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Ant farm

Ant arsenalAnt farm not so much fun after all

Reprinted with permisstion: The Daily News/South County News, Longview, WA
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:34 AM PST

By Pat Nelson / for South County News

I used to think it would be fun to have an ant farm, but now I’m more careful about what I wish for. After our recent heavy rains, the ants have decided to occupy my home, and this isn’t the first time.

A few years ago, I called the exterminator when I noticed ants. When the little creatures returned last year, I decided to tackle the problem myself.

My first step was to do some research on the Internet. I decided to try one of the solutions I found, which was to combine peanut butter with syrup or honey and some boric acid. If I used too much boric acid, the site said, the ants would die before taking the food back to the queen. If I used too little, it would not be effective.

I went to the pharmacy and bought a jar of boric acid. After adding a scoop to some peanut butter and syrup, I stirred the mixture until it was smooth and creamy. Then, per instructions, I spread it on a wide strip of masking tape.

The tape, although it isn’t one of the secret ingredients, does help to keep the concoction off the floors.

I placed the tape in locations where I had seen ants. Against a wall in the kitchen, they marched out from under the baseboards and headed for the tape where they formed a line the length of the peanut butter mixture. There, they worked as a team, devouring the mixture until the tape was clean. I replaced it, and they cleaned it again. A few weak warriors died, but most kept working tenaciously.

I noticed that the ants on my kitchen counter completely ignored the peanut butter mixture. When I made cornbread, though, they devoured the crumbs. I called those my cornbread ants and the others my peanut butter ants.

Obviously, there were at least two different types entering my home, and each preferred a different meal.

The ants kept coming, but the good news was that when I knew what to feed them to attract them to a specific spot, I could keep them from surprising me in other places. They were more orderly, just going to the tape.

Having an ant farm was somewhat interesting for a while, but eventually I tired of having to explain the gooey strips of tape affixed to my floors. One night when my granddaughter stayed with us, friends Scot and Sue visited from Portland. Sue asked about the tape, and suggested an idea she remembered hearing on the radio. She said, “when you draw a circle around ants with chalk, they supposedly won’t cross the line.”

Our granddaughter ran for the bedroom and returned with a stick of chalk. She drew a thin horseshoe-shaped chalk line around the ants, from one spot on the baseboard to another. We watched and waited. Eventually, one ant crossed the line. Our granddaughter drew a thicker line. Another ant tried to cross, but after reaching the middle, he turned back. Then ants started crawling up the baseboard and onto the wall to avoid the chalk. I didn’t want to cover the inside of my house with white graffiti, so I knew chalk was not the answer.

Finally, I used a chemical spray, which I had hoped to avoid. The ants disappeared. The next day, my neighbor knocked on the door. “Do you have any more of that peanut butter stuff? I don’t know what happened, but we’re infested with ants.”

“Sure,” I said. “We’re done with it.”

This year when the rains started, the ants returned. My husband again checked the Internet, and found a site that said bait packs are effective, but that it sometimes takes 10 months of baiting the ants to eliminate the nest. I’m using two different types of bait traps because my peanut butter ants like one kind of bait and my cornbread ants prefer another kind.

I’m not going to give up so easily this time. For the next 10 months, friends will have to watch their step in my house to avoid the bait traps. With luck, we’ll be ant-free next winter.

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