‘Tis the season

English: Ant nest disturbed by a bird. On the ...
Ant nest disturbed by a bird. On the picture the Queen Ants can be seen. They are probably Black garden ants

No, not the other one in December, though that isn’t all that far off is it? No, it is the season for ants to come out of their nests and fly off somewhere else to make new colonies. The conditions have to be just right for the winged monsters to emerge. It has to be dry of course and warm and the humidity being normal helps too. Over the last few days we have had a lot of rain but on Wednesday everything changed and although it wasn’t a hot day at only 17 deg C or thereabouts it was dry at last. We have paving slabs surrounding the lawn in the rear garden and unfortunately they provide perfect conditions for ants to make nests beneath them. The fist signs of an imminent evacuation are the little mounds of soil or sand that appear on the lawn or on top of the paving slabs if they have found a way through the cement mortar, and they somehow do that sometimes. The excavated material obviously comes from beneath the paving or other things undermining them in the process. The end result after years of ant activity is uneven or loosened paving. The only way to prevent damage is to make conditions inhospitable for the ants and they will go elsewhere or kill them using propriety foods or powders to poison them. There are not many solutions that can be used in and around plants and lawns that won’t have an effect on those too unless specific chemicals and poisons are used but they unfortunately can be washed away in the rain. Outside our perimeter wall at the front of the house ants have always been active and the small paving brick tiles have become uneven under foot. We live in a sandy area and therefore we see sand being excavated and dumped in little mounds against brick walls and pavement fixtures, worse of all stone gateposts which can end up standing any way but vertical! Ants are the culprits of course, no other insect has the stamina or inclination, except perhaps termites. Some wasp species and a few other insects do burrow beneath the ground but are seldom as destructive. I have found a way of dealing with the ants at the front of the house and that is by pouring diesel oil down their access holes. They do not like diesel and beat a hasty retreat in its presence. It is a very effective but perhaps pungent method of ridding an area of ants, however it is only a temporary measure. I lived in a house some years ago that had solid flooring, bitumen laid on concrete and we were pestered by ants coming indoors through cracks by the walls. One coat of diesel on the floor cured the problem until I was able to seal up the access points later. I have used some diesel in the rear garden but only on concrete surfaces. The real answer in keeping the pests down I suppose is to supply them with plenty of ant-killing foods that they will take back to their nests and see them off. At least I now know where to prepare a treat for them next year and fill in unwanted access holes in paving and stonework with cement mortar but where are the winged ones going?

Shirley Anne.