ant moat and other critter talk

Ants were piling up in the hummingbird feeder. Disgusting. I had gotten an “ant guard” from Freddy’s that worked reasonably well, but when I went back for a new one they had disappeared from the shelves.

ant traps

I bought ant traps and placed them on top of the beams from which the feeder dangled. They were unobtrusive (you probably can’t even see them tucked into the space between the two beams). They were also ineffective. The next time I was in town, I headed for The Backyard Bird Shop, fully expecting the same kind of glum answers I get whenever the dreaded gopher conversation comes up.

ant moat

Instead, a perky, friendly young woman responded to my question with “Oh boy, do I!” and led me to this simple, elegant solution to my problem. There were other models, but this cheery upside-down red umbrella, for a mere $8.99 spoke my language. Plain water goes into the moat. A drop of cooking oil breaks the surface tension of the water so the ants can’t float. It works! I checked it after two weeks in place and it wasn’t even filled up with dead ants. Totally non-toxic, so if a chickadee decides to perch on the rim and take a sip, no harm done.

ant moat in use

Would that all problems could be solved so painlessly. If you are local, I highly recommend The Backyard Bird Shop (they also have a good selection of greeting cards). Otherwise, just Google “Ant Moats” to find a source.


Have you discovered that slugs are deft climbers? This guy was lolling on the remains of a Kniphofia ‘Percy’s Pride’ flower. Earlier, I found one similarly draped over a Casa Blanca lily bud nine feet off the ground. I’m squeamish about squishy/yucky things so snipping these guys in two doesn’t work for me. It has nothing to do with soft-heartedness: when we gardened in town I used to toss them into the road for the traffic to obliterate. Here, they get tossed into the forest, where they actually do some good. I always wear gloves for this very reason.

frog in the grass

This little guy is a different story: always welcome, no matter how much noise he happens to make. The frogs were oddly silent last spring, but I always look forward to their raucous chorus.

Sami at rest

Sami is looking relaxed here, but if Mr Frog made a peep she would be quick to segue into attack mode. Froggy stayed close to me for protection and made nary a sound.


It’s odd how attached one can get to fish. We had just been congratulating ourselves for having devised an early alert system that had kept ours alive for four years. The one you see was the granddaddy. There were two medium sized and three babies. We came out one morning to find all the poles knocked about, the water lilies trashed and no sign of fish…the work, I’m sure, of those adorable little raccoons.

the deer family

The deer family has no fear of us, but it’s still hard to get a good photo of them. This one was taken through the window as they munched their way through the dandelions (welcome to them) en route to a main course somewhere in the midst of the beds and borders (not so crazy about their choice of entrees).

12 thoughts on “ant moat and other critter talk

  1. The ant moat is brilliant! It’s so cheery too and matches most hummer feeders. All manner of critters in your garden.

    Oh poor fishies! Raccoons are so destructive and hard to defeat.

  2. Frogs & Sami = super cute… Slugs & Fish Killers = not so much. I can’t snip the slugs either, I tried once and it was a very unpleasant experience. Now they are just treated to an all you can eat banquet in the yard waste container before going off to a resort somewhere courtesy of the city.

  3. I’m so sorry about your fish, that’s a huge bummer. I hate raccoons!

    I’m so glad we live in an area where The Backyard Birdshop can stay in business. They are wonderful to visit.

  4. Don’t you love those little antlers? The other day I saw four of them just down the road. All 4 with antlers. So cool. I admit, I resort to slug bait to combat those nasties. I know it’s not kosher in this day and age but I love my plants more than being politically correct. However if I lived on a busy road… I am so sorry about your fish. I feel your pain. The same thing happened in my pond. Those damn coons wait until we’re very attached to our little fishy friends and then attack. I was totally heartbroken! … Sami is adorable!

  5. So sorry about your fish. We are very fond of ours and some even have names. A short electric fence is the only thing that we’ve found effective in keeping the raccoons out of the pond. Lots of fun critters in your garden!

  6. Shirley~We now just have the mosquito fish, which are very small and hard for the #@!x raccoons to capture.

    Laura~Don’t know about brave, but coexisting with the marauders is a challenge.

    Loree~My approach exactly: don’t mind if they die, but I don’t want to be a direct participant.

  7. Awww, Sami looks so sweet (but I know what you mean about attack mode)! So sad about your goldfish…those darn raccoons always seem to be able to outsmart us mere humans…there are few successful deterrents to a determined raccoon.

  8. I am delighted to find a fellow squeamish slug dispatcher. They are intrepid climbers. I found one up a bean pole earlier in the summer…. the very idea of one dropping onto my head makes me shiver. I’m sorry to learn about your fish. It’s horrible when that happens.

  9. Alison~I’ll pass your compliment along to Sami (she’s already pretty vain).

    Mark & Gaz~I know you guys understand about fish attachment.

    Heather~I haven’t been there often but this experience won me over big time.

    Grace~Yes to everything you said.

    Peter~We resisted naming, under the suspicion that that would be a death sentence. Guess we’ll have to resort to more practical means.

    Scott~They don’t have as many distractions as we do, but surely we could outsmart them if we really put our minds to it.

    Shoe~Dropping on your head? Ugh! That would be the ickiest!

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