HERB - LONG. The truth about roaches and ants

hornburg amy lynn aheilvei at ux1.cso.uiuc.edu
Sat Sep 2 11:10:11 PDT 2000

Greetings from Bogdan de la Brasov, husband to Despina de la Brasov (a
lurker on this list)!  I was sitting in the office studying for my prelims
(I'm a PhD student in Entomology) and I heard Despina reading some of the
messages about insects.  I have a few comments...
1) Blatteria Americana (American Cockroach, the big one.  This also goes
for the small brown banded and the medium sized German cockroach, the only
three we get) does not carry any diseases.  It is true that if you have
diseased meat laying around and it walks through it, the bacteria and
whatnot can be transferred to other surfaces, however if you keep a
reasonably clean house this is not an issue.  The closest it comes to
carrying a disease (to which humans are susceptible) is that the hairs can
break off the legs and cause allergies in Asthmatics, but this is only if
there is a high density of cockroaches.  As my IPM (Integrated
Pest Management) professor liked to say... If you have a roach problem and
aren't in an apartment you need to clean better.  Having lived in an
apartment, I found that if there is no food then there are no roaches.
Roaches do like dogfood though.  That's what we feed the Madagascar
hissing cockroaches in the lab.

2) Borax, sugar, bullion, Boric acid all work.  The reason is this
(something we learned from the Egyptians who were doing this 6,000 years
ago): Small, dry particles abrade the waxy layer on the outside of the
insects, causing them to die from water loss through their "skin."  I
wouldn't use sugar with the ants, as it will work as an alternate food
source.  The Egyptians used sand.  Even put it in with their bags of grain
(if you sift your flour it isn't a problem).  I personally like sand
better as a deterent, as it is easy to clean up, does no damage to the
environment in the amounts you should be using, is cheap, and doesn't
provide nutriment for the insects.  

3) If the ants are large, black ones (carpenter) you may not be able to
get rid of them that easily, as they like rotting wood.  The pepper is a
good idea.  It is true that ants follow scent trails to food.  The closer
to the nest and the better the food source, the stronger the smell of the
scent trail.  The CHEAPEST and EASIEST TO APPLY (including vertical
surfaces) is white vinegar.  If you are strewing herbs (as herbs are the
nature of this list) around the outside of your house, you should use
tansey.  It is strong, yet nice smelling,  and can be used in the
preparation of period egg dishes, such as tanseyed eggs (Mentioned in a
few 15th century sources).    For indoors, liquids are nice as they are
easy to apply to vertical surfaces.  Don't use lemonjuice, as it has sugar
in it.

4) using citric acid will not result in having the foragers being eaten by
the colony, however this will happen irregardless if you have multiple

5) a simple (and fun for kids) way of seeing the effect of strong smelling
herbs on the scent trail can be done without any scent.  Take a jar of jam
(or honey) that has dripped down the side.  When an ant comes and tastes
it, wait till it leaves and then rotate the jar.  the ant will go around
in cirlces till it finds the trail again.

6) Don't buy ant baits.  Most ants are actually repelled by the
"attractant" and they just don't work.  Saw a neat study out of Purdue
about this one.

7) Last, but not least, a few other things to think about.  Vaccuum
cleaners work well.  little children with napkins work well (squish,
squish...).  The vaccuum cleaner is good for spiders, earwigs and all
sorts of insects.  Children love to squish bugs (free entertainment
without the TV).  Collect some of the foragers.  Put them in a container
with some sand.  If they are away from the queen long enough they should
develop into sexual forms and you can have an ant farm.  If that doesn't
work, but you find the colony, grab the winged ants.  Then you can have an
ant farm.  Of course, the most effective way to deal with this resource
involves a piece of wax paper, some cream and some Godiva chocolate.  
Heat the chocolate and the cream together.  Drop in the ants.  Let dry on
the wax paper.  The formic acid provides a sweet tang to counter the
sugar-sweet of the chocolate. (Of course hairspray and a crem broulette
torch work really well too.  Ants hate being caught on fire...)

Hope this helps clear up some of the confusion.

Cu drag,
Bogdan de la Brasov
MKA Jeff Heilveil, M.S. Entomology
Dept. Entomology, University of Illinois

Amy L. H. Heilveil
Program Coordinator 
Local Government Education
905 S. Goodwin, Urbana,  IL    61801 
Phone: 217/244-3735 
Fax: 217/244-7877 
e-mail: aheilvei at uiuc.edu 

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