Don’t get ants in your pants

Ant on Cistus
Ant on Cistus

I always associated ants with hot summer holidays abroad – not anymore. It seems we keep having our own little invasions.

There’s a misconception that ‘flying ants’ are always a different species – black ants mate on the wing, so these are males (drones) and queens, which have wings.

Common black ants don’t sting, but the UK has red, wood and other flying ants that do, especially in warm weather or when threatened. You’ll feel a nip, but ants have less toxin in their sting than wasps or bees. The only evidence will probably be a pale pink mark.

However, problems arise when they get in the house, usually in summer when a new colony is establishing, where they can burrow through brick and mortar.

Here’s how to prevent an invasion:

  • First job – cleanliness. Keep your kitchen clean.
  • Do not leave crumbs or rubbish around, and keep all food, including pet food, in tightly-sealed containers. Don’t leave uneaten pet food in bowls.
  • Remove furniture and debris near the house. Wash down jam and honey jars, then store on water-filled saucers in the cupboard.

Prepare against an ant attack

Blackfly being farmed by ants on a cardoon bud

It’s best to be prepared with ants – I’ve used Defenders Natural Ant Killer from STV with some success.

Its active ingredient is diatomaceous earth, a talc-like silicaceous sedimentary rock, made up mostly of the fossilised remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae.

The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate.

I had a problem once with common black ants  ‘farming’ aphids for their honeydew on cardoons in the front garden and on one of my apple trees.

Apply where ant activity is seen and into the nest if possible. It takes approximately 72 hours to see results – repeat treatment after watering or rain.

10 tips to beat ants

Use peeled, sliced garlic cloves to repel ants
  1. Lemon juice: The acidity affects their tracking sense.
  2. Cinnamon/cloves: Use the ground spice or the essential oil where there are coming in and the oil around doors, windowsills, floors, etc. Place cinnamon sticks around the kitchen/pantry for extra protection. Cloves/clove oil work just as well.
  3. Peppermint/mint: Spray peppermint essential oil around any entry points. Mint destroys their smelling capabilities. Plant mint near doors and close to areas where you have seen anthills. Place mint leaves in and around windows and in the pantry.
  4. Preventative plants: These plants ward off ants – the stronger the smell, the more likely it’ll work: basil, chillies, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, thyme.
  5. Chalk: Ants will not cross a line drawn in chalk.
  6. Baking powder and icing sugar: The baking powder reacts unpleasantly with acid inside their bodies.
  7. Coffee grounds: Stuff it into any entry holes – it doesn’t kill them, but moves them a small distance away.
  8. Vinegar: Use equal parts vinegar/water solution for washing down the kitchen. Its fungicidal and insecticidal properties help prevent ants. Cheap neat vinegar poured on a nest will kill them.
  9. Garlic: Place peeled, sliced cloves in areas where you have seen ants enter. Replace after a couple of days.
  10. Black pepper: Scatter where you see ants – you can track them back to their exit point, then treat that area with pepper.