I am Moving

Only in the WWW sense though.

Since this blog was created (way back in October 2007) it has always lived at blog.ianburnett.com. The main idea was that I would have a more serious website of www.ianburnett.com, with my blog being slightly less so. I would also have gallery.ianburnett.com to showcase my photography highlights, plus a couple of private websites for photos of Lucy and a wedding I went to back in 2007.

These days, however, it’s a struggle keeping on top of security for every individual site. Before a brief spring-clean this morning, I had the following:

  • A Joomla 1.0 site (loads of security holes)
  • A Joomla 1.5.1 site (quite a few security holes)
  • A Joomla 1.5.2 site (some security holes)
  • A WordPress 2.6 site (quite a few security holes)
  • My main WordPress 2.8 site (no known security holes)
  • Three Gallery 2.3 sites (no security holes, but quite a bit of admin)

That’s a lot of admin to look after. Neither do I need a heavyweight main website plus my blog, so they’re merging. This blog will eventually reside at www.ianburnett.com, with an automatic redirect covering any old links you may have. I will be dropping the mostly unknown gallery.ianburnett.com, in favour of a link to my Flickr site (which is now a pro account due to being a BT Internet customer). Let someone else look after the security!

Hopefully, nothing will break during this – bear with me while this change takes place. I’ll post again when things are updated and finalised.

Proof of Ant Web Access

I now have conclusive proof that ants and the insect community in general have web access. I wrote slightly tongue-in-cheek yesterday about how the ants in my garden plotted against me following taunts published on the web in an earlier blog entry. Approaching the entrance at work this morning, something flew up out of the bushes (about the size of a large bee) and either bit or stung me on the neck.

This is obviously retribution for yesterday’s comments. Now I don’t think that ants in my garden in Hedge End have walked the 15 or so miles to my work and plotted with the local insect population. So what are the alternatives? There’s no telephone line in my back garden or the entrance to A-block, so a simple phone call to Uncle Eric the bee is out. There is, however, a wireless network at both locations. From this we can deduce that both the ants in my garden and the insects at work have wireless access and regularly use the web. And they’re vindictive.

People think I’m mad, but I’m only reporting factual evidence. You find a more likely connection between all of the events.

Ants Use Webs Too

No, not the sticky, takes-ages-to-get-out-of-your-hair webs; I’m talking about the World Wide Web.

I’m convinced they’re hacking my wireless broadband connection because my last post was about how I was winning the war against the ants in my garden. No sooner had this  been published on the web than they started plotting against me. The very next day, a new hole had appeared in the mortar around our back door and a dozen new flying ants had appeared. Gits. I’m sure they must have been thinking the following:

Hah! That will teach the human for mocking us on a global stage! We shall unite once more and emerge in our most irritating form, ready to prove we are still here. We shall not, we shall not be moved! We shall not, we shall not be moved.

To rub it in, a couple of them flew into the house too. They obviously knew when it was most inconvenient for me too – emerging right at tea-time when both Katrina and I are needed to be serving dinner and getting Lucy ready to eat. They also deploy some distraction techniques too – some crawling ones scatter as the flying ones emerge. This poses an obvious dilemma – which ones do you kill first? The flying ones are harder to kill once they’ve left the surface, but the crawling ones are quicker at getting away.

I’ve already mentioned it was tea-time when this happened. To help in the eradication, I sacrificed the boiling water which was going to be used for the instant gravy and poured that into the cracks and crevices. It kills them on the spot – good for a quick solution, but doesn’t solve the long term problem. So then I squirted another half ton of ant powder in for good measure.

So why has it taken so long to blog about this if it happened the following day? Well it’s because I didn’t want to prematurely disclose my next part of the plan.

You may not know this, but ants are very good at harvesting aphids. As the aphids babies develop, they produce a sweet substance, which is perfect food for ant colonies. The aphids then mature and start devouring the rest of my already sorry-looking garden. So net result is I’ve got a well-fed (and hence expanding) ant colony in my garden, plus a serious insect problem.

I discovered this by accident – I happened to notice a load of ants running along a branch on a tree in the garden. I followed them along until we got to the fresh new leaves, where there was a few ants harvesting the sticky by-product of the aphids. The ants would then walk along the branch, down the trunk and across the soil to a nest somewhere in next door’s garden.

I put a small bait station right next to the ant trail at the foot of the tree and waited. Now in view of the last resurrection mission, I didn’t want to disclose the fact that this was a poison next to their tree until after it had gone to work. Thankfully, it has now cleared the tree of both aphids and ants and I can reveal my success to the world.

Another reason for failing to promptly blog was that I was psychologically scarred for two days afterwards. I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing ants crawling around the doorframe, and every 30 seconds I thought I saw an ant scurry past me in my peripheral vision. Every time a hair on my leg or arm became itchy, I assumed it was an ant.

You try getting to sleep on a night-time like that.

One, Two, Three, Four, I Declare an Ant War

Ants.

They are everywhere in our garden. Or should I say, they were everywhere in our garden. They were also everywhere in our kitchen. For this reason, I decided to go on the warpath and eradicate them. Previously I had just been working on a kill-on-sight principle, but this time there would be no half-measures: a full Steven Segal-like search and destroy mission.

After investigation, I found that due to a very poor piece of design and engineering during the construction of our house, the lintel on the back door had a 3mm gap beneath it which allowed basically anything smaller than a cat to crawl through and into our kitchen. Things weren’t helped by the equally-shoddy construction of the sealant around the door frame. Over time, this has separated from the brick work, which has allowed rain water to run down and cause rot of the skirting board inside. This caused a bigger hole and let more ants in. I’ve now repaired the sealant and replaced the rotten skirting, meaning the inside of the house looks better now. Must get round to painting it though…

So that was the ants prevented from getting in? Not quite. Unfortunately they had already built a home for themselves in the cavity. They then waited for a while and hatched into their evil flying versions. Luckily, just at the point of them emerging outside in a dopey state, I managed to spot them. A liberal dose of that nasty white killer powder later and pretty much everything in sight was dead. That nearly included me because I was looking upwards, trying to spray this powder and it was going everywhere. Judging by my black shirt, it looked like I had a severe dandruff problem, it was in my hair, and I could faintly taste it too. Quick decontamination shower later and all was well. Anyway, I waited a couple of days to make sure the nest was dead and then plugged up that gap too.

This was all happening over the course of several weeks – during which I was also getting tough in the garden. In the past, I’ve used ant killer sprays and powders to kill the little crawlers, but that only kills the ants you can see. For about a fiver in DIY stores, you can get these round, black ant bait stations. They seem quite expensive for what you get, but that little 2” disc of ant poison is brilliant.

Ants are, if nothing else, ruthlessly efficient at finding and gathering food to take back to their nest. The bait station takes advantage of this by providing a poisoned bait which only kills them once they are back in the nest. Hence, it kills the nest itself, rather than just the ones unlucky enough to be in plain view when I was around.

The packaging claims that it can take around 3-4 days for full control. I stumbled on the entrance to a nest, popped a bait station nest to it and 12 hours later there wasn’t a single ant visible in that corner of the garden. Not loads of bodies lying around, just a whole nets has been eradicated.

Epilogue

It’s been a while since I started this mission, but the difference has been amazing. Yes, it has been wet recently, but the number of ants which have been spotted wandering around has been very small indeed. I think that there’s very few ant nests remaining in our garden; the only work I need to do is to make sure that ants from the neighbours’ gardens don’t start exploring our house too much and we’re sorted.

A very good result.