Well, it’s that time of year again. The sugar ants are coming! The question about whether killing them is acceptable or not comes up very often in Dharma classes. The short answer is ‘No’, of course, since they are sentient beings. The insect that you crushed driving your car going to work this morning could have been your mother in a previous life. In our area, sugar ants generally hang out with us from April to early fall giving us many opportunties to practice patience. Following a true “no kill” policy can be very time consuming once the ants are indoors.
So here are a couple of quick tips to get your home prepared before they arrive based on the number one rule: Prevention First.
- Say a lot of prayers — the ants are a manifestation of our own karma. If we didn’t have the karma to attract ants, the ants wouldn’t be with us. I have strange bug karma, quite often I seem to be accompanied by an entourage of flies, bees, ants or other bugs.
Buy a tube of sealing compound and seal everywhere — cracks around the windows, the window molding, underneath cupboards, around the door.
Make sure there’s at least a couple of feet between the side of your house and any plants (bushes etc.) because ants can easily crawl up them.
Obviously,don’t open your storm windows and don’t open the windows if that’s going to let them into your home.
Be careful bringing plants into the house, they might contain ants’ nests.
If you have pets that need to have access to food during the day, try to float the food bowls in large trays of water. Ants can swim short distances, so the “moat” should be as wide as possible. If you have bird cages, put trays of water under each wheel, don’t leave bowls of fruit and veggies out during the day.
Clean everywhere — the crumbs inside the toaster, under the counter, mop the floor to eliminate the scent of food.
Get in the habit of washing the dishes immediately.
Put away containers of sugar, candy, rice, etc. Ants are amazing, they can chew through zip lock bags and cardboard boxes, and they can even crawl into plastic food storage containers. Discard all that old food lurking in the corners of the cupboard. To be on the safe side, store food in the fridge or freezer. Anything sweet — chocolate syrup, pancake syrup, cooking supplies, honey has to be in the fridge. I’ve even found ants in my salt shaker!
If you have an in-sink garbage disposal unit, find a plug so you can cover it when the sink is not in use. Use baking soda to deodorize it.
Take the trash out immediately, never leave it in the kitchen.
Other remedies — rumored to work, but I haven’t had too much luck: cayenne pepper, cumin.
Spray the inside of the windows with insecticide — my feeling is that the spray smells bad and scares the ants away rather than killing them. I hope that’s true.
If you do end up with ants in your home despite your best prevention efforts, you should say many, many purification prayers and also prayers for the ants. In addition, you have basically two choices: 1) put up with them until the fall — and that means sweeping them off the counter and table every time you want to cook or eat, cleaning them out of the sink before you turn on the water, sweeping the floor, etc., 2) this is controversial — put down some ant traps on the premise that killing a few early on in the season and preventing them from establishing colonies indoors is better than accidentally killing more later. Once they build nests, they are very difficult to deal with and you will probably end up killing more of them even unintentionally.
Then say prayers that you will become fully Enlightened immediately so that you can truly help rescue all sentient beings from samsara.
How do you cope with ants? Please share your ideas.