Friday, July 4, 2008

Low Cost Chemical-Free Pest Control

We have a terrible ant problem in our house.

We discovered it about 2 months after we moved in seven years ago. I don't know what sort of 24th century force field the previous owners had installed while they were showing the house, but we certainly didn't see any ants until we owned the place.

At first we called Terminex to come and vanquish the truly impressive marching brigade that had taken over our basement. The ants were like a tiny Roman army - very imposing - we were not equipped to handle them ourselves. Apparently, neither was Terminex. I'm not sure what the white powder that they threw all over the place was made from, but I'm guessing chips and dip from the reaction the ants had.

They strengthened their resolve and marshalled their forces. The Terminex guy kept saying we had to wait - it takes time to destroy such a large nest. Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure I saw an ad in Ant Times Weekly with our address and the words "party like it's 50 B.C.E." on it.

So we fired Terminex and hired Orkin. And for six years Orkin reigned supreme. We had two years almost ant-free after they used some ant baits with their secret sauce. But eventually we started seeing ants again and Orkin never really called us back when we'd ask for an additional spraying.

Finally, we got to the point where we had to ask ourselves why we were paying them. We kept writing them checks and they kept spraying poison all over our house - inside and out - and we still had ants.

So at the end of last summer I ended our contract and up until this past April we couldn't tell the difference. We saw about the same amount of activity as we had the previous winter - the ants are always less active in the winter anyway.

Then suddenly in April we discovered why we had been paying them. As many ants as we had with all of the pest treatments, we had a zillion more without it.

And let me tell you, they were driving me nuts. The problem is we can't figure out what they want. We're not getting big trails that would show us where they are coming in. If that was the case it would be easy enough to spray them and plug up their point of entry.

No, our ants are aimless wanderers and sullen loners. They just sort of meander here and there. They don't seem to want our sweets or even our crumbs, which I had to forbid KosherCop from intentionally leaving out for them. He kind of likes the ants and wants to feed them, viewing them as a one-crumb-at-a-time alternative to sweeping.

Finally, after trying various baits and home remedies like vinegar (sort of works), cinnamon (only 60% effective but it smells nice), and borax (totally worked in our master bath, but I can't see putting it where KosherCop could get into it) I was just about ready to break down and sign a new pest control contract.

But I noticed there were fewer ants. I figured it was just a low ebb in the normal cycle of activity.

Not so. It was not "ebb," it was "web." Spider web that is.

That's right. Our poor housekeeping has finally paid off. Several spiders have set up shop in various corners of the house, and are doing a fantastic job of catching the ants. They were able to figure out where the ants were coming in and take advantage of the best traffic areas.

And I'm letting them stay. They're free, they aren't bothering anyone and they don't leave fumes for half a day after they kill an ant. So unless I find a particularly disgusting web at eye-level or near food, for instance, they are our new eco-friendly pest management system.

Go spiders!


  1. Hi Chaya!
    I am a spider fan as well! Here's another hint, we planted mint in our front flower bed...I know, it takes over, but that's just fine with us because I prefer mint to weeds and the ants hate it! Working for us!
    Go spiders!
    Holiday hugs,

  2. Cathy,
    Yum! I love mint. I wonder how ants feel about poison ivy? That's what currently taking over our yard. I'm too scared to try to get rid of it.



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