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Saturday, January 16, 2016

A rambling account of Ants and their imminent demise, among other things

Although the   blue sky that  greeted me  when I awoke this morning was a welcome sight after yesterday's gloomy grey sky, it still wasn't quite enough to   drive away the winter blues feeling I get  this time of year. Maybe it's the cold, the shorter days, the itching to get outside and feel the warm sun without   having to bundle up like the Michelin Man. I find it hard to come up with anything worth  blogging about when the blues hit, but since I vowed to do better this year, I'm determined to try, even if I just have to ramble on aimlessly :-).  Please feel free to leave  if you get bored. 

I did get outside today  long enough to refill the bird feeders and clean up some odds and ends on the deck.  But what was really nice was puttering about in the greenhouse for a little while, deadheading some plants, clearing up a space  for seed starting and just admiring the  few plants that are still blooming.  With the sun beating down on it all day the  greenhouse  was toasty warm.  Which is probably why every ant for miles around has decided to take up residence in there.  I take that back- there are some ants who have decided the  window ledge above the kitchen sink is a nice toasty place to  reside. 

 I admire ants- they are industrious little creatures, and are  interesting to watch as they signal each other by touching antennae as they scurry back and forth between food sources and their nest.  I always feel guilty when I dispatch them to the great ant colony in the beyond, especially when I see one trying valiantly to  carry his fallen comrade back to home base. But I'm just not quite ready to  coexist peacefully with them yet. At least, not in the house or in the greenhouse, where they pour out of my pots in droves every time I water. 

We can usually keep a milder invasion under control by spraying peppermint oil. Ants use chemicals called pheromones to leave scent trails for other ants to follow. The peppermint oil, or any other strong oil, such as cinnamon,  interferes with their scent receptors and they can no longer signal each other and usually stay away from the strong scent. But sometimes, they  are so invasive and   come in such huge numbers that we resort to more drastic measures. My favorite method is to use Terro ant baits or drops. The  active ingredient  in Terro is  Borax in a liquid base that attracts the worker ants who consume the  bait and live just long enough to carry the  liquid back to the nest  to deliver a deadly dose to the rest  of the  colony. When we first began using Terro we used  drops on little   cardboard squares.  It took a little while for the ants to discover the bait, but  soon a few came and began to fill up on the syrupy liquid. 
 As word (or whatever communication form  ants use) got out more ants came- and kept coming until there was a huge pile of ants upon ants upon ants on the  bait. This went on for two or three days and then there were none.  They   just disappeared. Needless to say, it was a little unnerving to see that many ants on the kitchen counters,  so we began to use the traps- the ants climb inside, and many of them die there, but enough  get back to the nest to  deliver the  poison and soon they are all gone. As I said, I feel guilty, but not enough to stop using the stuff, especially after discovering once a few years ago that they had  invaded my cutlery/gadget drawer and  a sizable contingent had  taken up residence in my turkey baster. 

Killing ants does nothing to lift the winter blues, but  it did give me something to blog about tonight, in a rambling, roundabout way, so maybe ants in  the kitchen  do have some redeeming qualities after all! :-)

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