argentine antsMany people are starting to report ant problems again — in the middle of winter!  “Don’t despair,” say the coordinators of Raumati South’s ant control programme Jenny Scott and Mike Freeman.

“Now is an opportunity to identify overwintering colonies and destroy them before they start dividing in spring. We suggest wait till a warm sunny day; walk round the outside of the house checking window sills and doorsteps, potplants, compost heaps and piles of rubbish.  Remove any vegetation touching the walls. It only takes a twig or blade of grass for ants to move from a plant they are feeding on, to a tiny entry hole in a wall or under a window sill. From there they can move around inside the walls.

“Check any shrubs with sooty mould on, especially citrus and abutilons, i.e. lantern trees.  Both these types of trees may be used as overwintering headquarters by Argentines which feed on the sap- sucking insects which make the honey dew, which in turn grows the sooty mould.

“If you can find moving ants, squirt tiny blobs of Vanquish Pro paste in the area, along windowsills or paths or foundations, including any nearby infested  shrubs.  It only needs a few hours of warm weather; the ants will reject the bait after a few hours.  But meantime enough gets fed to the nest underground to reduce numbers considerably.  If necessary put the bait inside your empty borax bait stations, and tape to windowsills, tree branches etc., but the green paste will stick by itself to any slightly roughened surface eg decking, concrete, bark, and only needs to be there for three or four hours.  Include the roof if possible.

“If you can’t find any ant movement outside but are getting them in the house, try filling some of your plastic pill pottles with sugar syrup and scattering outside to see if that attracts them. Follow up a successful Vanquish-Pro baiting with your refilled borax baits.

“If you have black house ants inside they are probably nesting in walls and ceilings, but  may also be clustered in wardrobes, kitchen cupboards, and linen cupboards,  behind pictures, or in the folds of curtains.  Check the rubber seals of your refrigerator, and its motor.

“Apart from colour, this ‘clustering’ is an important distinction between Argentines and Black (White-footed) House Ants. Argentines will scout around individually or follow distinct trails, in and out of buildings.  Black house ants will also follow trails but once inside cluster together round a queen and form new nests quite openly, even on walls or ceilings. Unlike Argentines, they don’t take bait back to their young, but have to be killed directly, with anything to hand.  Washing away with hot soapy water helps, as does fly spray especially if you can get a nozzle down an entry hole. As for baits, Vanquish-Pro works best, but if you do not want to buy this, try your borax bait stations but double the strength of the borax: 2 teaspoons to a litre of syrup.

“We will all bait again next October on the weekend of the 19–20th.  In the meantime target any nests you can find.  You can reseal a cartridge of Vanquish-Pro with  foil and tape,  and keep in the fridge for several weeks.  OR mark with a felt pen how much you have left, and on-sell it to a neighbour.  Available on line from Flybusters, $70.  Free postage for two or more. Borax bait stations from The Shed Project, Tongariro St, Paraparaumu, $12 for 36.  They will refill for you.

“For more information join the Ant Management Group on Facebook: @kapiticoastants.”