Ant Killer

Last summer I battled with wasps: this years it’s ants. Small black ones have underground nests in our yard, and they usually don’t bother us much. But a hot and dry summer recently inspired them to investigate our house, where they found two things they really like: sugar and water. When we returned from a trip to the archipelago, a busy ant highway stretched from the side door through a bedroom, a corridor, the dining room and into the kitchen, where the main destinations were our candy cupboard and the sink. Thousands of tiny insects.

I bought some insecticide. It looks like pale pink ice-cream sprinkles, and in fact consists mainly of sugar. But mixed into the sugar are two chemicals: one that makes the stuff taste awful to children and other large animals, and another that kills insects. It’s imidakloprid, a synthetic nicotine analog. I put a pinch of the stuff in each nest opening I could find out in the yard, and placed a small dish of it by the ants’ entry-point into our house.

It was frighteningly effective. After a couple of hours, that busy ant highway across our floor was gone. Our yard was also deserted. All that remained were a few dead ants. Apparently, most of them ran home when they started to feel sick. And none of them were of course smart enough to avoid the bait: they’d climb over the dead and dying to reach the stuff and gobble it up.

I love the smell of imidakloprid in the morning. It smells like… victory.

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Comments

  1. #1 Sandgroper
    July 15, 2010

    Don’t declare victory yet – I keep winning the battles and losing the war.

    I attack nests about once a week in summer, and about once a month in winter. The stuff works, everything is dead and laid waste. Then I turn around and the little bastards have made new nests and are again marching resolutely through our games room (not board games, don’t get excited – it contains my weight training gear) towards the kitchen.

    I’m kind of torn about this, because they clean up the corpses of the earthworms who commit seppuku on our outdoor brick paving every time it rains. But when they invade the house, they have to go.

  2. #2 regis
    July 15, 2010

    I have similar issues. What brand of insecticide is it you used?

  3. #3 Thomas Ferraro
    July 15, 2010

    Last year we had excellent results with Terro liquid ant bait. It’s borax in sugary solution, so relatively safe. Put some drops on pieces of cardboard and the ants swarm to it. Then they stop showing up…

  4. #4 Alex Wild
    July 15, 2010

    You bastard! I’m organizing the reinforcements and will be sending them your way shortly.

  5. #5 cicely
    July 15, 2010

    I’ll have to check this stuff out. My house is currently under attack; we’ve tried the ant baits that worked so well last year, and the mega-nuke stuff that one of the local exterminators uses, but it appears that the Ant-Borg have adapted.

  6. #6 Bob Carlson
    July 15, 2010

    Hmmm, I’m wondering if your ant remedy hasn’t killed the combined RSS feed for Science Blogs. It stopped working last night. :(

  7. #7 _Arthur
    July 15, 2010

    Now you’ll have Myrmecos mad at you.

  8. #8 Deborah
    July 15, 2010

    Read “Empire of the Ants” by Bernard Werber. Excellent science fiction!

  9. #9 Martin R
    July 15, 2010

    Regis, this is a Swedish brand, “Myrr”. Check the Wikipedia article about imidakloprid for other brands.

    Alex, haha, I forgot that Sb has an ant infestation of its own! (-;

    Bob, ouch, I’ll check with the Overlords.

  10. #10 Art
    July 15, 2010

    I’ve had luck with Amdro. Mostly for tackling fire ants, welcome to Florida, but it also seems to work on other varieties. I’ve been told it is fairly safe.
    Then again you have northern ants and Amdro is based on grits. Yankees don’t eat grits. LOL.

  11. #11 Martin R
    July 16, 2010

    I had grits in Chapel Hill, NC two years ago. Pretty bland, but not bad. The biscuits and gravy were more challenging simply through their great density. I must learn to order from the children’s menu when in the US.

  12. #12 Art
    July 16, 2010

    I was wondering if anyone would get the grits reference.

    To those who don’t know, grits are kind of like rice. Bland with a mild flavor all their own they mainly pick up whatever is added.

    Various proportions of the holy trinity of southern cooking; salt, sugar and lard; get you different flavors. Top with gravy – flour added to drippings from cooking fatback (bacon in modern kitchens)and a pinch of sugar and salt – and your doing genuine southern style grits.

    Most modern grits served in the south have far too little lard and salt to meet traditional tastes. Old timers were as likely to stir in the drippings from frying up the pork to give them flavor. Cheese grits are the same idea but a modern invention and, as such things go, not bad. Next time ask for cheese grits (add Tabasco for a zing) or grits with sausage gravy. I can’t say your sure to like it but you won’t starve and, as you noted, southern cooking will stay with you and keep you going. Around here they call it ‘stick to your ribs’ food.

    Grits allowed to sit out a bit can be refried like you re-fry rice. Refried and smothered with sausage gravy makes a decent dish. Of course southern cooking is heavy with lots of calories, as befits brown-dirt farmers and stoop labor, using cheap ingredients. Corn, rice, sugar cane and pork being mainstays.

    As it is, traditional high calorie food with modern low expenditure lifestyle has caused a general widening of the population. It doesn’t help much that poor farmers used to only get one full meal a day (supper) and outwork their mules, while modern folks eat three a day and sit on their rears.

    Then again perhaps it is the new ‘space age’ look. I read a report, from NASA as I remember it, that suggested that sending up astronauts overweight and feeding them fewer calories along the way, so they are in shape on arrival, was more efficient than sending them thin and feeding them more during transit. Evidently fat stored in the body is about as efficient as it gets in terms of calories per kilo delivered. I bust out laughing when I picture the classic “Right Stuff” scene, astronauts walking line abreast, with them weighing twenty stone each. Like sumo wrestlers in Mylar suits strutting their stuff.

    Wouldn’t that be special?

  13. #13 Martin R
    July 16, 2010

    Haha, that astronoaut calorie transport calculation is priceless!

  14. #14 Sandgroper
    July 17, 2010

    Now I’ve got a plague of crickets near my herb and vegetable garden.

    They don’t attack the crops, but I don’t like them – they crunch when you tread on them.

    Anyone know of any good cricket poison that is sufficiently non-toxic to put near my herbs and veges?

  15. #15 Martin R
    July 17, 2010

    Smother them in chocolate? (-;

  16. #16 Sandgroper
    July 17, 2010

    Mmm, crunchy centres.

    I might have to get a flame-thrower.