They are on your kitchen counter --and crawling!
Oh, oh-they are swarming down your walls!
WHAT TO DO?
Take a breath--this looks worse than it is.
Do not reach for the spray.
Vacuum any ants or other insects
that are TNTC (too numerous to count)
and then vacuum up a small amount of
diatomaceous earth or ground lime
(easy to keep on hand and use in the garden, too).
Block the vacuum hose and after a day
remove the bag, seal it, and discard OUTSIDE.
Now you have some decisions to make.
First- Identification: It is critical to correctly distinguish between carpenter ants and termites as they can be similar but treatment differs so you must be certain of the identification. Not sure? You can always bring one of the critters to the County Extension Service at the Barnstable Court House Complex and have it definitively identified at no charge. It is much better if you know which one you have to narrow down your treatment options and the expense. The following brief description might help or try the Internet.
Carpenter ants are usually black, sometimes winged in the spring, have a narrow waist and have elbowed antennae; termites do not have a narrow waist, their antennae are straight and their wings are loosely attached and fall off easily. Termite wings are similar in size and shape but in the winged form of carpenter ant, the front pair is larger than the hind pair. I hope this description helps narrow it down. Either way, treatment is NOT something you have to rush in to. Your home will not be destroyed if you wait. You have some time to ponder your options. Under no circumstance should you allow a liquid pesticide to be applied to the foundation or inside the house. This is usually the drug of choice of the professional pest control companies because they make the most profit on this and it is fairly quick to do. Research has shown the pesticide can seep into the basement and remain there for years as it will never breakdown in that environment. Also, keep in mind that the more pesticide you use, the less effective it becomes over time as the insect pests develop resistance in a few generations. A control that works mechanically, as opposed to chemically, works forever and resistance will not develop.
Is there a colony in my house? Initially it would be important to determine whether there is a colony in the house or the pests are coming in from outdoors-an important distinction-because you do not need to treat your house if the insects are only coming inside for food and water. Usually you can tell by the sporadic nature of the incursions that it is probably just a scouting party. It seems that carpenter ant are really attracted to wet wood so if the gutters are not draining properly or there is a leak somewhere, this is where you will find them. This area must be repaired to permanently solve the problem. Until then, use the baits in that area and keep watching it. You may have to replace the baits in 3 months if you have not done the repair in that time. After you implement the following suggestions and still find invaders, consider a professional service but only for identification and locating any nest. You can usually get a free estimate (ask when phoning) from a pest control company without agreeing to any service. (Be firm-they are good salesmen.) They can identify the pest and show you where any nest might be inside-make sure they show it to you. Then thank them for coming. You are under no obligation to buy their poisons. Unfortunately, pest control in this area does not offer the broader (and safer) range of options offered in other areas of the country. We hope that changes. Right now on Cape Cod the best preventive measures and least toxic control for ants and termites are using ALL of the following. Do not rely on just the chemical method as you will keep getting re-infested and have to keep spending $$$ to kill them.
Do not issue insects an invitation and they will not come. If food and water are not available, they will move on.
Deterrent actions: Ants hate chili powder, cayenne pepper, dried peppermint, peppermint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaves and tansy. Sprinkle some in their path or on your door and window sills, and put bay leaves in your cupboards.
Ants hate cucumbers, especially cucumber peels. Just spread some cucumber peels - the more bitter, the better - where ants enter your home and they will avoid your "anti-welcome" mat..
Ants follow other ants via the scent trails they leave. Confuse them by cleaning counter tops, tabletops, and other areas of insect sightings with a one-to-one mix of white vinegar and water or a soapy solution is usually effective.
Spray a mix of lemon juice and water along windowsills and doorways to deter ants from entering your home.
Remove water and food AND all access to them- Don't leave food out or garbage uncovered, repair leaky gutters, seal all cracks and crevices that provide entry especially those opening around pipes, electrical and cable service connections. Screen windows and vents; put steel wool or copper mesh around all holes where pipes enter the house (under sinks, etc.). Remove or repair infested wood. For a small infestation, this may be all that is needed. Don't have wood on the house in contact with soil; store firewood away from the house and don't bring inside until ready to burn. Cover exposed wood with paint or sealer. Remove wood debris from your yard. Plant trees away from house, and prune away vegetation that provides a bridge to the house.
Less toxic Control: Borates, Diatomaceous Earth, PowderGard (do not inhale the dust of these products)
Home-made Borate Ant Bait Recipe (a less-toxic chemical bait)
Â½ teaspoon (or less) of boric acid in 2 percent fluid oz. of honey or corn syrup or molasses. Heat and stir until the boric acid or borax is dissolved completely. Mix in at least 1 to 2 equal parts of water (dilute the bait more if you see dead ants by the bait) then put in small vials or lids or small tin foil "cups" where you have seen ant activity - but safely out of the reach of children, pets and wildlife. Bait until control is achieved (usually borax or boric acid baits should have 5% or less boric acid or borax). These baits take several days to make a difference but the workers bring it back to the queen and it knocks out the colony. Wait to caulk for a week or two so you don't keep them from getting out and bringing the bait to the queen.
See also--Killing Ants with Boric Acid - YouTube.
Professional borate products=borate salts or boric acid can be injected into wood as a treatment or applied to wood surfaces as a preventive measure. Borate dust may be used in wall voids as well. Borate foam is another form of borate that may be applied as a spot treatment. Depending on the product and treatment method, borates may act as a contact poison or a stomach poison. Borates should not be used on wood in contact with soil, as they are water soluble and will leach into the soil. Tim-Bor, Bora-Care, Jecta, and Impel are some brand names of borate products. Be sure to read and follow the label-these are still poison.
Mechanical ant demolition- Lightly sprinkle dust of these products where ants/termites have been seen OR puff into cavities during renovations of trim boards or sills. After you stop seeing the ants inside your home, make sure to eliminate any entryway to your home for permanent exclusion.
-Diatomaceous Earth (only purchase from nurseries, not pool supply) a repellent/dust is made up of the fossilized remains of diatoms, single-cell organisms. The glass-like nature of diatomaceous earth makes it one of the oldest forms of insecticide. The sharp surfaces cut through the insect cuticle and the insect dies of dehydration. Since its non-discriminate when it kills, be sure to only apply it just to the ground surface where you think insects are overstaying their welcome.
C-M PowderGard is organic and safe WHEN USED AS DIRECTED. You can only be certain of the organic designation if the label has a stamp saying "OMRI listed". Any other advertising on any pest control product label such as "safe, natural is bogus. Even the term "organic" without the OMRI designation is misleading and can be false.
All of the above might need to be renewed after a rain event. N.B. Ants are not the enemy. Ants are predators of termites. They are valuable for this reason alone but they also aerate the soil as well, or better, than earthworms. Do not kill ants that are not causing a nuisance inside the house. Outdoors, leave them be.
Lastly-if your invading insect turns out to be termites: Follow all the earlier suggestions first and then investigate the Sentricon system which is a less toxic control but NOT non-toxic. Since it is a contained bait system in the ground around the foundation that attracts the termites to it and then eliminates them (by preventing them from molting), the chemical does not get spread all around but children or pets should not be allowed to play with it and pull it out of the ground. The Sentricon bait contains an insect growth regulator, hexaflumuron. The product is designed to be used as part of an integrated pest management system and sold as a service, not over the counter. Hexaflumuron can cause irritation to eyes or skin but had low toxicity to rats who ate it or breathed it in laboratory studies. It is highly toxic to aquatic life and should not be used in low areas or near water sources. Insure that you receive a written guarantee with this system before committing.
Until a reliable, safe treatment becomes available, avoiding bed bug encounters will be the only reliable way to ensure they don¹t spread into your own home.
Here are some tips for dealing with bedbugs:
* Prevention: Avoid bedbug-infested hotels (check travellers' hotel assessments on the Internet -below); do not pack more than you need.
* How to detect an infestation: By the smell (sickly-sweet); be on the look-out for signs of infestation on the mattress and headboard; pull the bed away from the wall. Lift the sheet and look at the side of the mattress for bugs, pearly eggs, or dark stains especially in crack, crevices, and seams. Check upholstered items and the backs of framed pictures on the walls.
For more bedbug info See the Dr. Oz video on Beating the Bedbug Epidemic.
* Keep bugs away from your luggage: Place your suitcase on the luggage rack and not on the bed. If you suspect your room may be contaminated, inform the desk manager, get a refund and leave. If possible, enclose your clothing and items within a plastic bag until you can deal with them.
* Avoid bringing bedbugs home with you: Undress in the bath or shower; place any suspect items in plastic bags and deep freeze for at least 24 hours, or tumble-dry for 30 minutes or wash at 60°C. Vacuum your luggage well.
* If you are bitten: There have been no reported cases of diseases being transmitted by bedbugs but allergic reactions to the bed bug saliva vary. See your health care provider and report the source of your infestation to the local health department and to the Bed Bug Registry. - a public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the United States and Canada. Founded in 2006, the site has collected about 20,000 reports covering 12,000 locations. Just ignore the ads for pesticides.
PureHeat - a local Cape Cod company that treats bedbugs, ants, powder post beetle, and even some termite species (dry wood but NOT subterranean), etc., using heat treatments instead of toxic pesticides. This listing should not be construed as an endorsement but until now there has been no toxic-free home pest management available on Cape Cod. As always, it¹s buyer beware but we welcome a less toxic option. More information on bed bugs and how to eliminate them without poisoning yourself and your family
Virginia County stops pesticide spraying in favor of alternatives to combat Lyme Disease.
Tick Testing for MA Residents. Tick-Borne Disease Diagnostics.
From Algae to Yellow Jackets, this pest control chart from Peaceful Valley Garden Supply" provides a cross-reference between the pests being managed and the products (beneficial insects, physical controls, biologicals, mineral soaps & oils, botanicals, mineral fungicides) that help to control them."
ManageSafe from Beyond Pesticides provides information on the Least-Toxic Control of Pests in the Home and Garden.
Cat Fleas! Oh, no. Read this information on poisons from the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC.
An entertaining yet cautionary video, The Truth About Cats, Dogs and Lawn Chemicals presents the dangers posed by lawn and garden pesticides and provides information on pesticide-free alternatives.