ants are a real pain. Many ants bite and the produce formic acid which is the same stuff in stinging nettle (plant) and it is also why some birds grabs ants and rub them on their feathers to release the chemical in order to kill mites - cool, huh? OK< but that's not what you're here for....
If they are on your silkies get the silkies out (with as many ants as possible) and chuck them all - either in your composter or down the toilet. yes, you will forfeit the silkies but you'll also be ridding the silkies of their pain
As for a natural repellent, once they are established there really is nothing that I know of except insect predators, which is not practical in this situation.
I had a problem with small (maybe sugar) ants in Cyrus' cage. They mainly went for (swarmed) any sweet food (fruit) I left on the cage bottom for the free ranging crickets. I noticed that they would hurry back into my plant (ugh - had just repotted). I found some GREAT stuff (not natural) and with some common sense and precautions it can help get any leftover ants. But before I give you those tips you need to find out where they are nesting - was it you I mentioned the channels in the metal frames to in another thread? If not, please read it and get some quick dry caulk (I used DAP brand DAP easy caulk) and fill in all openings.
OK, for the magic... TERRO Ant Killer. I use the liquid and place it outside the cage so no crickets or other "food" items eat it which then might be consumed by Cy. If the ants are small enough they will go find it. There are also liquid filled traps (different from Combat, etc.) , but a small cricket could still get in, eat it and live long enough to be eaten by your cham so you will have to determine the particulars of your own situation - all I can say is that this stuff works great. I got it at home depot - very cheap ($4) What happens is that the workers "bring it back" to the nest and the queen (and drones) will consume and die.
Just keep in mind that if you have a bad infestation you really need to do a major cleaning of the entire cage. Do you have another place you can put your cham for a few days - with minimal stress?
somebody else chime in here...but can't you put the legs of your cage/stand in water, and keep the ants from coming in that way? Of course they're already in, in your case; but if more can't join them it's not as bad. I know I've read other solutions to keeping them out...vaseline, maybe?
There are two things that can attract ants. Those are dead insects and Water. Where ever there is a source of water, there will be ants. The misting might be another reason they are attracted. I remember seeing a tip on discovery channel that showed how to keep flies away from your barbeque party. What you do is tie up some meat or fruit away from the area you are trying to keep them from. It will keep them occupied for a long time and away from the party. You might be able to do the same with the ants.
ive done the legs in water, works very good. its funny only a very small number like 5 out of 100 will somehow get inside. also put vasaline on the light wires so they cant climb up that, hope this works, worked for me very good
When I had this problem I assumed (wrongly, it turns out) that the ants were nesting in the potted plants. If that's the case, biological controls like beneficial nematodes can be helpful. I was also told I might have even better luck with the fungal pathogen Beauveria bassiana. Both attack soil dwelling insects but are safe for everything else, including creatures that eat the insects. Here's one source: http://store.arbico-organics.com
In my case, the ants are nesting outside but discovered my cam room is real convenient foraging ground, and they come in through the teenest openings around the window sills. I've caulked many many times but they manage to find new routes within a day or two . They are attracted to the water for sure, and to any debris on the cage bottom, which I try to keep pristinely clean for just this reason. Beyond that, they are farmers. Many Home Depot/other store bought plants will come loaded with scale (a hard bodied sap sucking insect that thrives on indoor plants), and if you don't manage to get it all off (very hard to do w/o using a systemic, which obviously is not an option), ants will farm the scale for the honeydue much as they farm aphids. This, I eventually figured out, is why ants are all over my cham's plants -- they're farming for the larger colony. Lastly, like other bugs, they seem attracted to light, because the incoming and outgoing columns of foragers goes from a trickle to a torrent when the sun goes down but my office lights are still on. I tried the bay leaf, the cinnamon, the cucumber -- nothing worked. Legs-in-water works to a point, but those ants that live on the plants are not affected. My vet suggested artificial plants, but I'm not willing to admit defeat yet.
Of passing interest -- a local guy who has great success with his few panthers (one is 5 yo) keeps them in big (4x6x3) screen vivs, complete with planted earth. For years he puposefully kept an "ant log" in each cage as part of cage hygiene -- the ants would take care of whatever organic debris (bug parts, etc) that he missed. How he dealt with ant population explosions and migrating colonies he hasn't said...
I don't know if any of these things will work or if there is any reason not to try them but here are some sites with natural solutions to ants...ITS UP TO EACH OF YOU TO EVALUATE THE RISKS TO YOUR CHAMELEONS AND THE INSECTS THAT YOU FEED THEM BEFORE YOU TRY ANY OF THESE METHODS...I'M ONLY PROVIDING THE LINKS...
"Saccharopolyspora spinosa is the fermented bacterium produced by Spinosad. Similar to BT (a familiar organic caterpillar warrior), Spinosad attacks the nervous system. Paralysis and death result in about 24 hours. Best of all, when applied at recommended rates, Spinosad poses less risk than most insecticides to mammals, birds, fish, and beneficial insects."
"spread crushed mint (especially spearmint) in the affected area to deter ants"
"cucumber is another deterrent for ants so try spreading a few slices around the problem area"
"sprinkle chilli powder or cayenne pepper on ant trails and in cracks near your house"
"sprinkle borax on ant trails and in cracks in pavement"
"find the ant nest by placing sugar on the ground and following them home, then pour boiling water down the hole to kill them"
"make an organic spray repellent of citrus peel and water (mix in a blender) and spray ants on the ground or in their nest"
"spray ants directly with soapy water made using dishwashing detergent"
Thanks for all the good tips, though some of them do not apply (legs in water) since my cage is outside and the plants are planted in the ground. Ill post some pics up tonight of my cage. Ill give some of these things a try and let you know if any of them work.
I watched the cage for some time tonight and noticed that there were these tiny redish colored ants on the hibiscus flowers and going down the tree along the edge of the cage and into the ground was a trail of the black ants that killed my silkworms. They didnt seem to bother Rufus. He was up in the tree drinking (I have a homemade dripper that I let drip down the leaves, its the only way I can get him to drink) anyway he was up drinking and the ants would go over his feet and he didnt seem bothered by them and they were not messing with him. I put chili powder all around the base of the hibiscus and this confused them and the ones on the ground went all around the pile and the ones in there tree were stuck. Im sure this is just short term until they realize they can go up the outside of the cage and in at the number of places the hibiscus touches the outside screen. I noticed the same red ants in some of my flowers planted around the house acting in the same way and it made me wonder if maybe they are eating the pollen or farming something like some of the posters have said. Im wondering if maybe instead of trying to keep them out (which I think would be really hard with the setup of my cage) that I should just let them do thier thing and put things like marshmellows or sugar or something in my flowers to draw them away...?
I have had this problem too. Water dishes on the cage stand legs works to keep them out, I haven't had luck with vaseline since the ants just put pieces of dirt across it to form a bridge. As for the ants already in the cage, if there is a queen in there, you will need to find a way to kill her or just start over with a new plant. If they are not actually nesting and there are only worker ants in the cage, they will eventually die off. I have submersed ficus in a bucket of water for a few hours to get rid of nesting ants and it seemed to work.
The famed naturalist, E.O. Wilson, won two pulitzers and the equivalent of a Nobel prize for his study of ants (leading ultimately to some of our most important theories and practices in conservation biology -- see http://www.eowilson.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=63&Itemid=70). The lay-version of his treatise, Journey to the Ants, is one of my favorite books, unlikely as that may seem, and I think by nature many folks who spend time here in these forum pages would find it fascinating as well. Bottom line is that these insects are not to be easily outdone -- you really have to respect their organization and almost diabolical determination and resourcefulness. I (and my chams!) empathize with your plight!
ahah i few yrs ago my uncle dave was watching tv and some guy was telling ppl home remidies that kill unwanted bugs and then he told me and i laughed and laughed so i tried it and it actually does work just you will have a war zone of ant body parts all over ahahah