Nature-friendly Exterminating

by Kevin Shank | Jul 28, 2021 | 0 comments

When big black ants began chewing the foam insulation that had been spray-applied to the ceiling of a storage barn, I was not pleased. I purchased a spray of some sort from a garden supply, pumped up a hand sprayer, and set out to kill the critters. I recognized a temporary benefit, but the carpenter ants soon came back. After several treatments, I pushed their memory out of my mind.

Now let’s fast-forward fifteen years. The trees around the shed have grown much taller. Limbs have spread over the roof, and some of them even rub on the shingles. Leaves have accumulated in the valley between the roof and the porch roof. They really ought to get blown off, I thought. Time kept ticking by.

One day I noticed water damage inside on the floor. Not good. Something really needed to be done. The shingles appeared to me to be in good shape, but something wasn’t right. An idea sparked.

Several days later, after sharing a picnic with extended family, I had my brother-in-law take a look. He is a roofer, and he would be able to give me advice.

“Well Kevin, you don’t even have a roof,” he said after peeling up a corner of the shingles. Plywood sheeting was nothing but a squishy mess, and could be raked out in “crumbs” by the handful. The trusses also appeared to be gone. A closer inspection revealed the damage was primarily confined to the bottom two feet of the trusses.

Carpenter ants, I learned, are not to be ignored. For years they had been chewing up wet wood, cutting galleries through the plywood sheeting and trusses of our shed. I could not readily see this, as the foam insulation had been hiding the wood.

Repairs included replacing the damaged trusses and sheeting, then, obviously, adding a new roof. Besides repairing the building, trees were removed. The extra sunlight on the building would be another benefit. By drying up the building in these ways, we removed a lot of ideal habitat for the ant colonies.

The colonies in our shed, I learned, were likely satellite colonies of ants living in nearby trees. The residue I referred to as “crumbs” is actually called “frass.” Carpenter ants don’t eat wood as do termites, because they cannot digest the cellulose. They just create a system of tunnels and build nests in it.

When an exterminator arrived, I was eager to learn all I could about controlling carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and termites. (Thankfully we didn’t find evidence of the latter.) To my surprise and delight, the product he applied for an initial treatment was not a nasty, harsh chemical as I was expecting. Unlike the home-owner bottle of stuff I purchased from a hardware store (that didn’t even seem to work), his spray was predominately essential oils—rosemary and peppermint oils, to be exact.

Allen uncovered a nest of carpenter ants while working on the shed roof during the time the exterminator was here spraying several buildings around our home. Here was a chance to see what his product could do, I reasoned.

Five or ten minutes after the ants were sprayed, I climbed up for another look. Dead ants were everywhere. Great!

Another clincher was when the exterminator told me, “That small hornet’s nest near your front door—a hornet headed out of it straight for me. But he didn’t get very far. He might have made it two feet, but then he hit the ground dead. This stuff really works.”

It’s been an education watching the exterminator treat these ants over the last while. Two weeks after the initial treatment, a follow-up visit consisted of applying both liquid and gel baits. On still another visit, an even different kind of bait was used. I was told the reason is that the overuse of a product may make the ants immune to it, losing its effectiveness.

While there are still a lot of things I do not know about pest control, I’ve learned enough to be concerned about the topic. There are additional buildings that should be maintained, and it’s much better to stay in front of a problem, than it is to play catch up.

As I considered sprayer options, looking for one that would fog a foundation as well as spray a stream twenty-five feet to a roof line, I was impressed by a sprayer that is manufactured just a few miles from our home. It has the unique feature of being a total drain system. You can easily spray ALL your product, and wash-up is a breeze. Its easily-customizable features expand its usefulness to include the lawn, garden, produce patch, fruit trees, and wildlife food plots. It can even be turned into a pressure washer if you wish. Other options include quick-attach/detach booms of various sizes, or boomless spray nozzles. It comes standard with a ten-foot spray hose, but a hose reel can be added for long hose lengths.

If you are looking for a sprayer and are like me, the idea of spraying the entire product through this total drain sprayer, not to mention the other customizable features, has significant appeal. I invite you to give me a call at 1-540-867-9516.

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