Sunday, February 19, 2012

Entertaining the ants

The street sign should have warned us
We had a taste-testing event at our house on my latest visit. Our expert panel of testers - thousands of them, actually, were invited to sample three different products. So far the peanut-buttery tasting one is a bigger hit than the sugary one.

Yes, even though there was nothing to eat in the empty house for the past few years, ants have moved in. They are fascinating creatures. It is amazing to see how, in minutes, they find and attack even the tiniest crumb on a counter. Their bizarre fascination with electrical outlets and gadgets. The little highways they follow to go to and from their nests - I could watch them all day long.

I learned quite a bit about ants in Merida from other bloggers  such as Blah...blah... blah...Ginger! and Yucatango. People have different attitudes to them. Some say live and let live, others say bomb the house with insecticides, and there are gradations in between.

My preference is to stay away from heavy-duty pesticides and try to use organic or natural methods to get rid of them. In Canada I buy ant bait made from a combination of sugar and borax (the same stuff you can use to make your laundry whiter without bleach). Ants take it back to the nest and poison the whole colony. It seems to work.

I could not find the borax product in Mérida, so I bought some in Canada and brought it down this time to try it out - three different kinds. I figured the ants in different rooms could try out the options for a week while I'm here and give their reviews. Or preferably, just die.

But this is the tropics, and the bugs and creepy crawlies are in a whole different league.

Over the week-long test, the ants dined enthusiastically on the ant bait, especially the savory kind, and seemed to disappear for a couple of days. But now they are back.

I didn't worry too much about the ants until we discovered the kitchen ceiling fan wasn't working and the reason was, it was clogged with the detritus of ant activity; polvo and bits of... I don't know, ant shit? The fan motor was completely burned out and the whole thing had to be replaced.

They work fast! These new fans were installed just a few months ago. The ant paths include pit stops at several other electrical outlets, so I fear more problems ahead. I had heard about ants chewing the wiring but never quite believed it until now.

So my fence-sitting on the ant question is over. It's time for heavy, or at least heavier artillery before they destroy more of our electrical work. Recommendations, anyone?


  1. I'm wondering if ants caused the problem with one of our a/c's that had to have a motor replaced. We had a problem a few months back and Ruben had the entire house treated. I did not ask what they used, and I probably don't want to know. When we were there in November, we saw very few ants.

  2. Debbie, I got some relief from Ortho Ant-Stop Plus, a powder available at Home Depot. It's not as toxic as other pesticides, and it kills ants if the ants are helpful enough to run only on horizontal surfaces that can hold the powder.

    I've seen a reduction in ants, but there are still colonies I can't reach and ants that run on the walls, so I'm probably going to have to find an exterminator. The ants in my house, at least, aren't harmless. They destroyed a modem in less than two hours. They also attacked my laptop, which was saved only because I was home and happened to notice them swarming in it.

  3. I'd be calling an exterminator! I hate ants....I guess when our house in done, I'll need to have a 'bug' man on a schedule, even if I'm not there!

  4. If you can get hold of a product called Termador, It works great for ridding yourself of ants. You mix 0.8 oz. in 1 gal.water in a sprayer, spray all around the parimeter of your house,the ants walk thru it and take it to the nest where they are cleaned by their buddies and the whole nest is wiped out. It works long after it dries.

  5. Thanks for these great suggestions. With so many quick responses I can tell I'm not alone in this challenge!