Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bugged and Buzzed

True confession: For the past few weeks I've been waging war against little black ants in my kitchen.

I've put down diatomaceous earth on their trails and around the house. I've scattered the Amdro ant block baits here and there.

And there's a lot fewer than there were, but by ones and twos, I still have them.

And then, out in my vegetable garden, I have some sort of hornet or wasp or bee infesting my cobblestone paving. They're there every year, from June to September, at least. I see more and more holes in the sand between the stones, and even so holes in the garden soil itself. These insects seem to be rather aimless and daft, buzzing in circles a few inches to a foot above the pavement, especially when it's sunny and bright. They don't like rain, or even shade, and go in when it's cloudy or wet.

Me, I go in when they're out. I don't want to risk weeding or cultivating or harvesting while they're up and active.

So between the ants and the hormuts, I called in an exterminator today to see what I needed to do.

Guy comes this noon. Call him Bert*. Checked out the ant problem in the kitchen (didn't see any at the time, but I let him know what I see). Out in the backyard, Bert* makes a beeline (lol!) for my woodpile, next to the wood board fence. Oh, fun, here's a problem I didn't anticipate: I have carpenter ants in the woodpile. Yeah, I saw one. Yeah, they're bad news for wood, and saying I have a brick house doesn't make me immune. Or the neighbors, either.

Carpenter ants have to be dealt with, regardless. And the pile has powderpost beetles, too.

Bert* the exterminator guy looks at my hornet problem in the vegetable garden. Says, "That's ground bees."

Says, "It'll be $225 to get rid of the carpenter ants, and another $50 for the kitchen ants and the ground bees. Then we'll come back every thirty days until winter, then pick up again next spring, for six more applications at $78 each."

Bert's* a nice guy. Buys a couple of my green Brandywine tomatoes off me. But we're definitely into "get a couple more estimates" territory. I tell him I'll let him know: I have to finish killing the spurge in the garden paving and unloading the woodpile onto my friend Steve* (who has a thing for burning wood outside) before anything can be done, anyway.

I call exterminator guy No. 2. Ernie* arrives about an hour after Bert* leaves. Ernie* does get a keek at the ants in the kitchen: "Those are Pharaoh ants. They're unusual around here." But he tells me how he can be a modern chemical Moses, driving the forces of Egypt into the Red Sea, or at least out of my house.

Out we go to the backyard. Ernie* sees evidence of the powderpost beetles in the woodpile. Doesn't see the carpenter ants. I tell him I definitely have seen them, so he has to take my word for it.

We look at the vegetable garden. Ernie* takes a look at the hovering creatures and says, "You have solitary wasps. Look at all the holes. They're really difficult to get rid of."

Ernie's* also a nice guy. I put him in touch with a man I know who keeps bees, since he often has to call on local beekeepers to come remove honeybee colonies, since by law he's not allowed to exterminate them. Ernie says he'll take care of it all for $100, plus $25 if a follow-up visit is needed. "But it shouldn't be."

Now I'm confused. Bert* seems very confident, and wants to charge me a total of $743 over the next nine or ten months, and Ernie* says it'll be difficult but tells me $125 over two applications will take care of it.

And ground bees or solitary wasps or ground-nesting hornets, what do I have?

So I take up the Yellow Pages and call yet another exterminator. I put in my name, and a couple hours later, I get a call from Grover*. He's coming late tomorrow morning. But over the phone, he figures it won't run more than $200 to deal with it all.

However. The kitchen ants, Pharaoh, suger, or little black, we wants dem gone. Ditto their carpenter cousins. But the winged critters in the vegetable garden-- I need to find out exactly what they are.

Because when I look up "ground bees" and "solitary wasps" on the Internet, I've told a) they're harmless to people; neither of them sting unless you step on them or bottle them in your hand; b) they're essential for pollination and to keep down harmful insects; and c) one should let them alone and coexist with them.

Okay . . . but what if I do have some kind of nasty, vicious hornet out there?

Maybe I should get my friend who keeps bees to come take a look, before I do anything at all.


Elaine said...

I once heard that ants really don't like magnets - that if you put one in their path, they'll all simultaneously turn around and vacate. Maybe that's worth a shot?

Have you called Big Bird yet?

Kate H. said...

Oh, is that why they're avoiding my refrigerator door!

Sandy said...

Oh, Kate, you are SO funny! I laughed so hard at your comment to Elaine!

I have ants up the wazoo because my house is built on the ground, and I'm pretty sure the slab is built on top of a gazilliion ant hills. I have never had an exterminator because I'm afraid the stuff they spray inside and out will hurt my girls. So I just fight them with WD-40, Skin-So-Soft and ant traps.... Sigh.