Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ant invasion

We are generally loving our new digs.  It’s spacious, the neighbors are great and the landlord is almost weirdly responsive to tiny requests.

There’s just one thing: 

We have an ant problem.  It's actually more of a plague than a "problem. Seriously people, the ants rule the roost.  It’s as if our house were plopped onto an ant colony that’s seething right under our feet, and any stray teeny tiny morsel of food pulls them up through the cracks in the thousands.  

Example: I left a knife, with trace amounts of peanut butter on the counter for 20 minutes.  20 MINUTES, and came back to this. 

We have to scrub every plate before we go to bed because even the littlest whiff of food will bring them out in tiny battalions, and by the morning the counter tops will be crawling.

All of this, of course, heightens our pre-existing marital tension over doing the dishes – I want them done but don’t want to do them every night, and Colin doesn’t want to do them really ever.  Now, they HAVE to get done, or it’s a morning ant party.

So, it’s pretty important that we fix this problem.

I tried to talk to our neighbor about what he does with his ants (which he inevitably has, because, like I said, we are firmly in THEIR territory).  And, being the wonderfully unique individual that he is, he only offered this: “Oh, I love the ants! You can do little experiments with them and then end up cleaning your food for you.”  OK.  That’s one approach.

We’re a little less welcoming at our place.   We take a more “bomb the bastards” stance here. 

But it’s failing.  We use this toxic bug killer, ominously called “Doom” to kill the little buggers when they appear on our plates and counter tops, but are now wondering if we’re actually slowly killing ourselves with this poison.  And the ants are undeterred.

You can’t get ant traps here for some reason. Cockroach traps and mozzy spray are in abundance, but nothing for ants.  What am I missing?

And it seems as though the ants are winning.  I went downstairs the other morning to see a plate (which I had carefully cleaned and placed in the strainer the night before, mind you) teeming with ants.  I looked at it, sighed, and then just walked away and prepared my breakfast, silently resigning myself to cohabitating.

But I’m still open to new battle strategies. Anyone have any ant-destruction tips? There's gotta be some combination of vinegar, bleach and pixie dust or some other home remedy concoction that somebody knows of....



  1. Hmm, bowl of sugar outside your door?

  2. Place cinnamon sticks or garlic in areas where you have seen ants enter, such as in window tracks, by doors and in corners around your home. While garlic cloves aren’t as aromatically pleasing as cinnamon sticks, they work really well. Just peel and slice a few cloves and place them where you notice the ants. Last year we had some unexplained ants that kept invading my daughter’s dresser so we placed the cloves on the dresser. After a day or two, we replaced them with fresh cloves and the ants never returned.

    You can also place cinnamon sticks around the pantry for extra protection. Once, I ran out of cinnamon and used cloves instead – it worked just as well. I actually witnessed ants crawling away from the cloves.

    Black Pepper
    Sprinkle black pepper where you see ants. The ants will immediately scatter. Pay attention to where they run; chances are they will be exiting your house and you’ll be able to treat the entry area with pepper too.

    Boiling Water
    For serious anthill problems in your yard or walkway, pour boiling water over the anthills. It sounds a bit cruel, but pesticides can be equally, if not more, cruel.

    Mint destroys the smelling capabilities of ants and prevents them from entering your home. There are several ways to use mint to prevent ant infestations. First, plant mint around your home, especially near doors and close to areas where you have seen anthills. Second, place mint leaves in and around windows. If ants are entering your pantry, place some mint leaves on the shelves and in the corners.

    Other Plants
    Here is a list of some other plants which have been known to be effective at warding off ants. The idea is the stronger the smell, the more likely the plant is to keep the ants away:

    Chili peppers
    Persistence is the key when trying natural ant control remedies. If one of these methods doesn’t work for you, then try another. You may need to repeat it a few times.

    1. Wow!!! How did you get to know so much about natural ant control remedies? I have garlic and black pepper on hand and some well know cracks in the sink/counters to experiment with.

  3. We have the same problem in our house. They always win. Always. I would just save time and resign myself to cohabiting.

  4. This is great writing and so funny---I couldn't stop reading. So glad I found you!

  5. Hi Kim,
    Sorry about the ants. We can sympathise. My colleague Will and I also live in Busia. We've seen you driving around town but have not had a chance to make contact. It would be great to meet up for a drink/dinner sometime.
    We work behind the DC's office in the IDEAL lab. Please give me a call 0736530454 or pop in.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Annie! I can't believe we haven't met yet! I was just joking with my husband that it feels funny to see wazungu we don't know around Busia - like they should be checking in with us or something. We've actually just moved to Kisumu (the HQ of IPA moved there), and I"ll be in Nairobi for the next month or so to have this baby. But we'd love to hang out when we get back to Kisumu!

  6. Mint sounds like a wonderful solution - although be careful - mint can take over your yard like a weed - or like ants!

  7. We even get ants in our bathroom, where there is never any food. I don't get it. I've read about using chalk lines as barriers. It worked for a little bit for us. Probably should have kept applying it. Good luck.

  8. As Russian superstition would have it, (and Russian superstitions are *always* right, correct, and infallible according to my Russian host-mom and Russian roommate) putting down coffee grounds will make ants go away. Apparently they don't like the smell or something along those lines.

  9. Thanks for describing the facts so clearly. Ant controlling is one of the most challenging and time consuming task. Expertise is must for removing them form our house completely.

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  14. Sugar ants love a dirty sink and the water you leave them to help wash down the leftovers. Make sure to rinse out any dishes you’re going to leave in the sink over night. And when you do clean the dishes, make sure you rinse and wipe down the entire sink to make certain you haven’t left residual sweets, food, or moisture behind. If you’re really picky about cleaning, you might even want to try pouring a little bleach down the drain to make sure the smell of rotting food doesn’t attract more ants to your kitchen. Dish drains should also be emptied and wiped down before the end of the day. ants exterminators