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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Nov 17

Rainy Days and Outsmarting Ants

Posted on November 17, 2017 at 8:42 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

raindropsRain, glorious rain. The air seems to smell sweeter, the leaves of plants take on a shine as the moisture rinses off their summer-dusty leaves, and parched soils quickly absorb the welcomed falling rain. Better yet, water savings are to be had as irrigation controllers can now be turned off for the season. The plants are in their dormant stage and typically can survive winter with just the amount of water nature delivers.

With the rains, you may also notice a surge in unwelcome six-legged visitors. Ants are invaders and what better place to invade than our warm, dry, accommodating homes. They are seeking the same things we are for basic survival: water, food and shelter. (It makes me wonder if these insects know of Maslow's hierarchy of needs!) And there is nothing like a good bit of precipitation to draw them in.

If this is a challenge you face, take heart. It does not take spray bottles of insecticide to deter them from your abode, but perhaps some modifications and adjustments will be in order.

First, determine the location of their entrance path coming into the home. Caulk those openings. See if you also can find the entrance trail on the outside of the house and plug up those cracks as well. Many landscapers can attest to ants setting up residence in an irrigation control box and short-circuiting it as their bodies form a conduit between the ground wire and hot lead. Again, caulk those openings before you need to replace the motherboard of your irrigation system.

I have read about and experimented with the way in which ants leave a scented trail along their path. By rubbing your finger across that path, the ants become disoriented and those following behind lose their direction. If you spot exploring scouts, a good dousing of warm soapy water along their path will help prevent more ants from following after. 

Food sources are the next challenge to address. Ants will invade pet bowls and any number of food sources if available to them. Again, the best method of eliminating ants is to be fastidious by using soapy water to wash away any leaks, spills or crumbs. Oddly the ants I dealt with earlier this year were most interested in the mouthwash in the reservoir of the water pik! 

Pet dishes are a prime attractant to these tiny pests. In my reading I came across the suggestion to create a moat of water with the pet dishes placed within. Ah, but there was a caveat that accompanied that idea: You see, ants can float. These aquatic skills leave the pet food dishes still exposed for invasion. Again, dish soap added to the moat dissuades the ants from taking the plunge. 

Meanwhile, let it rain! It is time for hot herbal teas, good books and homemade soups simmering on the stove. 

Heartfelt wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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