Ants – Six-Legged Gardeners
- Estimated number of different ant species throughout the world: 12,000
- The average size of the world’s largest ant species: about 1 inch long. The average size of the smallest: 1/25 of an inch
- Number of Ant Farm kits sold since toy-maker Milton Levine devised the concept in 1956: more than 20 million
- Acres in the southeastern United States that have become infested with the red imported fire ant: more than 320 million
- Years that the caste system of ants is believed to have existed: 30 to 40 million
- The time it takes the average worker ant to complete its metamorphosis from egg to adult: 38 to 45 days
- Number of worker ants living in a typical carpenter-ant colony: 10,000 to 50,000
Tropical leafcutter ants can chomp as much as 20 percent of the foliage from trees in rainforests. The ants first tear the leaves into tiny bits and then haul them back to their fungus-covered homes. While they don’t actually eat the leaves, they use the leaf matter to enrich the dens where they cultivate fungus for food. Ants, you could say, are the original organic gardeners!
A Safe, Effective Ant Trap
Ants in your garden, no problem; ants in your house, big problem. We’ve used this technique in our own homes and found it works every time.
1. Make a solution of 1 percent boric acid (available at any drugstore) and 20 percent sugar by thoroughly dissolving 1 teaspoon of boric acid and 6 tablespoons of sugar in 2 cups of water. Use a clear jar so you can see when all the boric acid crystals are dissolved. Soak cotton balls in this bait solution.
2. Make bait dispensers out of old plastic containers with lids. Punch holes in them so the ants can get inside, then put the soaked cotton balls into the containers and cover them with lids so the bait won’t dry out.
3. Place the bait containers wherever you see ant trails, in or outside the house.
4. Clean the containers and use fresh bait solution at least once a week.
5. Be patient! The key is to get worker ants to continually carry low doses of boric acid back to feed the ants in their nest. Boric acid is mildly repellent to ants, and using a very low dose makes it more likely that surviving ants will continue eating the bait and taking it back to the nest.