Ant Whisper Solves Kitchen Ant Problem for Less, with Fewer Chemicals

By Trish Holder

Everything I know about ants I learned from a Pixar movie; that is until a few weeks ago when I met the Ant Whisperer.

The Ant Whisperer (my name for him) helped me solve an ant problem I had in my kitchen that had vexed me for the better part of July. Each morning as I stumbled for the coffee pot, I would invariably run upon a tribe of approximately 20 to 40 small dark brown ants congregated somewhere in my kitchen or adjoining dining area. They might be near the cat food….they might be on the counter…..they might be gathered around a small piece of a Dorito on the floor.

Not quite ready to call an exterminator, I started sweeping the kitchen floor each morning to gather up the 30 or so ants that were invariably there, douse them with bug spray, and put them in the trash, each time thinking how disappointed my readers would be at my casual use of pesticides.

In my defense, I have about 40 things to deal with first thing each morning before I sit down to my work desk around 7:30 AM. Nauseated cats, grumpy teenagers, and soccer jerseys that didn’t make it into the dryer the night before leave little time for earth friendly pest management first thing in the morning. I opted for the quick kill method and kept my fingers crossed that the problem would go away.

It didn’t. Finally, with a weekend vacation looming ahead and a deep-seeded fear of returning home to find my entire kitchen overrun with ants, I decided to seek outside help.

Pest Program Pushers
I made 3 phone calls to Greensboro pest control companies, the first of which was to a company that I use for crawlspace care on my home and a rental property. I got pretty much the same story from each company. “It’s very difficult to deal with an ant problem in just one visit – you’ll probably need to get on a regular program.”

That was disappointing to hear, especially since the prices quoted to me for the diagnosis and first treatment alone ranged from $150.00 to $195.00.

In a polite but direct way, I expressed my disappointment to the company with whom I already had a relationship. They had quoted the highest price of all, but countered twice, eventually beating the best price I’d received by a few dollars. And they let me talk to the chief pest guy (a.k.a. Ant Whisperer) about my specific problem on the phone before he came out.

I was prepared (though not happy) to spend $150.00 to solve this problem, but I wanted a real solution to specific ant problem – not a treatment contract. Insects have never been a problem in my home, which is still relatively new. I couldn’t help but feel like this was an isolated situation that could be dealt with more efficiently and less expensively.

Following the Pheromone Trail
The Ant Whisper arrived at my door early one morning a few days before we were to leave for vacation. I’d resisted performing my morning kill routine so he could see the live ants and make his determination. This is where it gets interesting.

First of all, I told the guy I was a little frustrated with the “modus operandi” of a company with whom I had faithfully used for several years. I believed the first price that gave was inflated, and I wasn’t crazy about the automatic suggestion of a regular treatment plan before anyone had actually performed any kind of inspection. Reading between the lines, I think he got the message that I was a loyal customer, but willing to go jump ship if I felt I wasn’t being treated fairly. So he made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. He offered to perform this one time service for free. And he proceeded to sleuth out my ant problem.

He was good. I was instantly impressed (and a little disgusted) when I watched him smash an ant on my kitchen floor with his index finger and then give it an inquiring sniff. Different types of ants have different smells, he explained. He also said that the type of ants I had in my kitchen, seemingly ravenous for breadcrumbs and Doritos, weren’t in my kitchen to eat. They were there to gather food to take back to the queen ant and the nest. Specifically they ingest what food they find into a built-in storage tank and return to the nest where they regurgitate it in order to feed the larvae. More than you wanted to know, I’m sure, but knowing this was helpful in figuring out where these ants were coming from. The Ant Whisperer caught site of one ant hefting a crumb into a crack between the baseboard and from there deduced the general area of the nest.

Ants leave a pheromone trail, he said, that communicates the path to food to others in the nest. I imagine this coded message read something like this, “Mayday!! Mayday!! These people eat way too many carbs and are oblivious to whatever they drop on the floor!”

Next, the Ant Whisperer when outside to inspect the perimeter of the home, where he noted ants entering and exiting at the base of a post on the back porch at the southeast corner of our home, next to the kitchen dining area.

I pointed out some other ants further down the porch but he looked skeptical.

“Nah. That’s not the same type ant in your kitchen,” he said, smashing one and giving it a sniff for good measure.

The Ant Whisperer was pretty resolute about the point of entry. He speculated they were entering in at the base of the post and had made a path through the infill that lay beneath our stamped concrete porch. He sprayed a few puffs of a white powder insecticide into the post area and in a spot or two nearby.

“Call me if that doesn’t do it,” he said.

The whole thing took about 20 minutes, and that was with me slowing him down and asking questions.

Is a Pest Program Really Necessary?

That was about one month ago and I haven’t seen one ant in my house since – and we’re still eating Doritos and dropping plenty on the floor.

What’s the moral of the story? First, don’t be afraid to question the price or approach of a pest management company if you feel like your patronage is being overlooked or your problems generalized. Second, don’t assume you need a regular treatment program if you have an isolated pest problem.

A seasoned pest professional may be able to pinpoint the problem, which means you pay less and use fewer chemicals. And if you are lucky enough to find a pest management company that starts out with this approach before they start selling you on a treatment plan – they may very well be your best partner in pest prevention.

14 Responses »

  1. So what was the white powder?

    I’ll tell my pest people to use it also.

    • I don’t know! I asked, but I can’t remember if he answered with the exact name. Seems like I was left wondering. And I was okay with that — I didn’t want him to think I was going to go try and buy it myself. He did us a special applicator, with a long nose to get in crevices. It may have been more of a white powdery mist.

    • The white powdery substance was probably boric acid found in Home Depots, WalMarts or hardware stores. Cheap and effective and one container will last forever! I’ve mixed it with grape jelly and left a dab where I’ve seen ants. They like the jelly so are attracted to it, then eat it and carry it home, boric acid and all. Voila. Bye bye ants.

  2. Ok, so if the ant whisperer was so great and cured the problem ,can you post the name of the company so others can patronize them ??? Great story!

    • I would…. but my paying advertisers might object. Our current policy at Greenspiration Home is that we only mention company names or brands in our blogs on very specific occasions. These include some features we do after attending trade shows and our American Made Pick-of-the-Week, which focuses on decor. Keep in mind the information shared in the blog when evaluating potential pest control companies — and that will give you a leg up on finding a reliable, honest company in your own area.

  3. NC requires that a service ticket be left with you stating product used, how much, target pest & more. Sounds like he used a pesticide dust, and if that’s all that was used, your ants will be back. One can sniff ants all day, but without using a product that will eliminate the colony the problem isn’t really solved. When I treat for ants I give a minimum 6 month guarantee. Did you get any kind of guarantee?

    • Considering he didn’t charge me for the call or the service, I think I may have been pushing it asking for a guarantee. :o)

    • So, in the end here, is there a green solution? I have ants!!

      I use a green pest company, and I need to give them a call about my ants anyway. I can post if I learn of an amazing solution….

      Allison

      • Allison — I would love it if you would contact me about your problem and how the solution goes — good and bad. Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten a few notes from so folks disappointed that I used chemicals at all. :o)

        • Ok, so I called my green pest folks (I think I saw a note about not using company names? But I like them!). And I am hoping they would be willing to post on their own once they come on Friday, because I am not an expert! But like all things where you want to do the right thing and the green thing, there’s no one easy answer. Or maybe not an easy answer.

          I learned that you can “repel” ants with a few green solutions, but sensibly if you are dropping food all the time, it may come down to a choice between the kids dropping the food and the ants? Just kidding, sort of. First, we have to try to drop less. If we want to repel, there are a few things we can try (a few oils, and one I don’t know how to spell). And these may work for a few weeks. Again, I hope to let him post his ideas directly.

          You don’t want to go crazy and start spraying chemicals and clearing the house of people and such, but there maybe ways to spot treat, to get into a particular crack or crevice area with a tiny bit. And maybe there’s greener bait we can use, though I am not sure. But bait may be safer for the family, at least.

          The key thing, as you did, is to ask questions and make clear you want greener and healthier solutions, to the extent reasonable and possible. So I think we may spot treat and maybe try some of the oils – and drop less, and I need to seal up better the spot they seem to be coming in from consistently. We kind of have a lot of ants, and they seem to be able to find a Fruit Loop FAST. So I need to do “something,” as you did, too.

          I think it’s also important to have the right person – who will listen and not just come in with some alien looking chemical blaster. Green solutions often take a little more effort and listening, but I know we agree it’s worth it.

          Allison

          • Thanks for your comment, Allison. I’d love for you to share your experience with green pest control! Won’t be able to let the contractor post though — or name his company. It is against our editorial policy.

  4. I agree with Jeff Johnston. In Australia, white powder is usually a permethrin based insecticide. This will have no impact on the ant nest. The ants are likely to make a new trail around the treated areas. Ants, being social insects, living in colonies, will do what they can to protect the nest. Insecticides like permethrin (if that is what was used) kill too quickly. The ants realise that their relatives are dying and so abandon that area. In my opinion, slow acting poisons that have to be metabolised by the insect (such as duPont’s Advion) provide a greener, less hazardous, more effective solution, especially when used as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program. [ Our company has been specialising in low hazard and non-chemical solutions since 1983.]

    • Hi Nicholas,

      How soon do you think they will return? Cooler weather is starting to set in in North Carolina and rarely do ant problems occur in the fall and winter around here — at least in my experience. I’m happy to report that we’re about 5 weeks out from the treatment and the ants have not returned — yet. But this is my third home and I know that any problems tend to come and go.

  5. What I like about your story having been in the pest control industry for 25 plus years is that the Ant whisperer
    ( what a great name) seems to have impressed you with a sense of professionalism,( I hope), and personality different than you normally see nowadays. He actually enjoys his job. My philosophy is the same as his about customer service. Except the price changing based on your complaining,. We aren’t car salespeople (no offense car guys). What he used was either delta dust or boric acid. And contrary to some previous posts. They both will affect the colony when applied properly. The key to ant control is find the source. In our industry the old philosophy was 1 ounce is good 2 ounces is better. And if the chemical stunk bad it worked well. We have changed for the better and now we practice IPM procedures. Integrated Pest Management. The philosophy is to affect the pest population while protecting you and the environment. I have found the majority of the so called green products are over priced and ineffective If you search for the source and alter the pests triangle of life ( kind of like Lion king Hakuna Matata). Any insect or other type of pest needs three things to survive. Food source , Moisture and Harborage( place to live). If you affect one of these three items, you will reduce if not eliminate the problem. The best products that I have found for the types of ants you had (odorous House Ants, they smell like coconut when crushed) thus the sniffing. Inside use Advion ant bait Gel. Outside use Termidor.. If you clean up around the home, mulch leaf clutter boards any thing that sets on the ground and keeps moisture there. This will affect the living area of the pest and Termidor will contact the ants as tehy forage and trail.They will transfer the termidor to the colony by contact and the Advion will be passed by mouth. One treatment if done properly will give you season long control. Probably should consider treatments either annually or twice a year.

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