Ants and their pheromones (Part 1)

© Luke Elstad / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Ants infestation is sometimes a problem in my house. I am sure many of you are nodding in agreement. If you can live with it, great. Normally I don’t really mind them crawling around under the dish drainer or towards the rubbish bin which we will dispose of by the end of the day. What I am often irritated by would be ants enjoying a swim in my water jug. It does not happen often since ants go for different types of food at different times. Sometimes they go for meat, sometimes for sugar, and  other times for water, or a combination of these. But in any case, it is not such a pleasant sight, nor is it a pleasant chore to attempt to scoop them out of the jug.

Sometime last month, during a conversation with friends, I learnt that they use vinegar to deal with their ant problem at home. That was something I had not heard of, though I was quite pleased to find out that there is additional use to that bottle of vinegar-water spray that I have recently concocted to clean many parts of my kitchen.

I went home and did my first spray. The significant spray on my kitchen table-top next to the sink. The eye-opening spray.

Interestingly, some of the ants looked totally lost (and apparently confined). Guess what? I accidentally sprayed a circle around those ants, hence creating a “trap” not so visible to our eyes.

Google search results will generally explain that vinegar spray removes the chemical scent trails (pheromones) that ants use to get around, and that ants hate the vinegar smell. So that was what happened with the ants.

It was amazing to see the effect of the vinegar-water spray even though it is considered a temporary solution, but at least it is an organic solution which is good for those who would not like to kill the ants. In my search, I realise that there are many other things which will repel ants as well, e.g. baking soda, cinnamon, chalk powder etc.

So many articles share a similar list of items that keep the ants away, but they are generally vague in explaining why the items could repel ants (personal thought), except for the fact that the use of these items will most likely block the pheromones the ants released earlier and prevent them from bringing the whole colony to a food source. Hence, the advice was to spray around entry points such as windowsills.

So, what happened to the ants that I accidentally trapped? Well, the “wall” of vinegar soon dried up and the ants were free to go again, just that they became a little disoriented. Poor ants. I only wanted to keep them away from the table-top where I prepare my food.

Note: Just when I was in the midst of writing this blog entry, I chanced upon another interesting behaviour of the ants. Hence, watch out for Part 2 of “Ants and their pheromones”!

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