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Q&A with Handy Mac: Tackling an infestation

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Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues

When I was on Cape Talk the other day, a woman called and asked about an infestation of ants. This week Maureen sent the following question with a photo.

Q: Hi Don. Any idea what these are? They appear microscopic, black, ant-like and to be coming out of the foundations. They now seem to have developed into worms.

A: I am not a myrmecologist (someone who studies ants) so I have done a bit of digging on this subject, including asking my friends on Facebook. “Causes of ants: The most common reason that ants invade is because they have found access to sugars and uncovered foods.

“When they do, they go back to their nest, send a message to other workers, and suddenly swarms of these ants will come into your house to pick up food for the rest of their colony.”

It seems the reason why an army of ants suddenly appeared is because you did not see the scout ants. They make the decision together. Ants are hugely industrious and determined to survive, as you probably know. They love to chew up moist wood and build their roadway tunnels throughout a building.

Mrs Mac and I and have stopped buying loose sugar. We seldom use sugar anyway so we buy it in sachets which we store in a sealed jar. We also freeze any leftover food to ensure we don’t end up with maggots in the bin, Our ant infestation has stopped, but they do go everywhere in search of food.

We have even had then coming out of the water dispenser which is part of our fridge. I have looked at the best way to get rid of ants, but need to be careful as I have been in trouble before for suggesting cruel methods.

The following are the best natural remedies I could find.


One of the home remedies to get rid of ants is to use chalk. Chalk contains calcium carbonate and it appears ants will not cross a line of chalk.

Lemons or (oranges)

Squeeze a lemon or place lemon peels in places where the ants enter. You can also wash your floors with water containing lemon juice. Pepper or salt will deter ants if you place it at entry points.

White vinegar

Ants can’t bear the smell of white vinegar. Prepare a solution of equal amounts of water and white vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil to it and shake well. Store this solution and sprinkle it where the ants come in.

Fran sent me the following on Facebook: “The ‘worms’ are maggots. I bet there is a flip bin right there, with old chicken bones in it. The flies get to the bones, and the maggots hatch. “They are a favourite food for those tiny ants which come in their tens of thousands to carry the maggots back to their nest in the skirting or under fitted cupboards. “I always freeze bones and toss them out on rubbish collection day.”

If you have a question for Don, send it to or SMS only to 0824463859. 


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