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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

I’ve Got Ant-swers (AKA: This is import-ant)

I was helping a friend with a cleanup last weekend. We had done quite a bit on the first day including cleaning up some wine. Second day we started and I noticed some ants feeding on a messy refrigerator shelf I had pulled the previous night. Thinking about it now, I probably should have taken a picture, but I forgot.

The fact that we had some ants is not the story though. This story is about the challenges of treating pests, even when you are a pro.


A lot of people would think to get some spray or an aerosol of some kind and knock them out. That would have definitely killed a bunch of them and we could have moved on with our lives and tried to clean out some of the rum. I could have cleaned off the shelf of the food gunk and eliminated that food source. Unfortunately, neither of those options would have solved the problem individually or in combination. Since only about 10% of an ant colony is out foraging, it would have left 90% of the colony to continue and more foragers would likely have come in and found additional food sources.

It took me a good three minutes to watch them and follow the trail. At first, all I could see were the ants on and around the shelf, it didn’t look like there was a trail. I finally found it crossing the floor, going up a cabinet door, and disappearing under the sink.


Now any ant training you listen to will always tell you to “find the nest”. It’s great advice because unless you get to the majority of those ants (all of which are in the colony), no treatment you do is going to be effective. It will be a bandaid at best. My little trail was going underneath the sink and who knows where after that. The colony could have been in a wall void, outside the kitchen, or even in the nearby neighbor’s yard. I was not about to tear apart the cabinets, sink, and wall behind all that. I’m all about effective pest control and addressing the underlying conditions, but I’m not destroying a kitchen to find an ant colony.

What magic spell did we use? What secret product did we summon up? Which of the dark gods did we promise our souls to?


We put some bait down.


Did it solve the problem? Probably not. It likely got the colony, wherever it was hiding, knocked back a little but I suspect it’s still there…somewhere. Sometimes it’s easy to see that giant fire ant mound or find that opening for the pavement ants. Most times, that main colony is hiding somewhere and the time it would take even to attempt to find it is more than anyone has. I am NOT saying to forget about even looking, but there is a point when you have to say “this isn’t worth it anymore”.

Using the bait allowed us to make the ants do that work for us. It still wasn’t quick. I mentioned it took time to find their pathway. Then we had to get bait on that trail so they would start to pick it up. At that point, we stopped what we were doing in that area because we had to give the ants sufficient time to pick up enough of the bait to share with some of their friends. While we had other areas to clean, it probably took at least an hour from the first ant I saw to when we figured they had picked up enough bait and we weren’t seeing any more individuals.

The moral of this ant story is pest control isn’t easy, it isn’t pretty, it can take a lot of time, and it’s not always perfect. While there is a process to integrated pest management that lays out the basic steps, something is often missing that can’t be done. Sometimes that is a hidden colony that can’t be accessed, sometimes it is a sanitation problem that can’t be cleaned up. It can be an opening that can’t be sealed up or limited treatment options. It’s having the experience and knowledge to use the tools that we can for each individual situation.

Having two entomology geeks who work in pest control doesn’t hurt either. We rewarded ourselves by cleaning up the last of the vodka.


If you want your very own entomology geek to give you the best technical info to solve problems fast and let you get your time back, we do that. Contact us.


That is unless you like spending a few hours troubleshooting a single pest issue for a single customer. We get it.

lagniappe - ants are funny

Urban pest consulting

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