The ants are winning
June 17, 2016 7:27 AM   Subscribe

My interlock patio is under siege. Ants have moved in and are spreading out, disrupting the sand between the paving stores and generally making a mess of things. I have a spray bottle of ant killing chemical, but I’m playing wack-a-mole here.

I spray one day, a few days later they have new nests a couple of paving stones way. I need tips for prevention. Is there any way to establish a perimeter? Any long lasting deterrent? Or is a multi faceted attack best? (sprays, ant traps etc) ? Note – they haven’t made their way into the house yet, and I want to keep it that way.
posted by walkinginsunshine to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get a pest control professional out. The proper attack will depend on what kind of ants they are, and will probably involve a large enough assault to make a neighbor's yard seem more hospitable to them.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:36 AM on June 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Sweeping baking soda into the cracks (at Costco or other warehouse/restaurant supply stores you can get 13# sacks pretty cheap), and then gently watering it in, makes the soil hostile to plants by changing the pH I guess ... but in my experience it also drives away ants. (And is a mild, not super effective, ant poison.) Harmless to mammals such as pets or children.

Those ants don't actually want to be in your house (a few strays may venture in on food hunt but they won't move in wholesale). However, you get an anthill every X many square feet pretty much no matter what (frequency depends on ant species and local climate, your local extension can probably tell you) so in one sense you literally are just shifting them around. When they're in a place you can cope with, it's best to leave them.

Spraying the entire patio with ant barrier going to be more effective than spot treating where they pop up. (Another, non chemical, spot treatment option is to pour boiling water on the hill.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:41 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

In my experience, boric acid power is extremely effective at getting rid of ants. Cover your entire patio with a thin layer of it and let it sit for a few hours/a day, and then sweep it up. You want it to get down into the cracks and linger there, and for the ants to crawl through it and track bits of it back to their tunnels. Wait a day or two and then do it again. Ants have not returned to any areas where I've done this.
posted by jordemort at 7:54 AM on June 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

For the record, I have about nine million ants in my yard, have for years. About six species in roughly 5-20 colonies. None in my house. They help take care of my yard business.

I humbly suggest you do nothing other than refrain from leaving crumbs around the kitchen and maybe spray raid barrier product around doors once a month or so.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:06 AM on June 17, 2016

(boric acid POWDER, not power)
posted by jordemort at 8:14 AM on June 17, 2016

I had an invasion of tiny black ants this spring, and the only thing that worked was spraying this solution all over my baseboards (where they were coming in):

14 ounces of water
8 drops of tea tree oil
8 drops of peppermint oil
half teaspoon of cayenne

They seem to really hate this combination. It didn't kill them, but they moved on (to my neighbor's apartment, oops). Do watch out when you spray it though because it's pretty potent.
posted by lunasol at 8:16 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

What type of ants?

If it's those super teeny tiny Argentine Ants, call a professional and have them locate and destroy the large super colony that might be in your yard somewhere. It's your only hope.

Borax, pesticide from the store, and baking soda did nothing when I dealt with this. If it's this kind of ant.

If they are not in your house or similar I guess leave them be? But if it's the Argentone ants and if they are on everything the minute you go outside like I suspect, dear me, just call a good exterminator. Literally nothing else will help. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 8:29 AM on June 17, 2016

Nothing has worked as well for us for small black odiferous ants as the Terro baits. We use a combo of:

Terro Liquid Baits in dry locations


Terro Liquid Bait Stakes in wet locations.

They contain borax and work well for us at least. Better than any pest control company products that have been applied.
posted by jeffch at 8:37 AM on June 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Not sure how it would work with your patio, but my brother poured a big vat of boiling water into an ant mound near his house, and that did the trick.
posted by jenmakes at 9:46 AM on June 17, 2016

You need an ant bait that gets carried back to the nest and eventually fed to the queen. Killing the workers ants is a game of whack a mole you will never win. I've used Terro ant dust and simply sprinkled it where I see any trails and it's been very effective. In fact, now that I think about it, I haven't had to use it once this year yet, when normally it was a 2 or 3 time s a season routine.
posted by COD at 10:14 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Depending on what type of ants they are they are baits may or may not work well. A professional can definitely get rid of them, but before you go down that costly route you may want to try the borax suggested above, or better yet a combination of borax and diotomaceous earth. The borax is a good deterrent, and the diotomaceous earth will kill the ants. It will kill the workers and eventually may weaken the colony enough to kill it. Ants are generally good for your backyard ecosystem, and if you can avoid using a professional who will employ a pesticide it may be better for your yard in the long run. Good luck!
posted by amelliferae at 11:40 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Spreading borax all over your patio will tend to poison the soil nearby. Better to persuade the ants themselves to deliver it.
posted by flabdablet at 12:08 PM on June 17, 2016

The Terro liquid traps work! Use 'em generously.
posted by Toddles at 1:47 PM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have had success with both borax ( or boric acid -- not the 20 Mule Team laundry booster and cleanser, but a similar chemical we got at Home Depot) and diatomaceous earth, so nthing borax and seconding diatomaceous earth. Good luck!
posted by danabanana at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2016

For the longer term, polymeric paver locking sand glues itself together between the pavers and make it harder for ants and weeds to come up.
posted by mgar at 6:06 PM on June 17, 2016

Where in the US are you located? You likely have a colony of invasive "crazy" ants from Argentina. It's a super colony. You can't get rid of it. For the record, baking soda powder is an absolutely and comically ineffective countermeasure against ants or other insects. You want boric acid powder, which in my experience (native black ant infestation, cockroaches) works well. But likely they ants you are dealing with here have a very large colony. You need professional help.
posted by My Dad at 6:45 PM on June 17, 2016

I've used liquid traps as well with ants.
posted by My Dad at 6:45 PM on June 17, 2016

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