There are plenty of ways to help keep ants and other invertebrates doing their thing outdoors and not in our homes.
A quick inspection of the foundation of my home revealed the mother nest of the carpenter ants invading my second story bedroom. The nest was directly below the window, and although I believe that I have killed the satellite nest, this one was still very active.
If I had been doing even cursory inspections, this nest should have been obvious. Since it was against a concrete foundation though, I may have paid little attention to it since ants don’t eat concrete. However, I wasn’t doing inspections and I didn’t understand the significance of what was there—two critical factors in keeping a home safe from spineless invaders.
If you want to protect your home from the creepy and the crawly, there are a number of steps you can take. First, do an inspection of your outside foundation and framing. Look for cracks, dried caulk, holes and separations around windows, doors, pipes, vents, and electrical cords that can let invertebrate-sized critters into your home. Realize that it only takes a tiny hole. Once entry points are identified, fill them with the appropriate sealant.
Second, make an occasional inspection on the inside of your house. This is more problematic if it is a crawl space, but still needs to be done. Look for sign of insects such as carcasses, piles of wood dust such as I found in my window, and obvious nests. If you find more than just a little bit, it is time to call the exterminator.
Next, remove leaves and mulch from around the foundation. Keep this area clear. Experts don’t agree on how far away from your home this clean barrier should be, but a foot out is a good place to start. Also, don’t stack any sort of wood or anything else against the foundation. Keep all of it at least 12 feet from the house.
Don’t store trash cans near the house and make sure trash is removed routinely. Colonies of creatures such as roaches can multiply quickly in trash, where humidity and food availability make for ideal breeding grounds.
Kitchens are often the source of many insect infestations. Crumbs on counters and floors are just free food, there is a trash can with very attractive odors, and there is the kitchen sink with a dark and often dank cabinet underneath it. Some insects thrive in humid conditions such as those provided by a leaky supply or drain pipe and face it, who checks under the kitchen sink? A good daily clean-up and quick repair of leaky pipes and damp corners will go far in discouraging 6-legged visitors.
I also use sticky traps in strategic places (corners, behind beds, and other places where I am not likely to step on them) as much as a monitoring device as actual control. It can be shocking just what you catch over a period of months before dust makes the adhesive ineffective.
Termites, considered the most destructive of all house guests, deserve a section all to themselves. Of the four species in Idaho, the subterranean termite is considered the most damaging and widespread. Watch out for mud tubes (inside or outside the house) that go across concrete, brick or even wood. These termites build colonies underground and transport food—your house—in these tunnels. If you discover mud tunnels, experts say do not disturb them. Colonies can easily move and will do so with little provocation. That means that the hunt for damage begins again. Just note the location and call an exterminator. Another sign of termites is small piles of tiny, pellet-shaped, sawdust-like droppings on the floor near the walls.
Insects, spiders, centipedes and millipedes are all part of the natural web of life. As such, they all play essential roles. By no means am I suggesting all-out war on invertebrates, but when our homes become their homes, a line has to be drawn. Just remember that insects are the most prevalent lifeform on the planet. If they so choose, these spineless creatures could overwhelm us fairly quickly. Détente, not annihilation, is the goal.
Help Idaho Wildlife
When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles!
See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
And tell them that you heard about it from Nature-track.com!
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.
I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Harriman State Park, Island Park
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho