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Monday, June 19, 2006

they were a lot cuter in the disney movie

We've got ants.

Three words, short ones, even, but they can provoke an immediate reaction in any homeowner. Our reaction, played out over the course of this weekend, ranged from mild hysteria to sheer panic. The cat's reaction was worse; it's her food they went after. Tiny sugar ants, making their bloody-mindedly determined way from some mysterious hole behind a closet door in a solemn processional to the cat's food dish, around in a circle to the far side, up, and back. For a while, it looked as though we'd encircled the dish with some sort of writhing rubber ring.

We knew the ants were around; when Don went to pull out the ugly pathway lighting in the front yard in preparation to hewing down the grass jungle, he encountered boiling hills full of them. This prompted a panicked call to my cell phone -- Don doesn't deal well with bugs. Or rodents. Or slimy things. Anyway, he got some ant killer and happily sprayed the yard. And the deck. And the pool deck. And the lawn furniture. And the sidewalk.

They still came back. There's a little ant interstate going on from the bottom of the house, up through the little ivy vine that's valiantly growing on the corner by the door, and up into the siding. From there, presumably, they make their little ant way to the cat food. Mmm, cat food.

Just how delicious they find cat food was proven when we went out and bought baited traps -- guaranteed to be irresistable! -- and set them out, directly in the middle of the kitchen floor interstate. They went around. They ignored the supposedly delicious bait in favor of the proven delights of cat food. I mean, given the choice between deadly poison meant to kill my family and cat food, I'd probably make the same choice, but they're ants. They're not supposed to know we're engaging them in biological warfare, they're just supposed to eat it. And die. Both of which they failed to do.

After this ignominious defeat, we retreated to talk strategy. First step: remove the mysteriously delicious cat food (nobody is quite sure why they like it so much -- ants normally go for sweeter things, and they are ignoring the entire pantry en route to the cat food; literally en route, as the door from which they are emerging is the one to the pantry). So we threw out the cat food in the dish -- teeming with ants, yuck -- and gave the food and water dishes a thorough scrubbing, and left them to dry. Poor kitty was left without food and water for half a day or so, but the ant inquest became remarkably less prolific. The cat became less obviously worried -- and stopped trying to trip me whenever I walked around -- when I put down ceramic dishes with food and water, far away from where the original dishes had lain. So far, so good. When last I checked (last night), there were only four or five ants milling around confusedly in the area where the food dishes had been.

Next step: caulk the hole they're coming in from. Once the ants seem to be gone, we'll caulk the hole, and I'm going to look for natural sources of ant deterrent to sprinkle around the foundation of the house and all around the ant interstate. The most feasible I've found so far seem to be orange peel oil and peppermint oil. The most esoteric is diatomaceous earth, a powder comprised of razor sharp microscopic bits of various minerals, which apparently shreds antly innards quite effectively. All of these are pet-safe, our biggest concern.

The cat, one hopes, will be appropriately grateful.


StuccoHouse said...

Three word answer. Get some Terro. Its not instantaneous, but they eat it and then bring it back to their friends at home. It kills them en mass where they live.

Jamaila said...

The baited traps that we bought said they did the same thing. The problem is that they don't want to eat anything but the cat food. We're leaving the traps out in the hopes that with the cat food gone, they'll eat the bait instead, and take death and destruction back to the nest. Mmm, death and destruction. Delicious.

Nick said...

Hmm. You could make millions off of cat food-baited ant traps!

Malnurtured Snay said...

That DE stuff is also -- supposedly -- great for fleas. I had better luck flea bombing, tho.

Angela said...

A friend told me yesterday that ants won't cross a line of salt, so if you made a line around your house it might stop them from coming in at least until it rained hard! She swears that is the only way to really keep ants from coming in the house but I haven't tried it yet.

Summer said...

I don't know if you're anti-poison or not, but we had a line of ants coming in our back door and eating cat food as well. First thing I did was remove all the cat food, then I wiped their trail with white vinegar. Then I went to the store and bought something called "Home Defense". I think it's by Ortho Max, in a red bottle. I sprayed that all along the door frame and the area they traveled. Let it dry before you let your cat near it, but once it's dry, it's pet and human safe. It's kept the ants out of the house for a month now. I reapply outside after heavy rains, but I see them sort of dancing around outside but not crossing the "threshold" of poison. I think it was $5 at Lowes. HIGHLY recommend.