While watching TV recently we noticed ants are now marching two by two across the floor. The occasional ant or insect doesn’t much faze us, it’s part of life. Hakuna matata. But we are now entering bug season and we’d like to stop them before they carry off the remote control. Then we’d be in a fix!

The problem is that with a new baby spending tummy time on the floor, we need to be a bit more careful about what we use to control the bugs.

Many of you would also prefer not to use poisons where you can help it. So with bug season underway, we thought it might be a good time for a pest issue.

A common method of control in the house is the ant trap, the idea being that ants find the bait, carry the poison back to the nest, destroying the colony. A bit more targeted than spraying an insecticide, but still a poison you may not want in your house. Plus, it’s a bit off-putting when you see an ant trap.

Another route for controlling ants is disrupting their trails. As ants forage, they leave a scent trail that others from the colony can follow to good food sources, like your corn flakes. Using something like oil soap on wood can disrupt the trail, although this will be an ongoing battle as new scouts rediscover your breakfast stash.

There are many products available that have plant oils as active ingredients. The most common are products that use cedar or juniper oils, but there are many other plant oils in use. These oils not only disrupt scent trails, but they actively repel many insects including cockroaches, mites, silverfish, spiders, and ants. The active deterrents mean you may not need to use these as often.

Insects, like the rest of us, are responsive to chemical cues from would-be mates. We’ve probably all been a bit confused by someone’s perfume or cologne, possibly contributing to regrettable decisions. And we’re a bit more intellectually sophisticated than cockroaches. A number of products use that confusion against insect pests, luring them into traps with pheromones usually secreted during mating. Look for glue traps that incorporate pheromones for household pests, but remember that these will be very specific. A trap designed for silverfish is not going to work on your ants or roaches.

Another strategy uses other hormones (not pheromones) to disrupt life cycles of specific pests. These insect growth regulators often prevent molting or other developmental processes in insects, preventing them from growing and reaching reproductive maturity. These are insect hormones, not poisons, and will not pose a risk to you, your toddler, or even your dog since shedding is not technically molting. Look for products containing Nylar, Precor, or Methoprene.

Good luck. We have to run now since the ants are making off with the good silver.

– Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor at Ryerson University; earthtones.metro@gmail.com.

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