Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Defense against Ants

Though I like animals in general and pet animals in particular, Ants are an exception. They are hailed for their hard work-of collecting and storing food in anticipation of difficult times. But I don't like ants, because instead of “collecting” their food from a nearby supermarket, they STEAL it from my kitchen. They attack my food materials and render it useless, by infecting entire packet while all they can eat-their entire army put together is probably 1% of what the packet contains.

Most of you must have had bad experience of dealing with ants-it may not be a menace with modern homes but ants are a common problem in village homes and even city homes which are a bit old-this post is a quick collection of some preventive measures and Ant removal techniques, when they attack your food items (Mind you-labeling sugar jar as ‘salt’ isn’t one of them). Suggestions and ideas in this regard are welcome.
ants on a rope
If you thought ants attack only those food items which are sweet, then you’re mistaken. They feast on wide range of food products- Raw Noodles, rice grains and so on.

DDT based Lakshman Rekha was a popular product (which I do not use) to keep ants away, but I guess ants have developed immunity against it.

Innovative Preventive measures against invasion of ants and other related thoughts:

  • Just in time procurement: Whatever Japanese industrialists invented, can be implemented right inside our homes. Just in time is a manufacturing methodology which suggests purchasing raw materials just when needed, thereby eliminating need to maintain high inventory. Though buying your food item in small quantities just when required denies an advantage of wholesale prices and makes you do frequent visits to store, it ensures that ants do not get a chance to claim ownership on your goods.
  • Keeping infested items under hot sun is the easiest way to get rid of ants. Due to heat they escape to a shady area within minutes. If the infested food items are expensive or very large in quantity to discard, it may make sense to shoo the ants away, clean properly where feasible and use it. But the thought that these ants might have camped there for days, adding their body waste and other impurities, makes it difficult to convince ourselves that we can re use it.
  • Change location: Ants take several hours to locate a food item and another few hours to march their army towards the same. Couple of times a day, move the food item from one place to another. By relocating their target, you’ll buy several hours of time.
  • Ants make their way through plastic bags and even supposed to be air tight containers-so extra tight containers are essential. All steel containers are the best-plastic containers are highly vulnerable as we may not close it tightly or the gap between lid and the container might be enough for an ant to squeeze in.
  • Haven’t seen ants attacking food items kept inside refrigerator-so that can be one safe place to keep it, but again, space inside the refrigerator will be limited.
  • Giving them a bait or trying to compromise with them will not work-if you keep a small qty reserved for ants, they consume the one on offer and attack the main consignment as well-so double loss. So no revenue sharing or seat sharing agreement with ants- its either them or you.
  • Water is an effective barrier-they can’t swim and cross. But difficult to make use of this idea.
  • Just like we have mobile signal jammers-which prevent mobile devices from receiving signal, wish some scientists invest an ant jammer-which ensures that ants fail to detect a possible food item by smell or other parameters. (Don’t think they search visually) We already have devices which attract mosquitoes and electrocute them.
  • I’m not aware of any counter animal that can be used against ants (For example, if rats and rodents pose a menace we can have a pet cat which will reduce this problem). So ants need to dealt manually.
  • What are the best ways to make an ant get lost? Any idea?
  • Are institutes like CFTRI (Central Food Technology and Research Institute) doing something about this issue? Can be an interesting assignment if they wish to take up the challenge.
  • I've only seen them carrying solid food. Won't they need some liquid food too? How do they transport and store water and other liquids?
  • Since ants store food for future, I am sure they would have enough stock to survive the recession phase. If somebody can study their storage habit (for how many days they're storing in advance) we may get some idea when ants anticipate recession to end? Also if I had an opportunity I would recommend ants to change their strategy-instead of stealing and storing, they should focus on being self sustainable, by learning how to grow/produce their own food.
Its only in movies we’ve seen alien creatures taking over our plannet. But if we’re not careful enough, ants will slowly take over our kitchen-so we need to unite and defend ourselves.. hehe.

These were some of my random thoughts on ants. Feel free to comment and add your thoughts regarding this.

Also read: AWPT Pet care centre * Cute squirrels of Agra Fort * Making Tomato rasam in easy steps * My dog marcus *


Bhupesh said...

These two simple solution may work against Ants and Cockroaches

1) Keep your kitchen clean and dry specially in night.

2) Use boric acid power (available in all medical stores), sprinkle it near ants nest or in path of ant movement. [Slow-acting insecticides in baits allow them to be taken back to colonies and are most effective for eliminating ants.]

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Useful tips Bhupesh

First one I do. Second one haven't tried. Its difficult to chase their nest most of the times.

Jennifer said...

This is a useful post for almost everyone on earth!

About 13 years ago I knew someone who swore by the fact if humans did not 'rule' the earth, ants would, and you have given some reasons to back up this person's claim!

Regarding using water as a deterrent, my sis in law in Trivandrum, had a nice trick. She'd keep one large plastic container with a few inches of water, and in this set other plastic containers with sweets, and on top of those unopened small boxes of cookies and biscuits. In the four or five days we were there, no ants infested these containers or boxes, but you are right, to save larger quantities may be difficult. In this situation maybe 3 plastic containers and five boxes were safe!

Here in US, one thing I do at night is spray a solution of water and bleach near to cupboards and other areas where I have seen ants in the day time. This only lasts over night, once the bleach dries and evaporates, ants will surely return!

And I did not know Lakshman Rekha has DDT....maybe it's not safe to human touch?

Abhishek Mehra said...

Nice tips to trick the ants.
Well,actually if you like exploring the ant's behaviour and learn how to fool them(some say homosapiens are the smartest ones on earth - dare I say there are a few animals who can still outsmart some of us :P ).

Anyways as you might be aware ants usually leave a trail for other ants to initial bunch of ants find the food/sweet and others simply follow the trail. Now,as ants keep moving in the same line towards the food, the trails become stronger and more ants follow.
Now here is the interesting part, you can actually study them for sometime and place a small sugar cube somewhere near the trail and disrupt the chain, making some of the ants to meander towards the sugar cube.This way you can attempt to change the course of the ant army.

Trust me on this one :)
Happy experimenting !!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for the detailed comments.

Its practically inconvenient to keep stuff inside a plastic container filled with water-becomes messy-if water enters food item then it'll be spoiled... Might be feasible in some specific instances.

Not sure if any specific sprays are available in market for ants-guess the ones meant for cockroaches and other lizards should also work for ants.

Yes, Lakshman Rekha is poisonous. India is one of the few countries which is yet to ban DDT..


There is a risk-one group of ants will take home the sugar cube you offered, while another group may proceed towards the original target (or ants from somewhere else may come and attack). What do you think?

Abhishek Mehra said...

That's exactly what you will try to wan't to deviate the entire bunch towards the sugarcube and its only a matter of minutes that you will see the army away from your food.Its not easy but care must be taken to attract some ants towards the sugar-cube initially.

As for ants attacking from elsewhere,that's quite possible(though highly improbable that another group will attack the same target from a different direction unless they belong to different armies =D )

Shivaprashanth said...

Try Using talc powder on their path,it works.I used to do it when i ws in JNV :).

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Shivaprashanth and Abhishek,
Thanks for the innovative idea-but what I am looking for is preventive care and not breakdown maintanance. I'm looking for ways in which I can store the food item safely and be tension free that ants can't do anything.

What you're suggesting is after ants attack- I can't spend time in kitchen looking for them, their hideout, path, where they're headed etc. Got the difference? We better store them in a fool proof way than try to discourage ants who have found their target.


Thanks for the comments

Mridula said...

Shrinidhi have your ever thought of taking some type of research as your career option?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Good idea. Let me think... :)

Bhupesh said...

I remember talc power has some boric compound in it. Using Boric acid is not that difficult .. , just leave stuff you think will attract ants and surround it with talk/boric acid .. follow it for few days along with keeping kitchen/house clean.

Anonymous said...

can ants target specificaly one human for attack?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Talk? Guess you meant chalk? Its also critical to ensure that our food stuff doesn't get contaminated with all the anti-ant chemicals.

No idea. Don't think so.