Archive for Friday, August 11, 2006

Ant attack

Heat drives homeowners buggy

August 11, 2006

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Q: Millions of ants have invaded just about every home and yard in our neighborhood in the past several weeks. We've never seen anything like this, and the usual bug sprays and bait traps only seem to work for a day or two before the bugs come back. What can we do? Are people in other areas having this kind of problem too?

A: Most species of ants thrive and multiply even faster in extremely hot weather, so the record-setting heat that has swept across the nation in the past few weeks also has led to record-setting "ant attacks" on homeowners from California to New York.

Like you, many of those same owners have found only short-term relief by using their typical bug-killing arsenal of over-the-counter sprays or more eco-friendly products such as organic bait traps. But some scientists and even a few professional exterminators say that owners can win this summer's extraordinary war against ants by eschewing their usual remedies and instead focusing on making a few simple changes around their homes.

Ants love sugar- and protein-based foods, so make sure you tightly seal your cereal, potato chips and snacks - or maybe even put them in the refrigerator. Don't leave out open cans of soda, and also ensure that caps on any type of bottle are also screwed tightly and that bottles are properly stored in your fridge or clean pantry. Grease is another of their favorite foods, so put it in a tightly sealed container and throw it into your trash can promptly.

Most bugs, including ants, often find their way into a house through cracks in the property's foundation or through holes that were drilled to install plumbing and telephone or cable lines. Patching or caulking such areas also can go a long way toward keeping the pests out.

If you have pets, make sure that their bedding is washed frequently to discourage both fleas and ants from breeding. Another trick is to put Fido or Fluffy's food in a small bowl and then place it in a larger but more shallow bowl that is filled with water: Most types of ants can't swim, so they'll leave the food alone and go foraging someplace else.

Several Internet sites operated by local pest-extermination companies offer other ideas, though some are primarily designed to promote their own products or services. As an alternative, consider checking the more eco-friendly Frugal Life Newsletter (www.thefrugallife.com) or the Integrated Pest Management site of the University of California Davis (www.ipm.ucdavis.edu).

Q: How can I contact the National Association of Realtors?

A:You can write to NAR's headquarters at 430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 60611-4097; call toll-free, (800) 874-6500; or send a message through its Web site, www.realtor.org.

- David W. Myers is a 20-year veteran of the newspaper and magazine business, having previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Times and Investor's Business Daily.

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