Friday, January 7, 2011

War with the Odorous Ant

We have pesky little Odorous House Ants. Millions of them, apparently in several colonies. These little pests are about 1/8 of an inch long and they get into everything. Try to find out how to get rid of them and you get a million web sites all recommending store-bought baits, a caulking gun (for filling the million holes they enter through), insecticides and a number of other things to buy from Home Depot. I've been buying that stuff for years and I've never been able to get rid of the ants. In fact, it's so bad that I think the name should be changed to Onerous Ants. Onerous means burdensome, oppressive, troublesome while Odorous means sweet smelling, but the only time they are apparently sweet smelling is when they smell like sour butter when they're crushed.

I decided to take the war to a whole new level a few weeks ago by spending as much time as I needed to to figure out how to kill these boogers. I did lots of web searches and ask everyone I met. Someone, obviously smarter than I am, mentioned Boric Acid, so I went shopping for Boric Acid. As far as I can tell, Boric Acid isn't sold in stores - anyplace. So, I wasted a week trying to figure out where I could get some. It turns out that Boric Acid isn't called Boric Acid on the shelf. It's called Sodium Tetraborate and it is the ingredient in Borax, that old time 20 Mule Team product and it is used for laundry additive, and cleaning all kinds of things from toilet bowls to carpets and rugs. Go figure. Safeway sells Borax in a four pound box. That's enough to last twenty years of Odorous Ant wars.

Next came the question of how to kill ants with it, and the answer comes from the usual suspect, Wikipedia, of course. Thunk - smacking myself in the forehead. Duh! Find Boric Acid in Wikipedia and go to Insecticide and it tells you: "Mix 1 teaspoon of Borax (Boric Acid aka Sodium Tetraborate) with 10 teaspoons of sugar in 2 cups of water, stir, then soak cotton balls, or wadded up paper napkins, toilet paper or paper towels in the mixture and set it out where the ants can find it." Easy as pie.

The little devils just love the stuff. It seems to attract them and they'll nose right up to it, spend a minute or two, presumably sucking it up, then go back to their nest. That's what you want them to do, take the poison back to their nest and pass it around to their little household, including the queen. But, you'll have to watch them march to and fro a minute or two. You don't want to mix it so strong that it kills them before they make it back to their nest.

The first day I was amazed at how the chemical warfare seemed to be working. Overnight the ants disappeared and I thought the war was won. But, the little devils were just faking me out. I put out fresh bait and they came back. But, they don't seem to be as lively as they were the first day, and some are a little wobblier than others. The kitchen colony, for example, can't quite make it back to the colony today, even though the mixture in the kitchen is the same as the one in the bathroom where the ants seem to be a little livelier, although slower than the first day.

I think I'm winning the war and all of those store-bought baits didn't help at all. I can't wait until warmer weather when I can spray bushes and trees around here to get rid of the whole neighborhood of Odorous Ants. Take that sucka!


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