Coming Soon: ANTS!

It may not be the first thought on your mind when you walk outside, but actually try to think about the last time you saw an ant in Charlottesville. After an unusually long winter, the ants are slowly but surely making themselves visible. But what have they been doing all this time? How did they survive the frost without invading our homes and dorms in their systematic little lines? The answer is that ants are experts at braving the seasons. In Autumn, ants eat large amounts of foods such as plants, fungus, food scraps, and even other insects. Another reason you may not have seen an ant lately is because they do most of their food foraging under the cover of night. In the winter, ant’s body temperatures drop dramatically and they seek out warm spaces in deep soil, under rocks or under the bark of trees. They also join together as a community by snuggling together and huddling around the queen. When you learn about all of this you may think, “Wow, ants are pretty cool!” But all of that goes out of the roof when you’re trying to have a picnic on the Lawn and you find ants crawling up next to your freshly bought food from the Dumpling Truck. Let the ant killing begin. But with a little preplanning and some simple materials you can say “shoo ant, don’t bother me” without having an ant killing on your conscience. Plus, these are techniques you can use in your home or dorm room to keep out the ants without damaging the environment with harmful pesticides.

1)    Take chalk and draw a line around the edge of where you do not want ants to intrude and the calcium carbonate will help repel the ants.

2)    Spray lemon juice, cinnamon essential oil, or peppermint oil, around windows and doors for a great smelling house/dorm and an ant free space.

3)    Place coffee grounds or cornmeal in cracks where ants are entering or exiting. This will not kill them but just repels them and makes them relocate. It’s also a little safer if you have pets than placing the toxic bait packets around that they could chew into.

Hopefully these will be easy and effective ways for you to keep ants at bay without hurting them in the process. Just like how every person in Charlottesville suddenly becomes a runner on that first nice warm day, the ants will emerge from their winter homes with a fury. For picnickers, homeowners, or anyone trying to stop the hungry ants without killing them or using pesticides, these could come in handy. I have noticed that not many people know about these natural remedies to dealing with insects.In our urban planning practices, we are encouraged to embrace nature in the cities, but often ignore the insects which preside in almost all forms of nature indoors and outdoors. It is very possible for us to coexist and create spaces for each other to thrive. Ants are significant and have been a large part of our history appearing in books, movies, poems, games, paintings sculptures, music and much more. Even though they’re tiny, species of ants preside all around the world and appear in almost every known language. Specifically in Virginia, you may run into the Little Black Ant, the Carpenter Ant, the Crematogaster Ant, the Odorous House Ant, the Pavement Ant and the Yellow Ant. You will be seeing some of these around Charlottesville soon enough! Hopefully you’ll refrain from killing them and use natural ingredients instead to send the ants on their merry way.

Post by Jennifer Reid