Home remedies for pest control should be left at home

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2014

I know of two home remedies that should have been left home by whomever came up with them. In each case somebody try to use illogical logic to solve a pest problem. I refer to the laughable ideas to kill fire ants with grits and knock off moles with chewing gum. And I am right proud to say I never bit on the grits or gum falsehoods.
The grits theory was each fire ant would swallow some and the grit(s) would swell up with moisture inside the ant just like in a saucepan on the stove. Then POW! goes the ant with expanding grits in the gut. Many years apart this phony pest control was repeated as the truth on national radio by no less than the late Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh.
I initially dismissed the grit vs. ant deal using country logic. Will ants eat a biscuit? You bet they will, even a two-day old cathead biscuit made with lard instead of that modern sissy stuff we use now. But ants don’t try to swallow a whole biscuit; they take tiny bites. So surely they would do the same thing with a grain of grits; bite off only what they can chew. Sometime later I read the true scientific logic I needed to explain the grits fallacy. It turns out fire ants do not even swallow solid food. Nope, they place bits of whatever foodstuff brought into the colony on the bellies of the immature larva in the ant nursery. There the little ones liquefy the solids by regurgitating some potent natural solvents. Then the worker ants put the liquid in the mouths of the larva, lap some up for themselves and go spit some to the queen and her boyfriends. Thus, the grit theory is shot down.
Oh, if moles really would meet their demise via chewing gum, we’d all call our yards Wrigley Field. The theory passed around said to poke sticks of chewing gum at various spots along a mole tunnel. Allegedly, a mole would happen upon the gum and eat it. Furthermore, the mole could not digest the gum. Theoretically again, the gum would gum up the works, so to speak, and said mole would die.
Here’s what I don’t understand; why did the genius who came up with this conclude that a mole cannot digest gum but would readily consume manmade, flavored chewing gum? Moles feed on soil invertebrates like earthworms and insect larva like grub worms. The reason the mole pellets and peanuts legally laced with toxicants don’t work is because moles don’t eat seeds or grains. Juicy worms or near-worms is their food. The idea of a mole eating our chewing gum just because it was there makes as much sense as us eating a grub worm merely because we found it.
A fact of life is we are going to have fire ants and moles. Use pesticides for ants, dogs or traps for moles. Or just make peace with them both.

Terry Rector writes for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, 601-636-7679 ext. 3.

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