Q: Since the weather has become warmer, ants are invading us. They seem to be everywhere! What can we do to keep them out of the house?
A: There are many species of ants that reside in southern California, but one of the most unpleasant is the Argentine ant (Linepethema humile). As the name implies, this is an invasive non-native species, so it has no significant natural enemies here. Unlike native ant species, Argentine colonies will not fight each other, so they tend to form extremely large supercolonies.
Argentine ants are small (3 mm), so they can enter containers and spaces that would be inaccessible to other insects. They build their nests outdoors on shallow mounds and will protect aphids and scaly insects that produce honeydew from predators.
In warmer climates, they form trails and invade interior spaces in search of an easy meal. Most of the time they look for sugar, but in the spring, during the breeding season, they also look for protein.
Use a sponge and soapy water to clean the trails inside. Thoroughly clean any spillage, clean countertops and any trace of stickiness. Remove infested houseplants. Spraying ants will not stop an invasion and can make it difficult to determine where a trail comes from.
Focus on excluding access to your home. Trim trees, shrubs and other plants near your home. Identify and cover the entrance holes with caulking or petroleum jelly. Place bait stations or ant stakes outside, preferably before activity increases. Sugar baits that contain 1% boric acid will eventually kill a colony. The low concentration of boric acid will not kill worker ants immediately, but will allow them to live long enough to share the bait with their nest mates, hoping to kill the entire nest.
Alternatively, baits containing fipronil or hydramethylnon are effective in early spring when ants look for protein.
Inner baits are generally not effective as a durable solution.
Q: I received some questions about the skunk odor neutralizer recipe, so here is more information.
A: In case you missed it, the recipe to neutralize the smell of skunk is:
1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
Mix the ingredients immediately before using them, as the solution loses effectiveness quickly. Do not use a container with a lid because the peroxide will produce gas bubbles and may burst a sealed container. Do not dilute before using. After treatment, rinse thoroughly and prevent the solution from entering your eyes (or those of your dog). If you have any leftover solution, dilute with plenty of water before pouring it down the drain.
I have not tried this solution in cat urine, but many commercial urine neutralizers contain hydrogen peroxide, so it will probably work. As always, if used on cloth, try in a small and poorly visible place before treating a larger area.
Do you have gardening questions? Email [email protected]
Looking for more gardening tips? Here we show you how to get in touch with the Master Gardener program in your area.
Los Angeles County
[email protected]; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/
[email protected]; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/
[email protected]; 951-683-6491 ext. 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/
San Bernardino County
[email protected]; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/