“ Brand: B&Q / Type: Pest Control „
That time of year again. Ants! Fortunately since moving house 18 months ago, I haven't been too troubled, but at my previous house, this time of year would see every house in the row adorned with its own array of white powder. My powder of choice was this B&Q version. I have detected some activity this morning, hence my digging it out, but this is fortunately on a much smaller scale.
The powder is in a chunky plastic bottle/tub which contains 500g and is approx 7cm diameter and approx 20cm tall. It has a red safety screw cap which you need to press down and turn in order to open. This is very child-proof, as it even took me a few goes to get in it this morning! The powder is contained in the tub by a solid plastic seal over the neck which has a tiny hole through which to dispense the powder.
Over the time I've used it I've found this to be both a good and a bad design feature. Good because if it is knocked over, you don't lose the powder, and all the associated dangers of that, but bad because it does at times make it difficult to dispense.
Turning the bottle upside down results in the powder being easily shaken (or lightly squeezed) through the hole onto the place you need it. That sounds a bit of a hit-and-miss approach, but in actual fact, as long as you are quite close in to the spot, it is actually fairly easy to direct to where you want it to go. Most typically this is along the join between brickwork and path, where the ants tend to tread their trusty path. If any ants get in the way of the powder you do see them panicking and running away with the powder on their backs, so whilst you can see it working, it could be a distressing sight if you are sensitive to that type of thing. This is even more significant if you use it on their nest. Again, not something I have needed for a couple of years, but at that time, this product did a very effective job of destroying what turned out to be a very well established nest, although it did take a second application a couple of days later. There is naturally a bit of dust wafting around when using the powder, which you must try to avoid breathing in, although there is no unpleasant smell or anything when using it.
When you are in the process of applying the powder it does need regularly tipping upright because the little hole clogs up, so you need to give a little shake and carry on.
On the whole I found this to be a really effective ant powder, and as I'm coming to the end of this tub I'll have no problem in restocking with the same product again, simply because I know it works. The bottle label also advises that it can be used to control woodlice, silverfish, cockroaches, earwigs, beetles and other crawling insects. In terms of how long it is effective, I did need to reapply about 3 times over the summers at my previous house where it was a major issue, but last summer here on a much smaller scale, one application did the trick.
The precautions listed on the bottle include: "Keep in a safe place. Contains anticholinesterase carbamate compound, do not use if under medical advice not to work with such compounds. Wash hands and exposed skin before meals and after use. In case of accident or if you feel unwell, seek medical advice immediately. Harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment."
So, the summer is nearly over and, no matter what sort of a summer it has been, one thing is for certain, the ants have been having a whale of a time, as usual. I always anticipate the summer with mixed feelings. I know that as soon as the warmth of the summer sun starts making itself felt, the ants will be crawling out from every nook and cranny.
Now, I'm reasonably relaxed about creepy crawlies. Generally I follow a rule of live and let live. I draw the line at anything which is wantonly destructive so my roses do get a regular spraying although I'm trying to replace those particularly susceptible to insect attack with those that are more naturally resistant. Where possible I try to use ladybird friendly preparations. They should be encouraged to eat the greenfly but there seem to be less and less ladybirds around these days. I'm going to put up one of those ladybird homes to help them.
Spiders are fine. My daughter has a morbid fear though so if one makes its presence known around the house it's me who has to catch it and put it outside! We even bought her one of those devices that are supposed to suck them up into a tube so that they can be ejected from the premises (doesn't work though!)
Woodlice are great. I don't know why everyone tries to kill them as they are doing a great job in the garden, breaking down plant debris and enabling it to be reused in the soil. They don't do any damage. DON'T KILL THEM!
My wife is the slug and snail hunter. She is merciful though. She throws them over the back fence onto the waste land by the public footpath. They don't come back; we know; we've marked their shells to see if they ever turn up again!
Ants, however, receive no mercy from me. Our garden seems to be particularly badly infested with them. We have a patio outside our lounge that is made up of crazy paving. The ants have managed to dig out the mortar joints all over and set up nests here there and everywhere. Left to their own devices they will cover the patio, heading in every direction foraging, including up onto our table, trying to highjack our food!
Eventually they will rise in winged hoards as they migrate to infest another part of the landscape. This really is the time I hate the most, when these black clouds make sitting outside a must to avoid. So, what to do about them.
Over the years I have tried many preparations. I've used the ant traps such as the ones sold under the Nippon brand, but our ants just seem to avoid them. I've tried the clear thick liquid that you drip onto the scenes of their crimes, in the hopes that they will be attracted to its sugary sweetness and so take it back to infect the nest. It never seems to work though.
In the end I always return to the White Dust of Death. OK, it's unsightly but at least it does seem to be the most effective remedy. It's sold under any number of brands, including Own Brand versions such as the one reviewed here, sold by B&Q. The ingredients appear to be the same and so the only real issue on which to choose is price, and here, Own Brands always win out, especially B&Q.
The main difference seems to be the effectiveness of the container in enabling a thin dusting of the powder to be delivered just where the ants emerge from their nest. Some seem quite good; others seem to clog, resulting in the explosive depositing of far more powder than is required. The B&Q brand seems OK.
Of course, a bad infestation does require liberal use of the powder. The effects are quite fast though. I notice that ant activity seems to stop completely only a couple of hours after application. I tend to leave the powder in place for a couple of days before brushing it away.
You do need to keep an eye open though as ants newly hatched from already laid eggs do not seem to be affected by any powder taken down into the nest. I guess this is because the powder bio-degrades over time to avoid the DDT Effect. If a new infestation appears then you will just have to repeat the process.
My worst problem though, is with ants in my lawn. The rate at which they spread to form new nests is alarming. It is not uncommon to find a dozen of their mounds of ejected soil forming unsightly patches of lawn bare of grass; they have eaten away all the roots. Whilst my problem on the patio is with black ants, in the lawn it is with both black and red ants.
I have tried all manner of preparations on the lawn but none seem to be consistently effective. On the Internet the recommendation is to dig open the lawn where the ants emerge, to expose the nest, and then to dust directly onto the colony below. I've tried that but it still doesn't seem to work. I'm guessing that the natural dampness of the soil causes the powder to bio-degrade before it's completely done its job.
Purely by chance, this year I found a solution to the problem of ants in the lawn and, best of all, it requires no chemical preparations. This is where we come to Plan B, the Ecky Thump strategy (apologies to Mike Harding).
Imagine if you will a bright sunny morning (yes, we did have a few this year) and yours truly emerging to survey his domain (the back garden) and feed the birds and fish, to be confronted yet again by a lawn covered in brown piles of soil. The fury boils within; I can't take much more of this.
I walk over to the nearest pile and with deliberation and focus I stamp on it as hard as I can. I then resort to jumping up and down on it and the immediate surrounding area. This is very therapeutic, though what my neighbours would think if they could see me doesn't bear thinking about. Perhaps they would think that I am practising a new style of Morris Dancing!
Having calmed a little I now adopt the same strategy on every pile. The lawn now no longer has any loose piles of soil but does now have a large number of flat brown patches where no grass is evident. Whether this is an improvement or not is a matter of conjecture.
Keeping an eye on the patches for the rest of the day and over the next few days, it is clear that I have dealt the colony a deadly though not entirely fatal blow. In many of the patches renewed activity is evident although much reduced. I simply adopt the same tactics as soon as they appear. It is also clear that some enterprising ants have tried to emerge elsewhere by burrowing under the soil, but the same approach soon puts a stops that.
I have discovered that after doing this three or maybe four times at the most, all activity ceases. What I guess has happened is that I have prevented the ants from getting out to forage and so the colony has starved to death. I am now left with bare patches in the lawn but, without the ants eating through the grass roots, the grass grows back over the patch within a month or two. Now, in Autumn as it now is, I can barely find where they used to be.
So, whilst I still believe that Ant Powder is the most effective solution where other tactics are simply not feasible, and will continue to use it myself, I strongly recommend Ecky Thump where the infestation is in a lawn. It works for me. It may also work for you. It's worth a try, even if your neighbours start giving you funny looks. If they do, share the secret with them. You never know, you may gain a whole new respect in the neighbourhood as a gardening expert. It might even encourage you to take up Morris Dancing or Martial Arts!