When a colony of ants moves in...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am writing for my daughter because she doesn't feel that her problem concerns the area of your expertise. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained. She bought a new Ford Thunderbird LX in February, 1989, with which she is more than satisfied. Apparently, since August, 1989, a colony of small black ants has also found the Thunderbird to their liking. She first noticed about 25 or 30 ants around the center console between the front seats. Subsequently, the ants have congregated in various locations throughout the car...around the door hinges, the windshield, and back window shelf etc. She has had the car professionally cleaned and has used a bug bomb on the interior. Dead ants are in evidence everywhere, but live ones continue to appear. She doesn't eat in the car, but does remember finding a piece of popcorn during one inspection. She wonders if you can suggest a way to get rid of this problem without damaging the car, and I'm wondering how these creatures can continue to survive in such an environment.

TOM: Well, ants aren't all that bad, Dorothy. I have a family of raccoons that runs a small bed and breakfast in the back of my '74 Chevy convertible. At least ants don't snarl at you when you try to change the radio station!

RAY: Are you kidding? I'd take the raccoons any day. At least if they growl, you know where they are. The ants just start crawling up you arms, under your shirt, and down your....yeccchh!

TOM: Anyway, Dorothy, my guess is that the ants have colonized the car's carpet. The fact that your daughter doesn't eat in the car doesn't matter. Ants are yuppie creatures. They go out to eat. They may occasionally do take-out, but they don't need a source of food in the colony itself.

RAY: So to survive, they have to be getting in and out of the car somehow, and they're probably coming in around the shifter boot. That's also why they were able to survive the bug bomb. When your daughter bombed the car, their air "raid" sirens went off, and they all evacuated through the shift boot to their bomb shelter underneath the car. When it was safe again, they came back in.

TOM: The person best equipped to help you is a professional exterminator. Although he's probably never seen a case like this, an exterminator understands the behaivor and lifestyle of the ants. He should be able to devise a plan that will rid you of these creatures once and for all. It will probably involve treating both the inside and the outside of the car.

RAY: If he shows up with a flame-thrower, however, I'd go back to the bug bombs.

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