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Green Acre #116: When the Outdoors Ventures Indoors

MY SWEET PRINCE leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Would you like to bait the ant traps with me?”

I had finished wrestling with the elephant ears, anchoring upright several monsters that had gone splat. Flopped on the back porch sofa, nosed into a Jack Reacher thriller, I was both riveted by the action and scoffing at the notion of Tom Cruise, movieland’s notion of the action hero, impersonating a 6-foot-5 250-pound ex-army cop single-handedly dispatching five college football players turned thugs. Bam bam bam. Cool.

“No, I would not like to bait ant traps,” I snipped.

This was the latest in his list of proposed family activities, which includes placing glue traps for our little house mice (Here’s how to free them), chasing the opossum and her joeys (which are what opossum youth are called) with ammonia, and shooing the raccoons away from his precious feeder fish with Klieg lights.  

I agree, we do have an ant infestation, as we do every summer. I agree, it’s unpleasant. But this is men’s work.

The latest solution was Baby’s concept (we women are the idea people). She’s an authority on bugs, having briefly worked in PR for a pest control firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she and her personal Prince Pete are now living, for some reason. She is also our go-to on scuba diving, grammar and editing, wine selection, restaurant service, and now real estate. Clearly, she was an English major. Which is neither here nor there.

Returning to the subject at hand: Baby said, all you do is mix sugar and boric acid with water. The ants like sugar and will tramp through this solution with their itty-bitty feet and take home samples to their queen. And then they all die.

“What’s the proportion of this to that,” My Prince asked. “It’s all on the Internet,” she said, breezing out the door with our 65-pound grand-dog Tallula in tow. Lu is finally leaving after a 28-day vacation on the (used to be white) living room sofa while her parents, poor dears, suffered sunburn on the Jersey Shore and then in the Jamaica that has palm trees and rum. Some people have baby-trial visits to see if they’re ready, we have doggy-trial visits. No. Just no.  Also neither here nor there.

While I won’t mess with the traps, I will happily sit at my desk and conduct The Investigation. Interestingly, we find that some ants have a sweet tooth, others like fats and grease—just like people! You start with a sugar, jelly or honey solution, and if that doesn’t work you go to a fat, like peanut butter or butter. The choice, I suppose, depends on your tax bracket or neighborhood.

Suggestion? To shorten up the trial-and-error testing, I’m thinking maybe you could put a slab of steak and a slice of pie on the kitchen counter, and see which one your pests prefer.

Note that a boric acid mix is attractive only to pesky house ants like “the Argentine ant, the Pharaoh ant and the odorous house ant,” not your outdoor ants, says the particularly fascinating primer I consulted on SFGate. I’ve never smelled my ants, but now I’m curious.

For the sugar solution, add 8 teaspoons of sweet to 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon boric acid, wet wads of cotton with this and stick them in containers. The fatty death trap is 1 cup grease to 1 teaspoon boric acid; this can just be slathered onto or into containers.  

Since ants, as we know, are infinitely curious little buggers, said containers can be anything from bits of cardboard to little jars. You might need 20 to 30 of them set on windowsills, on counters, or wherever else you see them—but keep the traps away from kids and pets as boric acid can harm them as well.

Following instructions (as I rolled over to resume my reading), My Prince soaked cotton balls, stuck them in little boxes and lined them up along the kitchen baseboards and the windowsills—not having any pets or children currently in residence. While our kitchen is about 8 by 10 feet,  he’s following maximal instructions and the traps are laid cheek by jowl around the room.

It is said that you should see a fairly swift reduction in ants, though it can take a month of changing the bait every few days to kill off the colony. At which point, given it’s nearly fall, the ants will go off and hibernate anyway, so why bother.

Have you read Louise Penny? Her Inspector Gamache will have you wanting to visit Quebec.  A fine way to while away the months until ant season is upon us again.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” encounters wildlife in the garden and, well, everywhere. She reports back with her sometimes astonishing observations every Thursday.



2 thoughts on “Green Acre #116: When the Outdoors Ventures Indoors

  1. Carol says:

    Ants beware, for your Prince is at it again. Thanks for the deliciously tempting update, as I snort with laughter. Note: Have you listened to the CD of “Glass Houses”, which includes an interview with Louise Penny? I have listened to the interview a dozen times; in fact, I have given the CD (library copy, in fact) to a friend without the last CD. I must listen ‘just one more time’. That Ms. Penny is a wise woman!

    1. No!! I haven’t — must find… or you can bring it when you (if you) ever visit xxx

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