It’s that special time of the year again here.
Unlike some parts of this country, we are still deep in the heat of summer. It has been in the high 90’s (F) for the past few weeks, relentlessly.
And with dry summer heat in good ole SoCal, comes: ants.
We are being swarmed. First we had them on our two humming bird feeders. Since we have about a half dozen or so hummingbirds that live in our yard, we have two feeders up, one in the front near the garage that we can view from a living room window and one outside our kitchen, that we watch through the garden window over the sink.
Last week I was looking outside the kitchen window and noticed that our usual birds were nowhere to be seen for a few hours, which is unusual. I looked closely at the long hook that suspends the feeders from an avocado tree next to our fountain and noticed that it was black instead of silver. When I went outside to inspect if further, I realized that the black was moving – we had a solid line of ants in motion all over the hook, up into the avocado and in a long straight line, like a column of Prussians, marching from one of the planters that flank our front gate all the way back to the feeder.
First, I put an ant button high up on the pergola that straddles the avocado tree, in the hope that it would lead the ants away from the feeder. No such luck – more ants arrived in droves and chowed down happily on both (presumably only to perish later in their nests – a thought that does not thrill me, being the creature-lover that I am).
OK, on to the next solution: Tanglefoot (argh – now that is a way-too-graphic name for me, making me picture the poor ants feet mired in goo, breaking their legs. Just writing about it makes me feel incredibly guilty) a sticky gum that keeps any insect away from a vertical (and even horizontal) surface. So, this can be used on tree trunks to keep destructive insects from climbing up trees, from soil.
So, first I cleaned off both feeders, applied the barrier high up on each hook and our hummies were back in business.
While I am talking about ants outside, from our gardening instructor we learned that for the most part, ants outside are beneficial. They aerate soil and consume wastes, turning them into fertilizer. So, outside ants are actually a good thing. Except on bird feeders, of course.
But! That was not the end of it.
Saturday morning we awoke to see a swarm of ants all over the kitchen counters. Not for food, but seeking water. It has been very hot and dry here and under those conditions, ants come into the house primarily through the hood over the stove. For that there are two excellent solutions.
Remember the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? His solution for every ill from warts to heart attacks? Yup: Windex. Not just any window cleaner either, only Windex brand, the blue stuff, works.
But, because of our dog and bird, we don’t spray Windex any place that we fear they might go. Also, who wants to spray Window cleaner on kitchen surfaces – not exactly food-safe.
So, I have discovered that my own concocted sterilizing home cleaner (from my earlier post on tips and tricks) of Trader Joe’s liquid dish soap (I like the mandarin orange) with vinegar added and diluted with water, put into an ordinary spray bottle does just as good a job of killing ants and keeping them from returning (which I prefer – I really hate killing anything except, I will confess, I don’t mind the idea of killing cockroaches – but luckily I have not seen one since I was in Puerto Rico. I don’t think I could bear them in my house).
The great thing about my liquid cleaner is that it is almost totally natural and mildly food-safe. If you do use it around birds, make sure you come back later and remove it from any surface on which they might walk. Vinegar is deadly for bird’s feet.
“My favorite cleaner is TJs tangerine liquid dish soap and distilled white vinegar in water, about 2:4:12. Put that in a large spray bottle and use it to clean and sterilize everything except unfinished wood (it will pickle the latter) (of course, it is a great way to pickle wood, if that is what you want!).”
This whole episode then got me thinking about the ridiculous memes I could make connecting all these ideas together into one cohesive concept of the Windex leading to the Greek origins of the word ant and and then “ant” being the Greek root of “anti” and that being linked to the combative nature of this whole anti-ant process, and the word ant originally meaning “biter”, which reminded me of the vinegar and on and on and on. Then I found:
And that just led to paroxysms of antimimetic silliness (hence the captions).
Ants in the yard? That’s a good thing. Ants in the house? Not so much.
Images: Amazon, Kid’s National Geographic, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Trader Joe’s, and Membean.com