by: Rita A. Leonard, If you can’t kill ’em, make ’em art. This large metal sculpture of an ant is on display in one of the decorative gardens at Oaks Amusement Park

Ants, bane of the picnicker, are with us once again. After the first few warm days of the season, the pesky critters invade our homes and gardens, or swarm like small piles of coffee grounds on the sidewalk. Most of us would like to get rid of them, but how?

Insecticides and home remedies abound, or you can even encourage a hungry flicker, a colorful member of the woodpecker family, to lick them up with its long tongue. Other ant inhibitors include rosemary leaves sprinkled about, and a protective chalk line scrawled as a barrier. ('Ants don't like to get chalk on their feet,' a friend alleges).

An employee at Kasch's Garden Center and Nursery, 2500 S.E. Tacoma Street at McLoughlin Boulevard, in Sellwood, recommends ant traps or ant stakes for home and garden. These traps entice ants to enter, where they pick up poison solution on their feet and bring it back to their nests. Apparently poison feels better than chalk on their toes. Within 3 or 4 days, the poison kills all the ants in the nest. 'It's not messy, although you should keep it away from pets and children,' she said. 'You may have to replace the traps after a while.'

Westmoreland True Value Hardware, 6505 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, advises an array of ant poisons for various indoor and outdoor uses: Sprays, traps, dust, granules, and liquid concentrates. Some are specifically for ants, and others also kill other pests, from fleas and spiders to grubs.

Consultants at the store say you should always read the entire product label, to ensure that you understand the directions and cautions. While some poisons either kill ants within 24 hours or have to be reapplied, others do a gradual job, lasting up to eight months. The recommended treatment for household ant problems, they say, is ant traps, which include several types--pre-baited, or bait-your-own.

On a lighter note, Oaks Amusement Park has its own share of ants, exemplified by a large metal sculpture of one in a decorative garden. A nearby concessionaire told us, 'The guys in the Maintenance Shop made it a couple of years ago. They keep making things out of scrap metal--I think they get bored in the winter.'

Our informant at the park went on to share her own success story of getting rid of ants: 'My husband has a foolproof method,' she says. 'He decided that they only come into the house because they want food, so he feeds them somewhere else outdoors, far from the house.

'It works! We haven't been bothered since.'

While ants can be annoying, you've got to admire their persistence.

On a literary note, children will enjoy reading the story 'Two Bad Ants,' by Chris Van Allsburg--an amusing tale with a twist.

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