Monday, December 27, 2010


My latest kitchen dilemma has nothing to do with food. I have ants! At first, I walked in one morning to find literally a pile of hundreds of dead ants in the corner on the floor. I have no idea what killed them, but I assume the apartment complex sprayed for bugs at some point, and that's what did them in. I swept them up, checking for survivors (there were two), and dumped them in the trash, making a mental note to keep an eye on this corner.

The next night, there hundreds more, some dead, but most of them forming a raid on my cat's food dish! They were all over the dried food and working together to carry off little bits that Memphis had left behind on the floor. (He isn't a messy eater, but he isn't perfect.) Admittedly, it was a little funny to watch these tiny creatures heave-hoing the kibble back to their next when it obviously wasn't going to fit through the tiny crack in the wall through which they were pouring. However, I was also appalled. My poor kitty! If they were so hellbent on his food, how soon would they move on to mine?

I sprayed the bulk of the ants (away from Memphis' food dish) with some multi-purpose cleaner that is made with cedarwood and sage, which they didn't seem to like as most of them died and the rest fled in a panic. I posted about the ants on my Facebook, and got some interesting advice from friends that I mostly put into use.

One woman suggested that I sprinkle the area with baking soda. She said that it gets on their fur and when they go back to their nest and try to clean it off, they kill themselves. Yes, we both admit it's pretty morbid, but since I had baking soda on hand, I gave it a try. I don't know if they killed themselves with it, but they certainly didn't seem to like it, either, when they once again marched out from their little crack.

Another friend related that he once heard ants don't like toothpaste, and since I also generally have toothpaste in my cupboard, I put a tiny bit on the end of a butter knife and tried to seal the crack with it. The ants most definitely did not like that! They stopped pouring in, and for a day I only saw a few adventurers. Seriously, these things have grit. I have much respect for my tiny enemy. (I assume, after all, that when the ground started to freeze, they had the tiny foresight to move their colony indoors. Clever, but not going to work, fellas. Not if I have any say in the matter.)

I had another suggestion that I put down a dryer sheet, which I would have tried had I owned any. The only thing close that I have is a sac of lavender, which I don't think is going to do much given that lavender is found in nature where ants also live.

All of these tricks seemed to be doing a decent job, but I suspect in the end I was only killing off the weak and making the colony stronger because new ants kept coming, marching over the bodies of their fallen comrades. (Cat food must be tastier than I thought!) So I called in maintenance. I was concerned about chemical sprays because I don't want Memphis (or myself) getting poisoned. The first guy to come caulked up the area in hopes of sealing their way in. (This ended up doing nothing.) The second guy, the bug expert, brought “traps” into which he squirted a clear gel that he told me contains pheromones to attract the ants. (He used the “traps” so that Memphis couldn't get it on his paws.) The ants eat it, become poisoned, go back to their nest where they die and are eaten by their fellows, poisoning them in turn and on down the line until, hopefully, the colony is wiped out.

The ants certainly seem to be going nuts for this gel. They've actually pushed up a corner of the linoleum to get at it! Apparently that was easier than pushing through the caulk, which is what they were doing at first. I feel bad taking out an entire colony of ants – I try not to step on ants on the sidewalk, or any living creature, for that matter – but I simply cannot share my kitchen with them, the cheeky moochers. They should have done what ants normally do in winter, though admittedly, what that is, I am not entirely sure. I'll have to look it up online later when I have more time.

There are other bugs in my kitchen that I noticed soon after moving in. I looked up pictures of roaches, and these bugs don't really resemble them. They do scurry like roaches, so it's possible that they are a breed I simply can't identify. I've seen a big one in my kitchen and a smaller one in my bathroom. They like to hang out in the cupboards and on the ceiling. (Memphis climbed up on the refrigerator once to attack the one on the ceiling.) I only ever see one at a time, but I assume there are more somewhere. I need to take a picture of it so I can take it to the landlord.

I've never had problems like this with an apartment before, but this is also the first cold winter (California winters are not what I'd call cold) that I have rented an apartment, and bugs do move to where its warm when the weather turns cold. I don't begrudge them this natural instinct, but I do feel a need to defend my food – and my cat's food – from them. I prefer natural substances, like baking soda, toothpaste, and cedarwood oil, but I guess the little pheromone gel isn't too awful since the ants eat it, thereby disposing of it (along with themselves). If I were ever to buy a home and attempt to guard against insect intruders, I would definitely look into orange oil. I don't know if they have that in Michigan, but I always saw ads for it on TV in California.

Well, hopefully we'll be back to more pleasant topics next time. And I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on the War on Ants.

1 comment:

  1. Are you still having ant problems? Because if you are, then this page: is overflowing with tips to try. The general pattern seems to be, if it has a strong odor, and isn't something ants are drawn to (such as sugar), then someone swears by it as an ant deterrent.