Feeling Antsy: tips for keeping ants at bay

Houseproud Feeling Antsy IMG_5995My pets, it’s been ages since I nattered on about anything, let alone about being houseproud, hasn’t it? Do let’s make up for that by having a little heart-to-heart about ants. Oh, I really think we should!

First, let me confess that our annual rainy-season scourge of wild ants attempting to become domestic ants tries my soul. If you think that ant incursions are rather low on a rational person’s list of terrible events, understand that for houseproud folks, indoor ants are cause for dismay. There is hope for my troubled soul, though: this year I have learned that ant infestations can be teachable moments, in which one may discern the difference between that which one can control and that which one cannot. Or something like that. Hmm.

Anyway, perhaps you, too, are faced with unwanted incursions from the natural world in your domicile? Perhaps you, like me, are willing to move heaven and earth (and the sofa, when necessary) in order to eradicate said ant incursions? If so, have I a few tips for you

Houseproud Feeling Antsy IMG_7562But before we review those tips, let me explain why household ant infestations are such motivating events for me. It’s because they are evidence that our homestead is attractive to ants who will wander through our possessions and attempt to eat our food, which in turn means that I must kill creatures that are smart and otherwise very useful – useful in non-domestic settings, that is. This nasty cycle troubles me, as well it ought. As explained by a Buddhist monk named Shoukei Matsumoto,

It is important to find ways to live that will enable you to avoid killing other living things. The foundation for this is daily cleaning. Insects come out in search of food and places to lay eggs. If you leave crumbs on the dining table and dishes unwashed or don’t take out the garbage, insects will naturally emerge. Cleaning up properly after each meal is thus the first step toward abstaining from killing insects.

This quote is from the “what to do with insects” section of Matsumoto’s lovely book called “A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind”*, and I say amen to all that.

Fortunately, making your home unattractive to pests is an achievable goal. This is good, because you cannot keep pests out if they want in. Now, as a native daughter of the country Slightly Obsessive, I usually feel horrid about things I cannot control, whether it be ant infestations, bad drivers, science-deniers, or wackadoo presidents. But this rainy season I have finally achieved a small amount of acceptance about the things I cannot change versus those which I can. Frankly, this has rocked my world.

Houseproud Feeling Antsy IMG_6003Now, with that bit of philosophizing out of the way, let’s get to some anti-ant tips, shall we? You can skim these or skip ‘em entirely, but I’ll be carefully reviewing this section next rainy season, that’s fer sure…

Some general anti-ant tips:

  • Ant poison ain’t worth it. Our ants scoff at OrangeGuard, and I’m unwilling to use other insecticides. Bleach kills ants, though, and I’m willing to use that. However, I will not slaughter ant nests that peaceably exist outside of our homestead.
  • I have learned from bitter experience that the only way to keep ants at bay is to swab down the infected area(s) with a soap and bleach solution each and every time you find ants. The homemade spray I use is approx’ly 1/3rd bleach**, a few healthy squirts of Dawn, and topped off with tap water, and I find it works very well.
  • If ants congregate in your domicile, kill the ants and clean the immediate area with a bleach-soap solution. Next, move everything away from that area (furniture, appliances, food, dishes, books, etc), wipe down the entire infected area, and any ant-magnet items therein contained, with a bleach-soap solution. Keep the area clear for at least 10 minutes to catch any stragglers, swabbing down the immediate area if you spot any ants. Once 20 or 30 minutes have elapsed without an ant sighting, put the infected area back in order.
  • Be prepared for the next ant incursion by always having your tools on hand: a spray bottle of bleach-soap solution, along with a cloth or sponge to wipe down counters and walls, and another to wipe down the floor (or anything that immediately abuts the floor).
  • Wipe down all hard surfaces with a bleach-soap solution whenever you do anything that might produce ant fodder, and sweep or vacuum your battleground(s) every day. If you have ants on or in soft surfaces (like hideous shag carpeting, for example), then use a bleach-soap solution on the surrounding hard surfaces (walls, furniture, etc), vacuum the infested area fiercely, and curse your lot in life.
  • Understand that if you skip a cleaning session, ants will find something yummy to eat, but t’ain’t no big thing when they do. Sometimes I do have to remind myself that it takes longer to sterilize a full infestation area than it takes to spend a few minutes tidying up…
  • Try to find and seal any internal entry points, but know that ants are tiny and will find their way inside if they’re unhappy about the conditions outside.

Some advanced tips:

  • Keep infected areas prepped for easy cleaning by clearing floors and cabinets of clutter. If you can’t clear the clutter, then at least make it easy to quickly shift things to another location when necessary. This will make your ant skirmishes shorter in duration, if not in frequency.
  • Food prep areas need to be kept spotless, including areas behind and underneath those areas. This means that anything that’s not bolted to the wall or floor must be moved to clean behind and under every other month or so doing peak infestations. For extra insurance, squirt tiny amounts of your bleach-soap solution into any gaps between built-ins and walls or floor in infestation sites.
  • And lastly, I suspect that ants can be well fed on the bits and pieces that one sheds in the bathroom. Isn’t that shudder-worthy? I shan’t say anything else on this subject, other than to say that our bathroom floor and shower area are particularly clean these days.

Houseproud Feeling Antsy IMG_5998That’s it for my anti-ant tips – wasn’t that fun? My, yes, it was, hmmm yes (nods head). I do hope that these tips prove helpful to you, or at least were amusing to read. For those of you who are houseproud, I really do recommend Matsumoto’s book, which I found absolutely lovely. And that’s it for this post, duckies. Next time ‘round I might have a nice little post about dyeing things with turmeric. Or perhaps you’d like to learn how to ferment ginger? That’s an easy little project that turns out rather well. Or there’s always gardening to talk about, too… Oh, so many choices! With that and until next time, very fondly, yr little munakins.

Houseproud Feeling Antsy IMG_7569

This little cactus is a relative of those that bloom around Christmas. It’s the Easter-flowering version of a Christmas cactus, if that makes any sense. Anywho, although this beauty sets flowers by mid- to late spring, its blooms refuse to unfurl until temps hit the mid 70s. Conditions were finally right this week – which made both me and the plant very happy.

*Matsumoto, Soukei (2018), A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind (pp 8-9) (Ian Samhammer, Trans.) New York, NY: Penguin Random House, TarcherPerigee (Original work published 2011)

**Please do make sure that you use non-chlorine bleach. I realized mid-season that I had been using the truly toxic chlorine version. Ack! I’ve stashed the nearly empty bottle of super toxic bleach away to be used VERY SPARINGLY during peak infestation season, and now use a less toxic bleach in my anti-ant solution.

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