will lose.