ants! ants! What do I do?
June 12, 2005 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Ant farmers must be excited because there is a bumper crop this year. We are currently infested and so is every other house on my street. We can't even leave the cat's dry food out!

How do you deal with an ant problem?
posted by Mayor Curley to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am SO glad someone asked this, I was thinking about it myself.

I've got those little tiny ones in my kitchen on the floor, and I have no idea what to do. Traps, scrubbing the floor with bleach, nothing seems to help...
posted by Kellydamnit at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2005

We had a big ant problem in our house earlier this month. Our solution was to go outside and surround the ant mounds we found with a mixture of sugar and yeast. Sugar and grits work as well, for different reasons- yeast creates too much gas for them to exude, causing them to explode, and grits sucks the moisture out of them and kills them by dehydration. While you can use traps like this in your home quite effectively, our theory was that the foragers who gather food for the queen would bring this deadly concoction back to her nest and cause her to spill her royal guts all over the colony.

We did this once about three weeks ago and we've seen a drastic reduction in ant activity around our house. While they haven't been eliminated, we see them much less frequently- earlier last month our kitchen would have 8-12 visible ants at any given time, and now we see less than that in a day. For maximum effectiveness check the forecast and try to do it during a rain-free period.

Also, my roommate is from Texas and has recounted to me a childhood pasttime there, which works quite well if you can find a sizable ant mound in or around your back yard. Simply pour flammable liquid into the mouth of the hole, ignite, and run like hell. Naturally this requires great caution and a larger-than-average ant mound.
posted by baphomet at 5:07 PM on June 12, 2005

Best answer: I've had good luck with Terro against sweet-eating ants.
posted by gimonca at 5:47 PM on June 12, 2005

Rather than use Raid in my bedroom and kitchen I spray them with Windex, which pretty much kills them on contact.

No matter how clean I keep my apartment they keep coming back. They seem to have a fondness for my bathroom sink, which I enjoy plugging, filling with water then watching the vortex (is that the right word) of watery ant death.

In my old apartment I located where they were coming from and filled in every spot with hot glue. Eventually they stopped coming.

I have had mediocre results with Borax (I think it is also called Chinese Chalk).

When I was a younger man my parents had their yard sprayed on a monthly basis. Pretty much killed all the ants, fleas and other critters.
posted by thefinned1 at 5:48 PM on June 12, 2005

I never had any luck with eradicating ants (especially in Texas - I can understand the appeal of the auto-de-fe approach), but we were able to leave our dry cat food out by placing it in the middle of a crude moat we made from an upside down tupperware lid filled with water.
posted by bibliowench at 6:22 PM on June 12, 2005

Our solution was to go outside and surround the ant mounds we found with a mixture of sugar and yeast.

What portions of water and yeast?
posted by jperkins at 6:34 PM on June 12, 2005

Your honor:

My wife and I waged a years-long war against these vile creatures, which even she began to refer to as motherfuckers. (My wife generally slugs me when I swear.)

Our solution? We moved.

Okay, while that's true, we didn't actually move because of the ants (though it did solve the problem). And before we moved, we had excellent success with Terro (as gimonca suggests). Terro is awesome stuff. It's clean, safe, and does the job. You have to be willing to suffer a day or two of overwhelming swarms, but if you wait, the motherfuckers will die.

Terro even worked better than exterminators for us.


(One battle against the motherfuckers...)
posted by jdroth at 6:42 PM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Third person with props for Terro.

Just be careful not to put it where pets might get to it and lick it up. Dunno if it's tasty to them or not. I usually put drops of the stuff in corner that the pets won't frequent but could get to if they tried, and haven't had any pet problems.

As for the ants, the Terro treatment beats them down for a while but they eventually come back. Still it's kind of fun, in a morbid way. Drink deep, my pretties ...
posted by intermod at 7:43 PM on June 12, 2005

I've never tried Terro, but based on a lot of trial and error with some of the more popular non-commercial based products, I have to say.. most of them do not work.

Depending on how much the problem is bothering you (and if you posted here, then I think I can guess) then commercial products are probably your only option. Here's a brief rundown on what I've done to get rid of the little buggers:

1. Pick-up some of these.
2. Follow the ants. Put out a few crumbs and follow them back to where they are coming into your house/apartment. This is where you should put the traps.
3. Leave the traps down for a few weeks to a month.

Generally, these traps are safe for pets (I have a cat, and she didn't even seem interested in it at all). They are great for not just taking-out the ants in your house, but the ants take the poison back to the hill and take out the colony (which is absolutely important). I would imagine that Terro works pretty much the same way.
posted by purephase at 7:57 PM on June 12, 2005

While killing the ones you see in the house achieves an immediate goal, you need to lay down a chemical perimeter barrier around the outside of your house. Otherwise, more ants will merely come in and take the place of the ones you've killed. Prefereably, you want to lay down something that will both kill some ants immediately as well as be carried back to the mound to others. Back in the bad old days, something like Diazinon would do the trick.

If you have a basement or crawlspace, the job becomes a lot more involved. Typically, these provide many more entry points for the buggers.

It must have been the winter weather, but I've noticed a big increase in ant activity this year, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:03 PM on June 12, 2005

Fourth on the Terro. A couple of years ago I had a terrible ant infestation and tried several non-commercial remedies to no avail. I then left Terro at a few different points along the ants' trails, and they were completely gone within a week. They didn't come back until the next year, whereupon I immediately Terro'd their nasty little asses out of existence.

As jdroth mentioned, if you try Terro you will have to tolerate a steady stream of ants for a couple of days while the workers carry the sweet, sweet poison back to the colony.
posted by purplemonkie at 8:40 PM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Diatomaceous earth is amazing stuff. Totally natural, non-toxic, harmless to people and animals. The only downside is it will only kill the ants that come in contact with it (i.e. the colony is unaffected). Dust it lightly in the areas ants use to get into your home and watch them squirm when they walk across it.
posted by pmbuko at 9:33 PM on June 12, 2005

Cinnamon makes an incredibly effective barrier, though it obviously needs to be applied in the right places to prevent reentry. I've tried all manner of chemicals, traps, and homebrew remedies, and only cinnamon has kept my home ant-free for over a decade. At the first sign of an ant trail, I follow them back to the point of entry and dust a little.

A single dusting, left in place, has acted as a completely permanent ant repellant. I have never, ever seen a windowsill, baseboard gap, or door threshold used as an entry point again after cinnamoning.
posted by majick at 10:01 PM on June 12, 2005

Terro is good, so is Jones (little red bottle). Both work much the same way. They are poisoned sugar water. I think the formulation may vary by location, or maybe it changed over time. Jones used to contain arsenic, then I saw it latter with borax instead. In South Africa, I buy 'traps' that have the same sweet/arsenic combination.

Look at the traps for their contents. Sweetened borax or arsenic both work by poisoning the entire colony. Eventually another colony will probably arrive, but just repeat as needed. The advantage of traps is that the poison is less exposed. Arsenic is poison to you and your pets!
posted by Goofyy at 11:21 PM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Where our house was built was a large plant nursery. Street changes isloated a portion of the nursery property, so it was developed into a housing area. We believe this explains why our house and the house next door were built on ant hills.
We lost the ant battle a couple of years ago and called an exterminator. This year, the tiny ants were back. We put out boric acid crystals which were 3 to 4 times the size of the ants. Figured they could not drag those boulders back to the nest, so we got sticky stuff from a hardware store. That reduced the population, but did not destroy it.
Called the exterminator again and he found that we also had carpenter ants that had riddled an exposed beam and were tunneling into the walls. Hired a carpenter to take the siding off the back of the house; exterminator returned, work still in progress. Something over $1500.00 so far and then there is the painting of the new siding etc. ...
Ants are nothing to mess with.
posted by Cranberry at 1:01 AM on June 13, 2005

House gecko.
posted by yesster at 6:09 AM on June 13, 2005

I have also had great luck with diatomaceous earth. I like the non-toxicity of it for people and pets.
posted by carmen at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2005

Another vote for Terro. As for the cat food, we would put the cat's dish in a shallow pan and fill the shallow pan with water to keep the ants out of the food. It worked great for the time it took to get the ants under control.
posted by moosedogtoo at 9:04 AM on June 13, 2005

I had a flying ant problem once in my bathroom. Since I hate all manner of bugs (spiders excepted), I opted for the not-quite-full-nuclear option: I put down ant traps and sprayed every edge (i.e. every place where a wall met a wall or a wall met a floor or ceiling) with Hot Shot. They say it keeps killing for up to three months, but I doubt it lasts that long; it does, however, kill most bugs more or less on contact. I also sprayed along the baseboards with an anti-ant foam.

The ant problem stopped in an hour. I haven't seen one of the little bastards since. Granted, I had to stay out of my bathroom for several hours owing to the fumes, but it was worth it to me.
posted by staresbynight at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yet another vote for Terro. I swear by it.

Also, for an extra precaution, I usually grab that powder you pour on the ant mounds and then hose down with some water. Don't know what it's called, but after poisoning the colony with Terro and getting that specific spot of earth poisoned so ants can't inhabit it, they disappear for the year.

I have yet to find a solution that prevents them from returning the next year.
posted by rocketman at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2005

By the way, those little plastic traps that Raid sells? I've never known them to work.
posted by rocketman at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2005

I've never heard of using diatomaceous earth, but thanks for the tip. Can I just use plain unscented Jonny Cat?
posted by cali at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2005

Terro worked like a charm to get the ants out of my kitchen.
posted by MsMolly at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2005

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