And do they ever!
We were invaded by ants during the last heatwave. These are Monomorium minimum, aka “little black ants.” They are as small as 1.5 millimeters long and can make their way through cracks less than a quarter of that width. They typically invade homes in mid to late summer.
They tell me I need to seal all the entrances they might come through. This is nonsense. No building is hermetically sealed and this house has had 70 years to settle and creak and stretch. Every sub-millimeter crack and opening? Not going to happen.
These ants like to nest inside your walls. At least they don’t eat wood.
They tell me to clean all surfaces and keep all food put away. Ha! Put the food away? The only place that is safe from them is the fridge. But they don’t care. They love your pet’s food. They love your cat’s poop. They love the recycling bucket. They love the kitchen wastebasket. They can get into many packaged foods just from their small size. Do you keep fruit in a basket? They’ll take that too. Even if there’s no food they will come for the water and to avoid the record-setting heat.
You can’t kill enough of them to make a dent. They don’t care if you kill off dozens of ants each day. Or even hundreds. The queen just keeps laying eggs, almost forever.
You can just resign yourself to ants. They may a good protein source but most people will object. They tickle when they crawl on your skin. Many people find just the sight of them really disquieting. But they don’t bite or sting.
We started out by using ant bait on little pieces of plastic. The idea is that ants are attracted to the sugary syrup. The bait contains borax which is poisonous to ants. The workers carry it back to the colony and feed it to the larvae and the queen who then all die. These ants weren’t phased a bit. They loved it and kept coming back for days.
So, to up the ante, I started adding extra borax to the mix. Twenty Mule Team Borax to be precise. Three or four drops of bait and a small pinch of borax. Stir it up with a toothpick. Adjust the mixture to keep it liquid because leaving it as a paste will cause it to dry up quickly and then the ants won’t like it anymore.
Borax isn’t dangerous to people. We use it as a laundry additive. I wouldn’t recommend eating it (definitely not recommended for oral consumption) but just having it around won’t hurt anything nor will getting it on your skin. Borax is safe for cats, dogs, and other small pets. I put it in locations our pets can’t get at anyhow.
Well, it worked. Sort of. The ants would come through a location and I put the bait where it would be the first thing the ants encountered. I wiped down the area beyond the bait so as to make sure any existing ant scent trail would be gone. They would gobble the bait up and head back. (See featured photo!) Two days of this and they were gone.
Until they came back. Little black ants are notoriously difficult to get rid of permanently. We may have to wait for full-on winter, or at least such as it gets to winter here. Supposedly this will be a cold winter, La Niña.
Each colony has several queens. If you don’t get all the queens they will come back. If the colony is in decline, one of the queens may take some workers and some youngsters and set up a new colony in a process called “budding.” And don’t think you are their only food supply. They love to go into the colonies of larger ants and steal the eggs to bring home for dinner. I had to kill them off and have them come back a couple of times before they stopped coming.
A week goes by and they are back. This time coming back thru the corner of the front door rather than a crack in a window sill or from behind an electrical outlet or the crack between the chimney and the wall. Probably yet another colony. They are the most common ants in North America.
Ah well! Rinse and repeat.
We could call the pest killer people and they’d come out to saturate the ground with insect poison and maybe inject it into the walls. It isn’t worth it. There’s all kinds of beneficial insects out there and quite a population of lizards living off them. As long as we can control them to some degree otherwise, let the rest of the creatures be.