Ants in the House

ants Ants can be found in your home or outside throughout most of the year. It is in the spring and again in the fall when we tend to have the most problems with ants invading homes.

Ants will come out in the spring and in the fall and find their way into homes. In the spring they emerge early and have to find a place that is warm at night and has food. Many people do not realize where the ants are coming from, which can make control difficult. Ants will find any tiny crack in the foundation of your home or any holes around doors or windows to find their way into your home. Once inside, they become a real nuisance to our way of life. The most common house ants include the odorous house ants. These are very tiny ants that are reddish-brown to black and if you crush them they smell bitter. These are typically found all over homes especially in the kitchen.

Control of ants can be done through multiple techniques. If you can find the colony, the best control method would be to treat the colony. If you do not know where the ants are coming from and cannot locate the colony, you can still control them.

ants with bait

There are many bait stations that will work adequately to control ants found in your home. However, these are typically a dry, hard material that the ants do not like as well as other foods. The point of the bait station is to make it something that the ant likes to eat so they come to it, pick it up and bring it back to the colony, killing all of the ants including the queen. If they do not take the bait back to the colony, you will continue to have ant problems through the spring, summer, and fall. The best option for bait stations for ants is to use the liquid ant bait stations or simply use liquid ant baits on a piece of cardboard. This type of bait is more desirable than the hard baits.

During the spring of the year we start to see the flying reproductives of the ants as well as termite flying reproductives. The flying reproductives of both ants and termites usually come out in swarms and match up a male and female who will break off from their original colony to find a location and start a new colony. This situation always seems to frighten people because they are worried that these little flying things are termites and not ants. Termites can do a lot more damage to a home than an ant can. They both fly at about the same time in the spring and in the fall of the year.

Ants vs Termites Photo by U Ark Extension
Ants vs Termites
Photo by U Ark Extension

The differences between ants and termites include:

  • ants have elbowed antennae, termites have straight antennae
  • termites have 2 wings of similar size where the ants will have a smaller hind wing
  • ants have a constricted waist rather than the broad waste of the termite
  • If you are unsure of whether you have an ant or a termite, bring a couple into your local extension office for identification

Starting Seeds for Transplants

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We can now begin to think about starting seeds indoors for transplanting into our vegetable gardens when the weather warms up.  I know it is hard to imagine that we are that close to spring, but it will be here soon.  March is coming in like a lion so, hopefully it will go out like a lamb.

In March, we can start our transplants of many different types of vegetables for transplanting into our garden around Mother’s Day.  Count backward from Mother’s Day to determine when to start the plants indoors based on how long they need to grow prior to transplanting outdoors.  Below is a table showing germination ranges for common vegetable crops grown in Nebraska.

Based on Information from UNL Master Gardener Training Handbook
Based on Information from UNL Master Gardener Training Handbook

Good transplants begin with good care.  Start with good quality seed and a sterile soil or soil-less mixture.  You can start the seeds in the seed trays or other types of similar containers.  You can reuse pots or seed trays from previous years, just make sure all equipment has been cleaned thoroughly using a bleach mixture.  For growing media, you can use a potting soil, or a soil-less mixture that contains vermiculite, perlite, and/or peat moss.  Just make sure that the growing media is well-drained and has been moistened prior to planting into.

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Transplants need to be grown in favorable environmental conditions.  They need to be kept in temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Too cold or too warm and the seed may not germinate or the plants may grow leggy or improperly.  They need to have a light on the seeds and young plants for 12-16 hours a day.  This light should be kept only about 1 inch above the plants, as they grow, this light should be moved up with the seedlings.  This light source can be as simple and inexpensive as a utility light or shop light with one cool and one warm fluorescent bulb.  You can fertilize the seedlings weekly with a one-quarter strength, soluble fertilizer.  Do not fertilize the seedlings if they were allowed to dry out.  Replenish the moisture in the plants prior to applying fertilizer to avoid burning the seedlings.

Two weeks prior to planting outdoors in the garden, you will need to harden the plants.  This is the process of acclimatizing the plants to the outdoors prior to them being completely immersed in it.  Move the plants outdoors in the shade on non-windy days.  Start out by placing the plants in sun for only an hour or two, gradually increase the length of time they are in the sun and the intensity of that sun.  Be sure to still bring the plants indoors at night, especially if a frost is predicted.  Also, keep them out of direct wind until they have hardened off.

By the middle to the end of March, we can look to possibly start peas, potatoes and other cool season vegetables outside.  It is an old saying that you can plant peas and potatoes by St. Patrick’s Day, but that is only if the weather is favorable for that.  Check the weather outlook prior to planting these to ensure that it is going to be warm enough for these plants to not only germinate, but also stay alive.