Ants
Ants as depicted in “The New Students Reference Work.”

In the past few weeks the ants have come out in force. I have a feeling my cat Izzy is taking care of most of them but I did some research as to how to prevent or get rid of ants once you have them. I found these tips in “The Country Gentleman,” August 10, 1912. The part about boiling seems a bit medieval, so for me personally, I’ll stick to the oil trick.

The Summer Pantry Pest

by Marion Still

The greatest summer pest of the pantry is undoubtedly the red ants. They manage to get into everything unless provision is made to rout them before they gain a good foothold. Though they usually appear in the most provoking quantities during August, they also frequently make the hot July days a burden to the careful housewife. In country homes where sugar, flour, and so on, are kept in quantities they prove especially troublesome. Few things are more discouraging to the housewife than the discovery of red ants in the sugar barrel.

The best preventive, when taken in time, is the oil-cup method. A square frame on which to stand the sugar barrel or, better still, an oblong frame of the right dimensions to support two barrels, may be made to stand only two or three inches from the floor, supported by four or six wooden feet, according to the size of the frame. To support the frames for heavy barrels these stout feet should be low and broad, and under each one should be placed a sardine can, or the tight, well-soldered end of any fruit can that has been cut off with a can opener about an inch from the bottom. Instead of filing these small receptacles with water, as is usually recommended for routing insects and keeping them from climbing upon the supports into the barrels, fill them with oil, or put a little in the bottom of each. It will be impossible for the ants to pass through the oil to reach the supports and climb upon the frames.

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In the same manner a small table of the right size to fit within the pantry may have it’s four legs set in the little homemade oil cups. Shelves securely nailed beneath the square or oblong table will accommodate the cooky jar and various pies and puddings, besides the regular articles of food on top of the pantry table. By following this simple precaution the entire contents of the table and its various shelves will be perfectly safe from the troublesome pests. Oil in the cups will not dry out like the water, but when once arranged in the early summer will last during the entire season.

When the oil-cup precaution has not been taken in time, or when the ants have gained a foothold on pantry shelves and other places not easily protected, more tedious processes must be resorted to; but there are several that will prove to be good cures. The damp-sponge method is the favorite cure of one practical housewife of my acquaintance. When any ants from the tiny, red, slow-moving pests to the big, black active fellows, make their appearance during the summer she dips a big sponge in water and squeezes it slightly until it is thoroughly wet all through but not dripping. Sugar is then sprinkled into the pores of the sponge until it is thoroughly sweet and sticky. It is then placed on a plate in the pantry or food closet. Any ants that may be lurking about soon find their way to the big mass of sticky sweetness and proceed to enjoy their new quarters. When the sponge is well filled with the pests it is quickly dropped into a pan of boiling water. It may be necessary to shake the dead ants from the sponge and reset the trap several times before the pantry is entirely free from the pest; but with a little patience it will prove a sure cure.

One thought on “How to prevent the spread of red ants

  1. Good timing on this article, Kerry. We’ve just noticed them in our upstairs bathroom (UGH). They are such a nuisance! (
    I’ve never heard of that solution.)

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