Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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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
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
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
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
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 Yost87@charter.net in Denton.