During the next few days, I started seeing more of these little raids. We started storing every package we opened up in the refrigerator: bread, pasta, you name it. I put the honey jar into a shallow bowl filled with water to create a moat.
I don’t like having poisons around, so I went on the internet to find out more about ants and alternative ways to get rid of them. I had three sizes of ants, apparently sharing trails. I read that some ant species have more than two sizes (they’re always going to have a queen size and a smaller worker size) but each type prefers either oily/fatty or sweet things.
“My” ants liked both, so I guessed that I was being raided by at least two different “tribes.” Most were black, but some of them were partly red.
But every day the ants still kept coming. They didn't look confused to me, and clearly, they couldn't care less if their chemical trails were erased. But vinegar did seem to work fairly well as a repellent, as it cut down on their numbers.
Unfortunately the vinegar dissipates so I had to clean/spray every day, usually too late to prevent the first raid because they got going well before I got up in the morning. I’d neglect to clean off a patch on the stove. D would forget to put away an opened carton of something. So there was always some minor siege going on when I went downstairs.
One night I cooked a huge pot of stew and afterwards I felt too burned out to clean up very well. I just piled stuff in the dishwasher and skipped the vinegar routine. Well that really got everybody all excited. I went downstairs the next morning to find huge lines of the 1/8-inch ants swarming in trails that branched to different parts of the kitchen. Their main highway clearly started at the back door, and radiated from there. Ants were all over the place: in the sink, on the counters, the fridge and the stove.
The first thing I did was jump around freaking out. Then I mopped up all the ants using my usual damp-paper-towel method. This time was it was especially gross due to the sheer numbers. (What would a Buddhist do at a time like this?) And, they didn’t just crawl around on the refrigerator, they got inside! They even got into the freezer!
They didn’t get into much actual food because the cold apparently immobilizes them. None of the frozen food was touched at all, because once they got inside the freezer, the ants froze right beside the opening. Still, it was no fun cleaning out ant corpses from all around the rims of the fridge and freezer door.
As soon as the clean-up was over, I clambered back up the stairs to get on the internet for more help. I stumbled on what turned out to be the final coup de grâce. This was, of all things, baby powder! I found some at a nearby Walmart, and sprinkled the powder across all the door and window sills and on all their trails. Apparently ants don’t like to touch the stuff and it also is said to wipe out the chemical trails. Best of all, baby powder doesn’t evaporate and fade away like the vinegar. It seems to hang on to its repellent powers indefinitely. A long time anyway.
It’s important to use the old-fashioned kind of baby powder that’s made of talc rather than cornstarch. You might not like this remedy if you can’t stand to look at a mess. In that case, I’ve read that neat lines of chalk drawn across entry ways will deter them too. It's said that the ants won’t cross over the line. But I was already in the midst of a massive invasion and chalk lines just didn’t seem like enough to defeat such determined raiders.
I’m pretty mess-tolerant, so I liked the baby powder idea and shook out great big lines of the stuff everywhere. The very next day there were hardly any more ants anywhere. Still saw a random few individuals here and there, but the “war” was over!
I’m not really sure how long to leave the talc in place. I left it over the main trails all summer long. After I swept or vacuumed, I “replenished” the talc. The ants never used any of the secondary trails that had criss-crossed the floor, which might have meant that there was no need to keep any talc in place, except maybe across the door way. But I was somewhat traumatized and wasn’t willing to give up my “fortifications”!
I really like the talc remedy because it’s not toxic to humans (try not to breathe it in though), it’s super cheap and it really worked well to get rid of those ants for me. Also it doesn’t wipe out the entire ant population in my back yard ecosystem; it mainly keeps them out of the house. I’m not just being sentimental here, kids! Many ant species eat dead insects and other small animals, as well the eggs of all kinds of pesky household insects, like cockroaches, fleas, flies and bedbugs.
Also they’re forever tunneling, aerating and turning over the dirt outdoors, like earthworms. If you’re a gardener, you know how helpful this is in improving soil quality.
Ants are on my mind right now, because I’ve been noticing more and more of them crawling around lately. It may be too early but I don’t care! They’re not catching me unawares this time! I sprinkled talc across the front and back doorways right away. I’ve got my vinegar spray bottle all set to go, just in case the ants storm the front lines.
This last thing has nothing to with defending against ants, but I had to add the youtube link below, about some scientists that excavated a huge ant colony below ground. Startling and interesting.