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Lawn Care Phase XII: Starvation Bait

An end to poisons
  (+3, -1)
(+3, -1)
  [vote for,

I love a nice lawn, and there was a time when I had no problem throwing chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides at it to get the results I wanted. Years ago, though, I decided this practice must in some way be bad for the environment, and it obviously couldn’t be healthy for humans or pets (diazinon - *cough*). Every year since, I’ve worked towards eliminating these substances, while preserving thick, green grass.

Now it is, well, a collection of implemented half-baked ideas; The ones that worked, that is.

One lawn is composed of a modified strain of Zoysia Japonica, which is so invasive it chokes out everything else, including crabgrass and weeds. The downside to this lawn, the family agrees, is that it isn’t as "barefootable" as "normal people’s" lawns. So, the "happy feet" lawn is Kentucky Bluegrass, which grows thick enough to resist weeds, but not crabgrass.

To fertilize both lawns I mist them with kerosene and torch them before they turn green in spring (the neighbors love this). This approach is based on my observation that the grass grows greener where the bonfire was. This process also de-thatches and *apparently* cooks the crabgrass before it hatches.

For grubs, Bacillus popilliae has been added to the soil. This stuff is great. The spores multiply inside the grubs, killing them, then lay dormant in the soil for up to 15 years, waiting to attack.

I no longer need nasty chemical fertilizers, crabgrass killers, weed killers, or grub killers. What I do need is something for ants. I’ve been using outdoor ant stakes, which are poison baits. The ants take the bait back to the nest, share it, and die. These work great, and don’t use large quantities of poison, but kids like them because they look like little UFO toys, so they have to go anyway, never mind my poison-free endeavor.

Introducing Starvation Baits:

An improvised starvation bait housing is made from an upside-down plastic deli container with a lid. A small plastic (take-out) salad dressing cup is glued to the underside of the lid, such that it is facing up when the deli container is upside-down. Holes are drilled in the deli container near the lid so the ants can come and go, but the rain wont get in.

The cup is filled with sucralose, a non-caloric sweetener made from sugar. The reason it’s considered non-caloric is that it can’t be broken down like sucrose. It can’t be metabolized, therefore it has no calories.

The ants can feast on these tasty offerings all they like, guide other ants to it as ants do, and of course, feed the queen. All will starve.

No more poisons.

Shz, Mar 08 2005

Experimental results http://www.janethul...nd-the-cola-can.php
(ok, not exactly unbiased) [Worldgineer, Mar 08 2005]

Stubble burning results http://www.dpiwe.ta...es/TPRY-5Z527L?open
not good [FarmerJohn, Mar 09 2005]


       Ummm...... BONFIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!   

       I like fire.   

       Flamethrower weed remover?
DesertFox, Mar 08 2005

       1. Why do you need something for ants? 2. If kids take the UFOs, what will they do with cups full of sweet stuff?   

       If you are adding bacillus to your lawn because of grubs, you should do an experiment with predatory nematodes. I suspect they will destroy ant larvae but I have no proof. They are sold to destroy beetle larvae (grubs) and I discovered they also destroy fly larvae (maggots). I must say, since adding them to my lawn there are many, many fewer ants around.
bungston, Mar 08 2005

       Do ants go for Sucralose? It happens to taste sweet to us, but that's no reason to say it would taste like sugar to an ant.
Basepair, Mar 08 2005

       //Why do you need something for ants?//   

       I need something to keep ants outside. They don’t do much damage to the lawn, if that’s what you’re asking, but they’re a problem that needs be dealt with in the yard.   

       //If kids take the UFOs, what will they do with cups full of sweet stuff?//   

       They are less likely to disturb something that doesn’t resemble a toy.
They are unaware of the contents.
Most importantly, the contents are harmless, should they be discovered.

       I don’t know if bacillus destroys ant larvae either. I’ve been using it for 6 years and have always needed the poison baits to control ants. It is possible that the bulk of the ants do not live in the lawn. The lawn with the most visible ants is in a pine forest, so they could be coming from anywhere. This idea maintains the mechanism behind outdoor baits, which is to let the ants approach your house, grab what they want, and take it away with them so they don’t have to search for food inside the house. Sending them away with tainted goodies reduces the number of ants in the vicinity, be they in the lawn, or elsewhere. It’s a vast improvement over trying to kill them directly with diazinon, etc.   

       As for experimenting first; I have no insects to play with - one of the beautiful things about winter. This idea is simple and inexpensive enough that I’m just going to go live with it this spring and see what happens. Thought I’d throw the idea out there for feedback first (thanks), because after all, it is halfbaked.   

       I don’t know what sucralose tastes like to an ant. My inspiration for this idea is a box of Splenda sweetened cereal that spilled on the deck last summer. The ants swarmed it. I’m guessing it wasn’t the soy and wheat ingredients that made it so attractive to them.
Shz, Mar 08 2005

       What kinds of ants are these? If you have winter I would guess they are not fire ants or argentine ants.
bungston, Mar 08 2005

       Had to look up the actual names:
Pavement Ants - Tetramorium caespitum Linnaeus
Cherry Acrobat Ants - Crematogaster Cerasi Fitch

       Almost never have I seen a red ant here.
Shz, Mar 08 2005

       Interesting link [World]. I don’t think I can draw any conclusions from it, though, because sucralose is made from sugar, aspartame is not.
Shz, Mar 09 2005

       //Almost never have I seen a red ant here//   

       You really wouldn't want to[Shz], they usually bring their thousends of family members and tear the place to pieces.
skinflaps, Mar 09 2005

       Why not just leave the anys alone? - their tunnels aerate the soil somewhat like earthworms do, and some types of ants also eat the grubs and eggs of plant parasites. Also (bonus!) cockroach eggs.
submitinkmonkey, Mar 09 2005


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