Learning to live with ants in Costa Rica


green grass and two mounds of dirt with holes to underground ant colonies
Entrances to leaf cutter ants underground colonies.

Ants have been on my mind lately. Actually, they have been on my mind a lot since moving to Costa Rica. I never thought about them in Seattle, but here I have learned to live with them. I don't know how many types of ants live in Costa Rica, but I would guess easily a thousand. I have seen the tiniest ants to the large bullet ants and everything in between. There's nothing you can do to completely eradicate ants, only slow them down.

I have learned that living with ants means I need to keep the house clean, especially the kitchen. I have to sweep the floors daily or some of them will think it's OK to move inside. Items on tables and counter tops need to be moved and cleaned periodically or that will also invite ants.

The garden is a whole other story with ants. I have written about some of the problems with them in raised garden beds. Currently I am dealing with a vicious cycle of ants in the chicken palace and worm castle. The ants have decided chicken poop is good and have been eating it in the palace. I scoop the poop and put it in the worm castle to compost and now the ants think that is a great place to make nests and lay eggs. I have been using diatomaceous earth in the chicken palace and that seems to cut down the number of ants. I had to stop black soldier fly larvae farming because the ants moved inside the bin and were carrying away the newly hatched larvae.

There are two types of ants that are the most of a nuisance to me, the ones that bite and leaf cutter ants. It's a never-ending battle with the leaf cutters. We do occasionally poison the entrances to their underground houses and a few times have used gasoline to really disturb large underground complexes. Biting ants can be pretty nasty, especially if you step on their house. If I am standing on the grass, minding my own business the ants will appear and begin to bite. I imagine they are checking to see if I am dead yet and ready to eat. If you are able to tolerate and can learn to live with ants then your chances are better to have a good life in Costa Rica.