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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Controlling ants safely.

The recent huge rains have brought ants out in big numbers, fire ants and many other species. Ants can bother people, but very few species do any real damage. Fire ants are just one of well over a hundred ant species - most of which do no harm at all, but benefit the environment.  Here are some general guidelines on ant control.

1. Identify, as best you can, what ant species you are dealing with. And whether their presence is temporary or permanent, harmful or not. Each species has different habits, and locating their food, water and shelter will determine your success.

2. If the ants are not entering your home, they probably are not doing damage (unless they sting, like fire ants). Watch the activities of the ants to find where they are coming and going. If you find how they are entering your home, you can physically exclude them. If ants stay outside, exclusively, they aid in transforming twigs and leaves into soil, and probably do no harm.

3. Remove or alter the conditions that enticed them in the first place. Keep counters clean of food. Try to keep sinks and surrounding areas dry. Wiping counters down with vinegar or citrus oil can work as a temporary deterrent.

4. If steps 1-3 do not slow the ants down, it is time for baits, dusts or sprays. Remember that you are only seeing a small portion of the colony at any one time. Only about 10% of a colony will forage outside the nest. Therefore baits are often the most effective approach since foraging ants bring it back to the nest. Applying any insecticide organic or chemical could cause the colony to bud or split into multiple colonies creating more problems.

5. Baits, containing boric acid, are highly attractive to ants and under most conditions provide good control. Place baits into spill proof containers out of the reach of children and pets. The stations should be placed along active ant trails. It is important to remember that boric acid contains elemental boron and at high concentrations will sterilize soil, so should not be used in gardens.

6. Ants have a habit of changing food sources from sugars to carbohydrates. It may become necessary to mix peanut butter with boric acid to keep the ants feeding on the boric acid.

7. There are ant baits with the active ingredient abamectin. These baits can provide good control and should be used for heavy infestations or when other bait is not effective. They can be applied in stations around foraging ants or broadcast around ant trails. Again, boric can be damaging to the soil.

8. If the homemade baits fail or if you’re not the “home brew” type, hiring a professional pest control company would be the next step. Be sure to find one that understands the non-toxic approach.




OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.

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