03 August 2019

The Ants

Yesterday, I woke up to what was the start of an infestation of little teeny tiny ants.  Luckily, they were only a few feet past the door, and were not thick as thieves - yet.  When I have found them in the past, there has always been a trail of them leading to where they are entering and exiting.  Not this time.  My guess is they are traveling through a small gap between the door and casing at the top.  I used my handy dandy vinegar, with a small amount of dish detergent, and some water in which I had soaked and strained out red chile flakes.  A few dashes of hot sauce would work as well, without diluting the vinegar.  I don't know if the vinegar kills the ants, but what I read is they do not "like" vinegar, or chile.  I haven't crushed garlic, soaked it and strained it out, to add to the mix yet, but that is suggested as part of the mix to keep pests off of plants in the garden.  The dish detergent apparently clings to the critter.  I Don't know if the poor things die from it, suffer a torturous death, or what.  But the spray appears to have been effective.  Have only found less than a handful of stragglers, this morning.  I remain vigilant.

A Scouting Party

I guess yesterday’s infestation was the scouting party which was more than large enough to be noticed and invasive.  When that is successful, without having been observed, before they are detected they then make an effort bring all their immediate relatives (and they have a lot!), their extended families, shirt-tail relatives, in-laws, extended family and in-laws of past spouses and all their families and  friends too, and their neighbors!  You get the picture - a real infestation without invitation, even though  preventive security measures in place make it clear there was no entrance allowed, and certainly no invitation was extended to invade and colonize!

I mean, really!  Ants have the entire world to colonize and have done so, and they work diligently to do so with good security in place given the location of their homes.  I sometimes wonder how the folks living in the Amazon basin, for example, manage to avoid the danger of huge ant nests getting too close to where they live - huge nest like most  have seen in documentaries.  Granted, I am not part of the world of the ants.  But when I am outside of my own space (the house where they are not allowed), I don't bother them in the yard - unless they start biting me when I water, or when I sit to have morning coffee and watch the hummingbirds playing chase, feeding, flying up close to greet me, or when I am  maintaining the flora and fauna.  Once the ants start biting it is then  all out war on them in their territory! 

Those bites can be felt, but it is not until later that day or the next day that they itch like crazy - and sometimes for days at a time.  Who could imagine a tiny little critter less than the width of a millimeter and less than 2 mm long could pack such a punch?  Every time I am bitten I recall one of the other trainees in my basic training unit who jumped up and ran faster than I have ever seen anyone run, all in one motion, toward the bathroom building 90 feet away, the other trainees who had been sitting with her following hard at her heels!  We learned she had been sitting on the entrance to a fire ant colony and had been taken to the infirmary.  So from observational experience which was a learned lesson at the cost of another, I do find these little critters quite alarming, not only because one or two bite are uncomfortable for several days. 

Ant Homes

The ant homes are underground for their safety and security, and at least I do not try to dig into where they have made their homes - until they start biting.  And then, at least, I do not take a shovel and dig down closer to their living spaces.  With so many entrances and exits to their main living areas, and the depth at which nests are located, it would be a fool's errand, anyway.

However, I do dig many inches into the entrances to spray pesticide that is the least damaging to pets and people I have found.   Many inches into the dirt I spray a directed stream into the tunnel until the liquid stops going down the tunnel and leaves a patch of damp no more than an inch in diameter.  In some cases that results in a lot of pesticide going down the tunnel maybe some into a  nest - but at least it fills up the tunnel.  The pesticide is not on the surface because I then cover the place I have sprayed with many inches of dirt, and hope to God it does no damage other than to the ant nest.  I just do want it harm the lizards, cats, or beneficial insects by dousing the entire yard on the surface.  The only entrances and exits to the nests I have actually ever seen are in the pathways in the yard which are without vegetation.  I suppose that is because the ants avoid putting their tunnels in areas that are watered.  After having attacked the tunnels, and covered up the evidence, I then spray any ants that are active on the surface with the above mentioned homemade concoction that IS harmless to pets and people.  My system actually works.  The survivors move.  And they usually do not return to the same area . . . unless it rains.  So sometimes repetition is needed a day or two after rain.

When I first moved to his house, there were not huge colonies of ants in the back yard.  There was no vegetation either, except a handful of  nightshade plants which perhaps is why the ants were not there - given little or no food sources.  So when I did start making some of the space into a garden, and all of it a haven for trees, I was not disturbing their homes.  I suppose vegetation actually is what drew them to colonize the back yard, eventually.  Although, later, it was also most likely the dog poop in the surrounding yards, and the pesticides the neighbors used from which ant survivors fled.  Also, when I moved to this house the neighbors adjacent to my property, all around, did not have dogs.  Those a few houses away did have.  As time went by I realized that almost everyone had acquired at least two dogs, and in some cases the dogs equaled or outnumbered the people - like one of the neighbors who was raising puppies without a license. 

The Neighbors

The poor dogs.  Almost all of the neighbors keep them outside all the time, in all weather, and I have never once seen any of the neighbors take their dogs out of their yards like maybe to a dog park.  And I have never seen the immediate neighbors, at least two houses deep in every direction,  ever walk their dogs, although other folks on other lanes and further down the  block in the community, do.  At least the the dog owners do not let their dogs run loose.  I have to give them that, gratefully.  We all have enclosed back yards but they are actually not enough space for a dog, especially if it is medium sized or larger.  Some of the neighbors who do walk their dogs allow their dogs take a leak on the rosemary at the edge of my property.  One time when I was up in the front of the house adjusting the curtain, after checking to see if the trash had been picked up, yet,  someone walking a dog was standing there on the sidewalk, big as life, holding the leash while the dog took a leak on the rosemary bush! 

The point is that even when the neighbors do clean up their dog poop - irregularly so - there is no way to get the stench from their dog pee out of the ground.  By now it has saturation some areas of their yards.  When it is spring and autumn it stinks.  But the heat dries it out in the summer, and when it is  cool the stench does not travel as far.  When it rains the stench of dog pee is worse and when the breeze is "just right" it then wafts into the swamp cooler on top of the house in place of fresh air.  Thing is that the folks directly behind actually made a pen for their dogs along the side of the house, and the direction the breeze and wind comes from is from that direction, directly through that area!  And of course when nearby neighbors grill outside, the "jet fuel" stench they use to douse whatever fuel they use, fills the house.  By the time the first whiff is detectable, it is too late.  The entire house is filled with that the strong stench and it is necessary to put the cooler off, then open doors and windows at the hottest time of the day and year.  Once in a while, it is inevitable.  However, there have been years when it is nearly every evening.  I suspect the same thing has happened to those neighbors because they do not grill nearly as frequently as when they first arrived.

The Neighbors - Continued

The  grilling problem is secondary to the ant infestation, related only in that it demonstrates the thoughtlessness of neighbors in an area of more urban density in the suburbs, with more density than the older parts of town with business districts nearby i.e. walking neighborhoods. The  residential properties in those areas are larger.  But clearly,  as time went by, the size of a normal lots highly degraded by becoming much smaller as the city spread outwards.  So while all the homes in this community have features that invite outdoor living, in reality they are primarily for show, because the lots are so small, and the density of people and dogs so thick for any given block, that anything other than quietly sitting in one's yard is likely to be disruptive to the neighbors, not only the immediate neighbors but nearly an  entire block - at least several houses deep on all four sides 

Thing is, and what I will NEVER understand, is that the neighbors mostly  keep their kids inside almost all the time to avoid "disturbing" the neighbors.  I just do not understand that children are not allowed to play outside.  In one case the folks next door, who have since moved, kept their kids out of their own yard because the neighbor’s dog would jump into their yard, frequently, and they didn’t trust it.  The neighbor adjacent to that house on the other side had to raise the wall to prevent the same dog from jumping into their yard.   Barring that problem, since when has the joyful “noise", of children having fun playing outside, ever disturbed anyone?   It is adult noise that is disruptive.  More than one adult in a yard and it becomes a problem of loud talking, and raucous laughter that often is extremely loud and sounds maniacal.  Ordinarily there is not loud music.  I give them that, gratefully. 

But the loudness of obtrusive adults, without any warning, to say the least, raises unexpected havoc with scheduling.  Ordinarily, that is not as frequent as it used to be.  The renters next door used to talk loud on their cell phones outside, but seem to have finally stopped doing so. However, there is still one woman across the lane and four houses down whose cell phone conversations are audible when she is outside talking.  The closeness of the homes to one another creates echo chambers in the small spaces between.  Either building code was violated, or it states that the house can be no closer than about 5 - 6 feet from the property line which leaves 10 - 12 feet between the entrances of some adjacent homes and creates echo chambers which increases the decibel level of any noise.  Most of the neighbors are thoughtful, actually, because they have experienced the same problems so do not ordinarily create them for other.

Government Policies

Fact is the dog litter problem and pesticide spraying problems are  primary to my ant infestation, in that the liter attracts insect pests, then when the neighbors douse their yards on the surface with spray, supposedly "harmless" to pets and people (which it isn't), the pests migrate to yards not doused with pesticide, and without the same "food" source.  I guarantee those neighbors are responsible for any damage their spraying does.  And if the neighbors make the companies who sell the spray responsible for the damage other than to insects - good - whether the neighbors buy and spray, or hire pest companies to do so.  To sue the socks off of those companies who sell poison but who could, instead, stir up organic concoctions to sell to people who are too inconvenienced or too lazy to do it themselves, might start to eradicate two problems, 1) the insect pests, and 2) the cumulative damage to health that should not exist.  It is not as if plenty of research, and personal experiences of many people, have not made it clear that pesticides using poison actually do create health conditions decades down the road, and sometimes much more immediately.  Knowing that should be common sense, but does not seem to be, to short-sighted people.  Of course by now most folks know it has decimated the pollinator populations.

Manufacturers know, and hope that health problems will not be connected to the  poison concoctions they sell.  Thing is that when anyone reads the labels, that include the warnings required by law, it is quite clear the pesticides are not safe.  Presumably, government agencies responsible for allowing the use know that too, but are more interested in what they believed to be their  clandestine "population control" efforts which they think are cleverly disguised, as a way to insure people will become ill with serious medical conditions midway into life.  That cascades into a way of increasing profits for the illness industry which is for-profit and  differs from the health industry in that it exists because of the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, the entire combination not putting patients first i.e. the illness industry.  It insures death for many before they can retire, or shortly thereafter for many.  Like I said, the intended "clandestine population control" is extremely obvious to increasingly more folks like most similar efforts eventually become, rather than remaining clandestine.  Even when the efforts are discoverd without huge efforts from we, the people that result in prosecution, it does not put an end to the pograms ( oops "programs" misspelled,  or is it - really).

Thus, ants have colonized my yard, but they can not bring their entire colonies into my home and make it into what they want it to be which essentially means without my presence, which is an inconvenience to the way they live their ant lives.  I have no reason to believe the same level of colonization will not diminish as summer wears on - being directly proportional to how much poison with which the neighbors douse their yards.  I smelled it a few days ago, wafting into my house and of course was angry about it, which from then only took two days before the next infestation effort.  Apparently dousing with poison pesticides is a choice people make to damage themselves.  But what they apparently do not know is that they pay the cost too for the damage it does to others, and the environment. 


The ants probably find plenty of food in my yard as a result of compost, vegetation, and because I feed the birds.  The ants  probably dine on roots too, unfortunately.  I don't know if they go after beneficial insects.  I suppose so if there is opportunity.  Thing is - the bottom line - I am not going to invite or allow them and their overpopulated entire colonies of several generations to invade my home. I do not invade their underground homes unless necessary, and then only the entrances when their large populations result in droves being busy above ground so that it is impossible not to step on them which is when they start biting to protect one another.

Good thing this morning is there were only a few stragglers.  I actually only saw four and doused them with the vinegar spray.   So currently, there is a lull . . . we'll see if the effort to invade starts up again.  Given there are many weeks of pleasant weather ahead, after another week or two of the hottest days of summer, it will be necessary to be constantly vigilant.