Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ants, Ants, Ants, Ants

Marching up and down again…Ants, Ants, Ants, Ants…5, 7, 9, 11

Eleven o’clock is approximately the time that I scared Andrew half to death this evening by wildly slapping my arm and screaming,

“Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!”

I got bit by an ant. So small, yet so painful. It had dug its little pinchers into my skin and was not letting go no matter how many times I slapped it. For some reason I was thinking it was going to be like a mosquito: slap, dead. But it wasn’t. Andrew had to scrape it off and then smash it with his fingers.

This was just a mere minute or so after Andrew had received a bite of his own and, after listening to him freak out about it said, “Oh, did the little ant get you?” in a patronizing baby voice. Why did I have to open my big mouth.

He had just come from the kitchen to inform me that there were ants swarming on top of the refrigerator and I guess a few ants had hitchhiked on his person from the kitchen to the living room just to bite us.

We went back into the kitchen. He had moved all of our food off the fridge and onto the stove and had sprayed the fridge with RAID. The ants were caught in their tracks and died in perfectly straight rows.

They had been filing in from, of all places, an electrical outlet.

“That must be why they hurt so bad! They’re electric ants!” I told Andrew. He asked me if such a thing existed. I told him that I doubted it but that I couldn’t be sure because we don’t have the internet and thus no Google so I couldn’t check. Later on in the evening I moaned, “Ants don’t live in electricity!”

The ants here, however, must feed on electricity. When we were staying with President McCallister Andrew had ants in his laptop constantly. He would open it up and they’d pour out from under the keys.

There were ants here and there around his apartment, but they weren’t into organized crime.
The ants at our apartment have been a bit more aggressive. They march around the apartment like they own the place, making only 90 degree turns. Two lines side by side: one filing in and one filing out. If only Cairo traffic could pick up on that…

From what we knew all the food on the fridge was sealed—the food was on top of the fridge because we hadn’t cleaned out our cupboards yet and they’re gross—but we started to go through it anyway.

The ants seemed to be concentrating on the packages of Oriental noodles (Ramen, for you Utahans) we had purchased at Carrefour (thanks, Jill, for taking us there, btw). The packages of noodles were sealed in a bigger plastic bag, but the ants were inside those, so we opened them up.

Not knowing if they had the ability to chew through plastic or not, we opened them up and started examining the individual pockets. Ants were spilling out all over the place. We boiled a pot of water and started throwing the packages in the water to kill the ants. Bubbles coming from the packages of noodles led us to believe that there were holes in some of the packages.
Now our noodles were wet and full of dead, semi-dead, and live ants. We ended up throwing most of them away. Our spaghetti noodles were completely sealed (except for one bag that was completely ripped open), so we were able to keep those, and the corn flakes, that were open, were ignored by the ants. Go figure.

With ants all over the place at varying stages between life and death, we continued to battle them with RAID, fire, boiling water, and sheer brute force. I think most of them are dead now. At least, I hope so.

We found some Tupperware containers left behind in the church cupboards by some previous students (thanks Mark and Aprilee!) and put our corn flakes in one for safe keeping. To lighten the mood in our hot kitchen, I brought one in to Andrew, cracked the lid and quoted from Aladdin,

“Ooh, look at this. I have never seen one of these intact before. This is the famous Dead Sea Tupperware. Listen. Pbbtt! Ah, still fresh!”

I thought it fitting since we were experiencing an Arabian night…I didn’t ever used to think that having the vendor in Aladdin selling Tupperware was very authentic. If I only knew…

This morning we had another ant infestation, but this one was entirely our fault. We were running late for church and didn’t clean up Rachel’s mess before running out the door. When we came home there was a little trail of ants leading from the dining room to a hole in the wall somewhere. We took care of that and thought our problems were over, but alas!

For those of you who know me well, you know that I’m not the best housekeeper. I sometimes put off doing the dishes for too long and let my floor go unswept for much longer than it should…
But seriously, when there are cockroaches on the line I can be downright religious about cleaning house.

We wash our dishes after every meal. I sweep and mop. We don’t leave food out.

Still, we don’t know what to do. And so we turn to you, dear readers, for advice. Lay it on us!

How do we get rid of these ants once and for all without completely fumigating the place?

We’re already planning on investing in more Tupperware containers to hold pretty much any food-like substance and are keeping about as clean as we can, what with a one-year-old on the loose and everything…any ideas?


  1. That's gross... and Deklan says creepy.

  2. How to Get Rid of Ants

    Natural Ant Control

    Boric acid (Borax) is the most common ingredient in house ant control products, and get this: it's abolutely 100% natural. the best way (in my opinion) to use boric acid is to mix 1 cup of warm water with 1/2 cup of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of boric acid. Then soak the boric acid up with cotton balls and place those cotton balls near any trails the ants have estabilished in your home.

    Diatomaceous Earth (be sure it's Food Grade) is not just for worming or keeping crawling bugs out of your garden. You can also use diatomaceous earth to line the outside of your home, around the edges of the house, to help cut up and kill any bugs that try to enter your home from the ground level. The theory behind diatomaceous earth's effectiveness is that the razor sharp edges of this fossilized algae cut through the exoskeleton of the bug and either poison the bug or dehydrate it. Whatever the cause of the bug's death, diatomaceous earth is perfect for keeping ants out of your home and Argentine Ants out of your garden.

    Whole Cloves are apparently a rather well known natural ant control. Personally, I've never tried it, but Eric says they're effective against Silverfish infestations, so why shouldn't they be effective against ants? This argument hardly holds and weight from a logical stand point, but I'm not the only one to recommend whole cloves as a natural ant control measure.

    I’ve been working on the subject of getting rid of ants for a long time now. In fact, this article was one of my first projects for how to get rid of things, and I have updated it a number of times over the past couple of years. Changes in structure and further research impel me to get you good answers to common problems—ants not being the least of those problems. The most problematic question is: what kind of ants are we trying to get rid of? There are so many varieties of ants found in North America, it’s almost impossible to know who is who. Some ants (like the Argentine Ant) are more of a problem on the West Coast than they are on the East Coast. Fire ants are an issue only in the south, while the carpenter ant seems to keep both southerners and my people up north quite busy as well. So, what we’re going to do is approach the subject of getting rid of ants by how common the problem is and how difficult it is to get rid of it. As I find the time to write, most species of ant I mention in this ant control article will be linked to a page with more detailed information about getting rid of ants of that particular species.

    Common Ants & Ant Control

    (roll mouse over images for maps of ant habitats)
    Suggestions or Questions? Check our Pest Control Forum.

    To get rid of Sugar Ants or House Ants, known to the scientific community as Pavement Ants, sweet-based ant baits should do the trick. The pavement ant is perhaps the most common ant to invade houses, apartments, and other places where found can be found. It is mistakenly called both the sugar ant (which is an ant exclusive to the Australian continent) and the house ant (of which there are many). Pavement ants are the little brown ants that make small mounds in the sand near sidewalks, driveways, and the sides of houses. I've had plenty of pavement ant problems, and I prefer Terro brand traps to get rid of sugar ants--ahem!-I mean pavement ants.

    Pavement Ant
    To get rid of Pharaoh Ants, another common house ant commonly called a sugar ant, sweet baits, again, should suffice as proper ant control. This ant is particularly obnoxious because of its persistence in getting what it wants, and it will eat just about anything: sugars, proteins, you name it. In some instances, these ants are found in hospitals where sterilization standards are lax. The Pharaoh Ant is often blamed for transferring dangerous bacteria like Staphylococcus and Psuedomonas, according to the Ohio State Extension Office. Sweet baits placed near trails or high ant traffic areas are the most effective form of control. As I mentioned earlier, Terro makes an effective sweet ant bait.

    Pharaoh Ants
    To get rid of Argentine Ants, found in the South and Southwestern states, a combination of protein-based and sweet baits may be effective ant control. These little bastards are killing America's environmental and ecological balance by killing off native ant species, starving the natural predators of these species. They also form a symbiotic relationship with aphids (a common garden pest), tending and even transporting aphids in return for the sweet secretions the aphids produce. Argentine ants will eat just about anything they can get their grubby hands on, and they are a particularly social species of ant that "teams up" with other colonies nearby. Broadcast baiting with insectide granules like Diazinon seems to be the most effective way to get rid of argentine ant colonies outside, coupled sweet baits to help control argentine ants inside.

    Argentine Ants
    If you live in the south and you've been swarmed by stinging red ants, chances are you're trying to figure out how to get rid of Fire Ants. Fire ants, the most aggressive of which is the Red Important Fire Ant, are fast becoming the next "problem" insect, like the Africanized Honeybee. The sting of a Red Important Fire Ant causes intense pain, sweating, and sometimes anaphylactic shock. Again broadcast baiting with Hydramethylnon granules (Amdro, Maxforce, Siege are reputable brands) is the probably the best way to get rid of fire ants; though, it should be noted that most fire ant baiting methods are only temporary, and need to be repeated every 2-4 weeks.

    Fire A

  3. Yeah, so in Fiji we had the same problem, and I wish I would have had some of the above mentioned tactics. We kept everything in tupperware, zip-lock bags, or in the fridge. (Although if something is already infested with ants and then you put it in the fridge, it doesn't kill them. They will come back to life when they warm up again-don't ask how I figured that out!) If you can find anything with peatree oil in it, I found that works wonders. We had some soap with that in it, that we would wash/wipe down our countertops more ants. They hate the stuff. Best of luck. I feel your pain.

  4. Boric acid did the trick on our roach problem in North Carolina. Also, put everything in Tupperware. Ants and roaches can even be attracted to the glue used to seal plastic (like Ramen packaging) and cardboard (like cereal and cracker boxes). All I can say is a big EWWW and ICK - good luck!

  5. Umm. No advice except for-move back to America.

  6. When we had ants at one of our apts in Jordan, Jeremy tracked down a few of the holes where they were coming in and covered them with tape. Regular old scotch tape. It really, really helped the problem.

  7. try silicon sealant. It comes in big caulking guns and little tubes too. And its clear, so I'm sure your landlord wouldn't have a problem. We had an ant problem at one of our places in Provo. We figured out where they were coming from (behind the counter) and used the sealant to seal the gap in between so they couldn't use it any more. The sealant should be small enough to ship cheap if you can't get it there. Good luck!

  8. silicon sealant. clear, comes in small tubes and cheap. Probably cheap to ship too if you can't get it there. Find where they coming from and use the sealant to fill in the cracks they're using. Good luck!

  9. OK and I complain about the ants here. YUCK! I fell so bad for you guys! I hate bugs. Ants are so pesky here. Not so much in Utah. Good luck with those ants. I will check google for suggestions and get back to you. But, it seems you have some decent suggestions already.

  10. :) Good luck with that one. Not a problem I have to deal with currently. I don't know why cockroaches and ants have never really bothered me... spiders bother me a lot more!

  11. You don't know me - we're BYU grads from forever ago and know Bridget and Jeremy - we've lived in Syria, Jordan, and Cairo as well...I hope you find this comment and that it can help you get your ants out!

    For ants in Cairo. The very best thing is to keep everything in plastic containers or in the fridge (if there are any families with Commissary privileges, ask them to save their ice cream buckets for you - they're awesome for flour and pasta, etc). Mop (squeegee) the kitchen and dining room after every meal (this is just in the initial stages - after the problem is under control you can just mop up as needed). Keep nothing on the counter (all food in plastic containers and in cupboards). Every day about 12 times a day spray the counters and sinks and window sills and table and wherever else you have seen even one ant with this mixture: 1/3 part white vinegar, 2/3 part water, 1 Tbsp dish detergent mixed in a spray bottle. The vinegar erases the trail that the ants leave behind and the dish detergent kills the ants who touch it. It's safe for people, so you don't have to worry about your little girl like you do with Raid, and it erases the trail, which other things don't do. It is pretty hard at first since you have to spray pretty much every surface so many times a day for a few weeks, but once they're gone, you can slack off.

    It took us about a week or two to get rid of all the ants. After they were gone I would still spray the entire counter and table and any other surface that had food on it (or where the ants had been a lot before) once every night. I did that for a few months and then stopped for the winter and didn't have to do it again until spring.

    I don't know if you have the cockroach problem we had - we found out they come up the drains. We poured boiling water down every drain (if you sprinkle baking soda in the drain first it's also a good way to eliminate some smells) and then we kept the drains closed at all times, only opening them when we were using them. This includes the overflow valves on the bidet, sink, and tub. You can stuff those with plastic bags. Once we did that we never had another cockroach.

    Good luck! Hope you have so much fun living in Cairo - I loved it there! Karina (you can ask Bridget who I am if you're freaked out - I found your blog there today and miss Cairo)

  12. Thanks so much Karina! We'll be trying this! We've already stopped up most of our drains and the cockroach problem seems to be pretty much taken care of! I thought they might be coming from the drains :)