"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday, 8 February 2013

Antsy

Tell-tale signs of an ant colony
underground
We have a plague of ants this summer - their nest holes are scattered everywhere round the garden - and the damage they are doing to the trees we are trying to grow for shade / crops (fruit trees) is disheartening.

They are even attacking the dogs if they linger too long i one spot.
Can you imagine how big the underground colony
is by looking at all the "doors" which are
scattered round the base of this tree

But, seriously, if it wasn't for the scale that they schlep onto the trees I would ignore them.  But between the scale and my sugar water bird feeder - I've decided I'm going to declare war.

The first bottle of sugar water which I hung from a branch in a nearby tree was completely consumed by them - to the point that they got giddy (with delight?) and climbed into the bottle and drowned.  I refilled the bottle and moved it to another tree and, at last, the resident sunbirds, Cape Whiteye's and even the weavers have finally found it, and are able to feast on the sweet nectar.  But after a couple of days I noticed the birds hopping about on the little perch - trying to get a drink, but not lingering long enough to complete the task.  On closer inspection I discovered that once again the ants were party crashers.  Nope - I'm not having any of that.
This tree is desperately sick with scale
thanks to the ants
Now, I know that the ants are part of a whole ecosystem, and that one of their functions is to get rid of dead creatures - as this field mouse skeleton MKid found on the driveway in December indicates.
The ants completely stripped the flesh from
this field mouse leaving just some skin and the
skeleton behind

So I didn't want to start spraying ant poison and kill off whole colonies.  Diatomaceous Earth works very well and I'm using that successfully in my shadecloth veggie patch, but with the wind we have, most of it gets blown away if it's applied to the rest of the garden.

So, what was my solution...

Well, if it's good enough to help with the indoor fly problem, then surely the sticky flystrip may come to the rescue again...?

I wrapped it round the branch on which I hung the bottle.  Gotcha, you little blighters!
The ants have no respect for their dead
buddies, do they.  They're just using them
as a bridge to get over the sticky fly paper.
But, clever little things that they are, the ants eventually managed to make a bridge of their dead compatriots and they merely climbed over them to get to the water.
They weren't happy with my solution - they massed
round the trunk to discuss their plan of attack.
In fact, they called out their big brothers / sisters
or so it seemed, as the latest ants are almost
double in size to the first lot that got trapped.
It doesn't bother me though, and I'm not giving up - I'm just going to keep an eye on the strips, and as they are cheap as chips, I'll just replace the "full" one whenever necessary.  And removing the fly strips at the end of summer is easy :)

At least it's a way of keeping the ant infestation under control without bringing out the big guns, or having to start chucking poison round the place.  An eco-friendly solution in my book... ;)

Or could this be more ammunition to use with RMan in the quest to have a couple of chickens...

10 comments:

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

My goodness! They look like a marauding army coming over that fly-paper bridge.

It's true that ants are part of the eco-system but do you think that their numbers are out of balance and need to be checked?

Kris said...

The chickens sure would help (they also eat mice!). Oh, and aardvarks enjoy ants! LOL I, too, appreciate the tilling and clean up virtues of my ants, but should they venture into the house/foundation I set out sweet bait that they trundle back to the nest and feed to the queen. Bye bye, your majesty.

Dani said...

Tanya - And wait till you feel their bite LOL

Yes, I agree. But there again... I don't know...

Dani said...

Kris - Rman says we do have Aardvard here - but perhaps we're scaring them off to less inhabited places...? Do chickens eat live mice????

Why not try and lay down a layer of DE - it kills the ones that venture too far within "our house", which in turn causes the (ant)trail to be lost, and then they find an alternative source of food.

DFW said...

I think you should get the Chickens. I'm still trying to talk Justin into letting me have them as well. I'm not giving up!

Dani said...

DFW - I know, I know. But I just can't get through to RMan...! But, I'm not giving up either LOL

Kris said...

I've read MANY chicken blogs (one with vid) how chickens not only hunt/eat live mice, but the other chickens will then chase the successful hunter and try to take the mouse away for themselves. chicken hunt

As for the ants, if the queen is lodged under the house, they will always find her so I have to stop her from laying eggs.... Don't worry - I have many more nests further afield.

tantalising labrat said...

Rather than chickens you need a pangolan.

Dani said...

Thanks for the link, Kris. Showed RMan - he still doesn't believe it, but then he's sometimes a difficult on the convince.

Btw, how do you put an html link in a comment?

Dani said...

Brat - LOL - and how am I going to stop the anteater from wandering off to solve someone else's ant problem. Perhaps a chicken (pangolan) tractor?