Creepy craft day

Have we mentioned our ant problem? Oy. After two years living aboard absolutely bug free we were infested at the marina in Panama when teeny tiny ants crawled up our docklines, across the deck, around the cabin top and took up residence in all sorts of hidden places in the boat.


Since then we’ve seen the critters in ones and twos but never in a big swarm. They didn’t migrate into the food cupboards, thank goodness, but show up in all sorts of weird illogical locations, like right in the middle of a just-cleaned dining table, or along the dashboard in the cockpit. With only one or two at a time it’s impossible to find where they’re nesting, and besides, Google University tells me these ants have multiple queens and the colonies spread out and multiply when a queen and some workers head out on their own for new horizons. Great.

In the Galapagos and here in Costa Rica the only pest eradication products available in the stores target cockroaches and rats, neither of which we have, knock on wood. My Costa Rican family recommended rice and cinnamon. Ground-up rice sprinkled in the most likely places is supposed to be tasty to the ants but when they take it back to the nest it eventually develops a fungus that kills them. The cinnamon is supposedly distasteful to them so we’re to sprinkle it in all the places we don’t want ants.

We dutifully ground rice in the coffee grinder and sprinkled it everywhere inside and out. I sprinkled cinnamon in the kitchen cupboards even though the ants really never went there. After a few days the rice grit everywhere started to annoy us and the ants never seemed to pay any attention to it. We need to take serious action.

Every source I consult for pest control advice recommends boric acid. I don’t know exactly what it is except that boric acid ointment was my pre-depression-era mother’s go-to remedy for what ails you. We are desperate and decided to give it a try. On our produce run yesterday we stopped at a pharmacy and bought two 50 gram bags of boric acid powder and consulted the Google for procedure.

We learned that some ants are attracted to sugar, some to fat. We suspected ours are not the ones with the sweet tooth because they didn’t go for the pantry but we are determined to lick this problem once and for all. We made two kinds of ant traps. For the sweet ones we mixed boric acid and sugar and water, soaked little cotton pads and set them on foil squares. As I prepared the traps Jack set them out all over the boat in the places we remember regularly seeing an ant or two. He reported no takers, which was no surprise.

For the others I mixed boric acid powder into peanut butter, then stuffed it into half-inch long pieces of plastic drinking straws. Almost as soon as Jack set them out the ants came swarming from places we never suspected they could be hiding. As we watched we could finally follow their trail back and forth and got an inkling of where the nests might be, although they are completely inaccessible, as you can imagine on a boat. These ants are so tiny they crawl behind the teak trim around the cabinetry and disappear; they’re not inside or outside the cabinet, just inside the trim. No wonder we couldn’t find them.

After an hour or so the parades slowed, then stopped altogether. The sugar traps remain untouched. We’re holding our breath and we’ll see where we are in a day or two. We’ll keep you posted.

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