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Girls keen to help!So my war on slugs seems to have gone pretty well – hardly a nibble at all so far this year. I’d love to put it down to good practices such as getting in there early with the (organic approved) slug pellets and leaving pieces of wood out overnight then turning them over for the chickens to feast on the slugs in the morning; but deep down in my heart I know that it’s probably just as much to do with the cool, dry weather we’ve had.

One pest that relishes dry conditions is the ant. Specifically, the warm, dry conditions in the raised beds in the new greenhouse. Ants are a funny lot – pretty creepy actually. In some ecosystems they can make up to 25% of the biomass (ie the weight of living inhabitants) – that’s more than all the birds, mammals and fish put together! Because they work together so closely, they’re even termed ‘superorganisms’ – a whole colony working as if it were one being.

Telltale signs of ants
Telltale signs of ants

I have to admire their hard work and intelligence, but I definitely don’t want the little blighters in my greenhouse. They ‘farm’ greenfly, defending them against predators so they can suck the sap of plants, reducing their vigour and transmitting viruses. The ants are rewarded with a meal of sticky ‘honeydew’ – leftover plant sap excreted by the sated greenfly.

How to get rid of ants

After watching the ant colonies grow and grow, I knew it was time to do something about it. The clue to where the nests are is little piles of very finely-sieved soil which the ants remove from their underground burrows. My first reaction was to head down to the DIY store to buy some ant killer – but after researching the ingredients and seeing phrases like ‘toxic to bees’ and ‘highly toxic to aquatic life’ I thought again. The solution? You’ve probably got it already in your kitchen…

Nest under a tile used as a stepping stone
Nest under a tile used as a stepping stone

Vinegar. For 72p I bought two bottles of spirit vinegar, and poured them onto the nests over a couple of days. Whether it’s the acidity or the scent, I don’t know, but they definitely don’t appreciate it! Then I watered the beds thoroughly, drenching the soil. Ants aren’t able to build their nests in muddy conditions, so soon moved elsewhere. So far so good, barely an ant in sight and the tomatoes are growing like fury with all the extra water!

Please note that due to current EU legislation, the use of vinegar as an ant deterrent is suggested here for academic interest only.

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