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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nature of Ant Problems in Houses

I'm convinced ant problems inside the house have a lot to do with an environmental problem outside the house. It stems from this: Living Area With Nature. This is clearly not what lawns/yards have become. For now, back to the ant problem.

Ants ant the ant problem

Ants only become an indoor problem for us when we create an outdoor problem for them. For those who think the ants themselves are the problem, stay with me.

Just after the heavy rain yesterday, construction season is back in full gear. The spectacular evidence of the excavating, rises nobly. An ant colony has upgraded their living from a two-holed, side-by-side townhome arrangement to a five-holed village complex. Times of late have been good for the colonizers. The gritty, gray, circular mounds of earth are arranged like the Olympic Rings or vice versa. A line of red and black shimmers among the overgrowth between former and current residences in the late-morning sun. The line materializes into ants carrying insects, larvae and pieces of things. I provide a cheese curl my son left in the car as a house-warming gift.

This year, after two years on this land, I've noticed a doubling and tripling of the amount of ant holes. So far, not one ant has been seen indoors. My manmade cave is not airtight so if ants wanted to get in they could. My analysis: I've also noticed a greater variety of plants mixed in with the grass and increased bird activity. A more diverse flora provides or attracts what the ants need and does the same for their predators.

I just learned ants do a lot for any environment. I won't be needing those aerating shoes. Amazingly, ants turn over more soil than earthworms. Yet, it is not ants over earthworms, bees over flies or birds over rabbits. It is not one over the other, it is one with the other. Ants are fellow soldiers of the soil working together with the earthworms, multi-legged crawlers and microorganisms. They are the healthcare workers of the ecosystem.

Solutions: What works for me

I mulch and leave grass clippings and leaves in the grass. I do the same for plants pulled from the flower and vegetable garden if I choose not to compost them. Come Spring, I don't rake the grass of all the partially decomposed grass and things leftover after Winter. I don't use synthetic fertilizers. I have yet to add any natural fertilizer. I allow the natural plant diversity that emerges to continue. I don't cut the back yard as often as the front. I don't primp and preen my yard for the sole purpose of making it look a deep thick lush green and contain grass only. This “nice, lovely lawn” mentality that is so important to our social system is detrimental to the underlying health of the ecosystem. That's not nice. Finally, I assist plant diversity by planting things, especially plants my neighbors don't have, that feed me, birds, insects and a host of other living things.

My theory is selfish. If I can help the natural world as much as possible, when I need it to provide nutrients for all my plants, including grass/lawn, it will be able. When I need it to pollinate my fruit and vegetables, it will be ready. When I need it to maintain balance, it will oblige.

Solutions: To keep ants outside

Instead of attacking ants where they live, feed them where they live. Drop vegetable and fruit peelings outside their entrances. If ants will take my nail clippings they'll take just about anything organic or food scraps or anything we eat.

Why not put out food for ants? You won't attract ants by feeding them, they're already there. You will keep them where they are plus keep them doing what they do best which benefits us all. Just give them some of the stuff you don't want and do it in the morning, not at night. The only reason ants are coming in the house is because that's where the closest and best food source is. There's not enough food in their environment. Since ants will eat a lot of naturally-occurring stuff, it's a big environmental problem if there's not enough naturally-occurring stuff in your yard for non-finicky, scavenger-minded, eat-anything ants.

Solution: Cheapest, simplest and most sensible

Leave all of nature's food in your yard and the ants won't pass it up just to come into your house. Ants are exceptional opportunists yet they will not travel to a house to raid its indoor storehouse while passing up food on the land along the way.

Ant Problem Redefined

For the past two years, when there weren't as many ants on the land I share, there really was an ant problem.


  1. Although I admire these little guys they are worrisome when in my space. However the advice provided seems to be a unique yet gentle and effective way to deal with this issue other than RAID.

  2. Fabulous. Can't wait to find out what non-lethal method you find that works.

  3. It was extremely interesting for me to read the article. Thank author for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

  4. Can't wait for you to share the impact of anything you read here.


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