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October 27, 2017 4:03 pm

Unexpected Company

Saturday, August 12, 2017 @ 6:55 AM

Prince George, B.C. – Ants, pesky little black ants everywhere but apparently, despite appearances, there is not a huge outbreak of them in Prince George this year over previous years.

Let me back up a bit.  Got up the other morning and found that there were many, many more occupants in our place than when we had turned in the night before.  Ants, tons of ’em, scurrying all over the counter top, underneath the sink and on the floor in the kitchen.  My better half was not amused.

Now, we keep a clean place, don’t leave food out, don’t have a garbage can under the sink, try really diligently to avoid leaving attractants out for critters and bears.  In any event I headed out to the appropriate stores in town to find some ant killer and discovered that those products were in short supply.  I was told the stuff had been flying off the shelves this summer.

Do we have an outbreak, I wondered?  A fellow named Bola, regional manager for BC with Abell Pest Control, told me “the hot weather is conducive (to ants showing up) but as for year over year it’s no worse than its been in previous years.”  As for the low supply of ant-killing products he said “it’s probably because of the forest fires that trucks haven’t been getting through to you guys.  That’s probably why they’re out of supplies.”

“In other areas in the interior, even in Fort St. John where they have a bigger ant problem than Prince George, there really hasn’t been an uptick in ant activity.  It’s normal this time of year for the ant population to increase.  Over winter the population dies off.  They’ll become active as soon as spring hits, so any time from March you’ll see them and they’ll stay active until the end of summer and by the time fall hits you’ll start seeing the population die.”

Bola says it’s not just during hot, dry weather that you’ll notice a jump in the ant population.  “If its raining some,” he says “it may actually increase the activity because when the ground gets wet the ants get moving.  When the ground gets hot the ants get moving too to this time of year, regardless of what the weather is doing, they’re going to be active.”

And he says it also depends on the type of ant.  “You have carpenter ants which are seen mostly in homes, field ants which are mostly out in the field, pavement ants which you see digging up dirt in the driveway.  You also have sugar ants and smaller ants that would infest kitchens looking for food (small little black ants like the ones that came to vacation at our place).”

Bola says “Think of this.  If you go on vacation to somewhere tropical they spray year-round for those small ants because sometimes you put food out, the weather’s hot, they have scouts running all over the place, they will go after your food.  It’s hot, right?  In the winter time when it gets wet and cold those ants will probably die off.  If you have air conditioning in your place and the temperature is a bit cooler you won’t see the ants.”

“As soon as the weather gets nice and you leave out sweets or protein the ants will come running.  The things to do would be to make sure food is put away in the fridge and that it is kept in tightly-sealed plastic containers or zip-lock bags.  If you have pop or sweets spills, food crumbs on the counter, clean it up right away.  Garbage taken out every other day at the latest.”

And he adds that using bug killers isn’t always the answer.  “The scary things people do, like they’ll go to the store and buy powders, for instance, without knowing what the contents of the powder is.  They’ll barely read the label, go home and sprinkle the powder all over the place.  That’s probably causing more of a detriment than a benefit because you have to look at the size of the ant.”

“Think about a person.  If you build a small wall around a person they’ll leap over that wall.  If you build a nice wall, which is what an ant sees when they see a pyramid of powder around your house, the ants that are indoors will find another way out, the ants that are out will find a different way in, so it doesn’t serve the purpose of killing the ants.”

“Some of the domestic products like the baits are great if you put them in the corner, but in many cases what you find is people see the ants going to the bait station and spray cleaning solution on the station.  Well, that becomes a deterrent for the ants.”

What was that Carl Stephenson short story we were introduced to way back in early school days?  “Leiningen Versus The Ants”, that was it.


Cut the top off an empty water bottle, invert the top and install it inside the top of the water bottle. Add a little sugar water and put them around inside or outside the house. It doesn’t take long to start filling up with dead ants.

Picked up that little red 100ml bottle of Raid Ant Killer a few years ago.
What I call sugar ants, the little ones, were making a beeline for the kitchen. Poured some of this stuff on a piece of masking tape, two hours later the ants had circled this stuff like cows at a pond of water, all gone three days later.

Torremolinos, Spain, a few decades ago. We rented an apartment on the beach, bought some Cointreau and placed the bottle, which had been opened, on top of a fireplace mantle.

The next morning there was a black string of ants coming from the balcony door, towards the fireplace, up the wall, under and over the projecting mantle, to the cap of the bottle where there was a remaining drop or two….. a second line of ants formed going back.

It was the first and last time I ever experienced such a sight.

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