Natural remedies effective
To avoid chemical-based pesticides, natural remedies may be the way to go. These products can be purchased in local stores such as the Merc or made at home.
“We frequently have customers asking for natural products,” said Sarah Mutt, merchandising manager at the Merc, 901 Iowa. “I’ve found natural products to be very effective for pests such as ants.”
As a personal favorite, Mutt recommends dissolving peppermint essential oil in witch hazel and using it as a spray. She said the Merc also sells a diatomaceous earth insect killer as well as EcoSMART plant oil-based sprays for gardens and homes. Here are other home remedies to help ward off ants.
• Plant peppermint or tansy placed at entryways, or crushed and sprinkled at entrances.
• Caulk common ant entry points such as windowsills, thresholds and baseboards.
• To make four to six ant traps, mix these ingredients: 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup baking yeast and 1/2 cup molasses Smear a thin layer of the mixture on index cards. Place the cards — syrup side up — in areas where ants travel. Change the card as desired.
• Ant stopper: Use ordinary white vinegar. Go to the point of entry. Liberally wash down the area where ants congregate.
— Source: City of Lawrence Waste Reduction Department
Ruth Foster imagined someone slowly dragging a black string across the counter in her kitchen. However, upon closer inspection, this black string transformed into hundreds of crawling ants.
Whether it’s through the kitchen, the pantry, the bathroom or the entryway, the dreaded ant trail is a common sight for many homeowners this time of year. Along with being a nuisance, ants can be difficult to get rid of without the proper products and education.
Foster decided to turn to the professionals.
Pest control establishments say that business has picked up in the past few weeks, with ants as the No. 1 call.
“We receive 25 to 30 calls a week for ant problems,” said Joanie Haley with Haley Pest Control. “Ants are by far the worst thing in Lawrence right now.”
Why ants are a problem
Dale Roubison, founder of Laser Pest Management, said ants seem to get worse every year. Roubison credits part of the boom to the increase in wet weather.
Jennifer Smith, horticulturist with Douglas County Extension, said rainy weather and moist ground create ideal conditions for ant nests. Smith said ants usually enter homes for one reason — food.
“Ants forage,” Smith said. “They look for food all the time and when they find food they will leave a trail leading back to the nest.”
How to treat ants
Brian Bracciano, owner of Bracciano Pest Control, said finding the nest is the most effective treatment. He said it’s not only about killing the ants in the home, but outside the home as well. He said 95 percent of ants found in the house originate from nests outside.
Smith said homeowners often think that if they get rid of ants in the home others won’t come. Sprays and traps can be effective for ants already in the home, but will not kill the ones outside the home.
She says, “Baits that the ants can carry back to the nest are one of the best things to use.”
Pest control professionals agree that practicing basic cleanliness can be the best step toward prevention. Proper storage of animal feed and food products is key. Kitchens should be cleaned immediately and thoroughly after food preparation. Besides basic sanitation and cleanliness, residents can practice proper gardening methods as well.
William Weber, owner of Weber Extermination, said outdoor gardening habits are a main cause in the rise in ants. He said ants often build nests under mulch, bushes, stones, rocks and bricks because of the moisture.
The problem can be prevented by keeping gardens away from the house, or at least separated. Raking up old mulch before piling on new can help as well.
Even with good habits, Pete Haley, owner of Haley Pest Control, said ants will sometimes find a way in regardless.
Foster, who keeps her house clean, couldn’t figure out what she was doing wrong. For now, she will wait and hope the professional treatment will finally rid her of the pesky ants.