Ants in a condo - Terror ensues
April 23, 2014 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How can I make sure I don't see a single ant in my condo unit this year?

I live in a Chicago condo building - on the sixth floor of 8, in a building of about 100 units. I moved in two years ago and the first summer, there were no ants. Last year, we ended up with a new property manager and there were many ants crawling into my unit from the floor board near my balcony doors.

I called the new property manager several times last year and she had an attitude that it was normal to have ants and that I should just spray. I do not think it's normal to have ants. There's obviously a nest somewhere. At the condo association meeting last night, I brought up the ant issue we had last year and she said she has already seen them in her office! She said that when the exterminator was out, she had him spray her office. She mentioned that the ants had been there for awhile, but waited for him to come out for his usual visit instead of calling him at the first ant sighting!

I am extremely upset about her attitude towards the ants. I have never experienced an ant infestation anywhere I have lived, but according to her, they are everywhere and there's no avoiding them. I'm scared to death of ants. Is there anything I can do to convince her that this is a very serious issue? Is there some literature I can send her showing that an ant infestation is not normal?

Secondly, I want to avoid seeing a single ant in my unit, so I want to prepare for their arrival and make sure they don't arrive. How can I do that? Last year, I received advice from other people in my building and the building's exterminator that I should leave out bait so that they pick it up and bring it back to the nest to kill them. I do not want to leave out bait. It's disgusting and I don't want ants showing up in my condo in the first place! I called an independent exterminator last year, who advised me that it doesn't make sense to treat my unit alone and that I would be wasting my money by having them spray since they would come back immediately. What can I do though?

Knowing all of the above, what can I do to prevent seeing a single ant in my unit this summer? I haven't seen one yet, but the property manager stated that her office has already been infested, so I know they are making their way up from her first floor office to my sixth floor condo unit.

Note, they are tiny black ants, if it matters.
posted by parakeetdog to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's the thing about the bait traps. They are gross, in that the ants swarm around them. But within a couple of days, the ants are all gone. They go somewhere else to die, I swear; you just suddenly stop seeing them. (I use the Terro brand ones.) Just place them in places you've seen ants before (even if you haven't seen one since last year) and they eat the bait, take it back to their nest, and bye bye, ants. If that's just too gross, maybe put the bait trap under a little paper tent, so you don't have to see them? Or only put them in places you don't normally look?

Also, I get ants every spring. I've accepted that they are inevitable, and preventing them from entering my home would likely require tens of thousands of dollars. The traps are less than $10. I put them down immediately after spotting my first ant, which means I usually don't see many before they're gone for the year.
posted by chowflap at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Spray a line of Ortho Home Defense Max around every possible exterior entryway into your home - doors, windows, cracks, whatever. This stuff is freaking MAGIC. I don't care if it's pure, concentrated carcinogen, it WORKS.

2. Once you've Ortho'd the perimeter, do a sweep along the INSIDE borders of your home (doors, windows, cracks, and so on). Kill any ants with more ant-poison, dispose of their corpses, and caulk/fill any large gaps with either caulk OR a soft material saturated with ant-killer.

3. NO MORE BUGS. Yay! I despise bugs, but this strategy will keep any of them that enter on foot (as opposed to on-wing) away for at least a whole season.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Knowing all of the above, what can I do to prevent seeing a single ant in my unit this summer?

Short of moving, I hate to say it but the answer is: not a whole lot.

I don't think there's any way to guarantee an ant-free existence if they're already in the area. There will be no way to seal every crack they could move through and they're hardwired to forage constantly for food. Even if you get rid of every possible crumb on the counter and floor, it is likely that there will still be one or two looking around.

The bait suggestion is a good one, if you can find a place to squirrel it away where they can find it but you will not see it. Way back in a cabinet, for example. I've had decent luck with the putty-colored ant baits that are out there, and also with Terro, a liquid bait that you can put on a small square of cardboard and hide away as well. Once the colony is gone, that'll be it for some time to come. Baits can also be placed outside, though there's a risk that other critters will find them.
posted by jquinby at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In Chicago you should not have ants. Call metropolitan tenants org and they will help you out in how to address this legally with your landlord. It is in the tenant ordinance that landlords are responsible for dealing with pests (including bedbugs)
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work in low income housing and I've never ever seen a building with ants here. ( even in the craziest parts of Englewood where rent is like 600 for a two bedroom). And the fact that they are so high means every floor is infested.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:02 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you been to a board meeting? What do the other owners say about the ants? In a multi-unit building, pests should be dealt with on a building level. If you are not getting a solution from the property manager, the board should be notified.
posted by soelo at 10:28 AM on April 23, 2014

Best answer: Once you have an infestation, the best way to get rid of them that I found was Combat Source Kill Max Ant Killing Gel (I bought it at Home Depot).

Twenty minutes after a squirt of the gel near where it seemed the ants were getting in, the gel was teaming with ants bringing the poison back to their nest. Within a few days, no more ants.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:31 AM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

landlord tenants ordnance use your browsers find feature and search for insects to see the clause. You have a few options you can explore but the ants probably have to make it to your unit first as right now you don't have an ant problem you just expect that you will.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2014

Response by poster: I went to the board meeting last night. I own my condo, but will still look into the protections for renters and see if I can convince my neighbors who rents to complain to their landlord.

The board was at the meeting and they seemed slightly more concerned than the property manager, but they didn't give her specific steps to take in order to get rid of the ants. One of the property owners at the meeting seemed concerned too, but she just moved in.... there were very few people at the board meeting unfortunately.

I forgot to mention that I have dogs, so I need the bait/spray to be safe for them.

Thank you!
posted by parakeetdog at 10:36 AM on April 23, 2014

If you pay condo association fees this is something that pool of money should go to. Argue for them to think of the property value (and ants can eat electrical wiring).
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:40 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: they are tiny black ants

So, the Argentine ant invasion has reached deep into the heartland, now. They've replaced the cockroach as the number one insect pest.

Some have success with bait traps (or just the raw Terbo) but you're dealing with a mega-colony that has multiple queens, and any such such victories are temporary, in my experience. I've lived with this invasion in two separate apartments now, and IMO the only way to guarantee seeing none will be sealing your condo, here's how:

You must locate their entry point, then plug it up (maybe use duct tape). To find the entry point, grab your bottle of Windex and spray the invaders. Windex is like a nerve agent to the ants, they'll all stop moving, dead. Wipe 'em up with a paper towel (this also disrupts (but doesn't eliminate) the chemical trails they're leaving behind for their sisters). Then observe where the new ants first appear, and seal that entry point. Repeat as necessary.

I would be wasting my money by having them spray since they would come back immediately.

This is true... because IMO insecticide spray doesn't work against the Argentine!
posted by Rash at 11:53 AM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

My first thought was your new property management company is attempting to save money by not hiring a proper exterminator for regular pest control maintenance of the property.

However you mentioned that they do have an exterminator; if your association is already paying an exterminator to come out on a regular basis (monthly? quarterly?), he should be spraying the exterior and interior (I'm thinking you have a parking garage?) for the ants. If he isn't, his contract and his professional advice vis a vis the ants should be presented and reviewed at the next board meeting.

In the meantime, first, make sure there is no delicious ant food in your apartment. This means other bugs as well as people food, i.e., vacuum all of your base boards to get rid of any small spiders and dust mites, etc, that they might be attracted to. Next put down bait traps, especially under sinks or near the bath; ants have a tendency to come up on the piping, and by the time they get 6 floors up, they're likely looking for water.

I personally wouldn't spray a bunch of poison in my own habitat, but your comfort level with that may vary with your uncomfortableness with ants.
posted by vignettist at 12:15 PM on April 23, 2014

My SO recently had this problem in his building; he mixed Boric Acid with peanut butter into a makeshift trap. It took a few different traps and locations, and there were a LOT of ants swarming those traps, but after a while they did finally die out and have not returned (knock on wood). He found the bait recipe online, I think.

Warning, we did not find that all of the ants went elsewhere to die. So if sweeping up a small dead-ant army is out of the question...maybe don't go that route.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2014

I had a terrible ant problem at my last apartment, I had to brush ants off my bed before sleeping every night. I used traps and they were somewhat effective, but ants kept coming back, no matter how many traps I used.

I ended up moving.
posted by hellojed at 12:21 PM on April 23, 2014

Terro traps have worked for my horrible ant infestation (year after year) house to...none. For years (we put out new traps every year to prevent new infestations). I don't really know why they're better than any other trap we tried in the 10 years prior to that, but they are.
posted by smangosbubbles at 6:34 PM on April 23, 2014

Terro, lots and lots of Terro.

Or the boric acid route, that works well, but isn't so pet safe.

So far I've been fighting ants for 10 years. Bug spray of any kind doesn't last long at all. Mustard gas wasn't very effective. But Terro works great.
posted by BenevolentActor at 11:30 PM on April 23, 2014

Best answer: I'm guessing they're the little itty bitty black ants?

Either way: Terro.
If you know they comr through a specific wall or anything, just unscrew the outlet covers on that side, line the insides with terro. Ant genocide that's out of sight and out of mind.
posted by ThrowbackDave at 1:06 AM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: TERRO is fantastic for killing ants. It does not kill the ants instantly, instead it makes them zombies or ticking time bombs( whatever analogy you prefer). The ants eat the stuff and go back to their home and zombify/explode killing the entire colony.

Official explanation below
" The product is specifically formulated to allow worker ants to consume the product and survive long enough to carry the liquid ant killer back to the nest and deliver a dose to the rest of the colony"
posted by radsqd at 7:29 AM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: Put Terro wherever they come in. You'll have to do it every year around this time. I lived in Champaign-Urbana for years and everyone got the little black ants in the springtime.
posted by MsMolly at 4:01 PM on April 24, 2014

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