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Diary the Fourth: Ants
Of course, *something* had to be going wrong. My life lately has not permitted a streak of simply good days. Fortunately, as badness goes, this one is much more an annoyance than an actual problem.

I seem to have developed *quite* the remarkable herd of ants in the past couple of weeks. For a little while I was worried that they could be carpenter ants (which *would* be an actual problem), but tpau pointed out that it's fairly easy to tell the difference. And fortunately, these are pretty clearly normal garden-variety (as it were) ants, mostly clustered around the kitchen.

It's not precisely clear *why* I have such a sudden ant problem -- the house and kitchen aren't that much of a mess -- but it appears that the issue is the dishwasher. There are a fair number crawling around the kitchen in general, but when I open the dishwasher there are a downright squicky array of them on the door.

My guess is that it comes down to a good idea gone wrong. Jane was always the one who did the dishes, because she liked doing so, and she always did them by hand. I have no such fondness, and I've had years of people telling me that running a full dishwasher is more ecological than doing dishes by hand. But I'm not home much, and only cooking for myself, so I'm just not generating dishes very fast. So my guess is that the dishes sat too long in the dishwasher, and attracted the ants.

So now I'm fighting them off, mostly by removing the attractants. I finished filling the dishwasher, ran it, and am now getting into the habit of doing my dishes promptly by hand instead. Combined with a bunch of ant traps, that will hopefully get rid of the problem reasonably efficiently.

(Although it's remarkably hard to find glue traps, I have to say. I prefer not to use poisons -- with pets in the house, it always makes me nervous -- and glue traps work pretty well with ants. But the supermarkets seem to have stopped carrying them. I may have to resort to Amazon to get some more...)

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Ant traps are almost completely nontoxic to animals - the primary health risk they present is as a choking hazard. Just make sure you get the ones with boric acid as the active ingredient, not arsenic....

Okay, useful to know -- thanks!

As a note, boric acid powder is available as well, and works great if you put it into corners and such. I used it when I lived in God-Help-Us Oklahoma City, because we didn't just get ants. We also got cockroaches from around the world (I lived across the street from Tinker AFB). It worked well and in no way harmed my cats.

My regime for ants (carpenter, in my case) is as follows:
1) Heat gun. Get the entire area hot. This among other things will dry out any moisture which might be attracting them.
2) Boric acid + Diatomaceous earth, blown into any cracks.
3) Traps made up of Boric Acid, Diatomaceous earth and sugar syrup.
4) Fix any water problems.
5) Plant ant hated stuff around the outside of the house.

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Supermarkets around here seem to have way fewer pest products in general than they used to, but hardware stores have glue traps. (We use them for spiders and crickets, rather than ants, because T is allergic to spider bites.)

I found that a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part liquid detergent is effective for killing and driving the ants away, busting up their trail, and helps clean and disinfect. ealdthryth discovered the recipe for this online when she was looking for natural and non-toxic ways to deal with minor problems with ants.

Since we have 4 cats, we were concerned about using herbs and other natural repellents that would get rid of the ants without harming the cats as part of the bargain.

Cinnamon will disrupt ant trails and deter them from crossing. It's a temporary solution, but is good for areas where you don't want toxic substances.

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