And that's how I got ants.
October 26, 2017 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I woke up this morning to a number of ants in my kitchen. I vacuumed them up and cleaned my counters thoroughly (I wipe clean daily, but apparently missed something!) I then called the apartment complex exterminator, who came and deposited a bunch of dots of gel ant bait around the areas where they were. It has been about two hours since, and now there are BAZILLIONS of ants in my kitchen. I am told this is normal. Is this normal? How long does this last? Should I burn my apartment down? Also, I have a cat. Will she die if she eats the gel? The ants? Please help.
posted by sevensnowflakes to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The gel thing worked wonders for me when we had a sugar ant infestation - yes, there will be a bazillion of them right now with the bait, but the bait works fast and your ants should disappear quickly (like, in the next couple of days).

Call the exterminator and ask about the bait. The stuff I bought off the shelf (on my exterminator's suggestion) was pet-safe, but ask what specific bait he or she used to feel sure.
posted by olinerd at 9:58 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I use gel bait, I put an upside down cardboard box over it with some of the part touching the counter cut out. I put a weight on top of the box. Kitty can’t get to the gel, but the ants can.

And yes, this is normal. The ants are attracted to the bait. They take it back to the nest. The ants were there before. You just didn’t see them.
posted by FencingGal at 10:11 AM on October 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

There is indeed a day or two after putting the bait down when the ants just SWARM it. It's alarming but ultimately good news, they're hurrying back en masse to poison each other and get out of your hair as fast as possible. I seem to recall that goes away in like 48 hours, maybe with a few stragglers? But it might depend on the specific type of bait.

Hard to say about the cat without knowing what the bait was - I would ask. But if you're nervous you can do - wait, just as I was typing this, FencingGal's comment appeared so I don't have to type mine. Do basically that, although mine looks more like "put an upside-down bowl over the gel, prop the rim of the bowl up on a small rock or something. "
posted by Stacey at 10:13 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

FencingGal: The ants were there before. You just didn’t see them.

posted by sevensnowflakes at 10:13 AM on October 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

You likely didn't miss anything - instead, their food sources elsewhere probably vanished. There are always a few ants exploring and looking for new sources, and if something vanishes suddenly, the scouts go looking in areas previously considered "not worth the bother."

Other food vanishing could mean a nearby garbage dumpster got replaced rather than just emptied, or someone's leaky faucet got fixed so there's no easy water there, or someone changed their heating conditions and that spot in the wall they used to walk through isn't survivable anymore.

A new swarm of ants doesn't mean you did anything wrong; it means their old habits weren't working and they're hoping to find new easy meals.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2017 [11 favorites]

We get ants when it rains for some reason. We use the gel traps. They will be around for about a week, then die off. When you stop seeing them one day, keep the gel traps out a couple days longer - sometimes they come in waves. Also not a bad idea to put them out whenever you're going out of town for a week because then you don't have to deal with the horror of it, and it keeps the colonies in check. They never really go away completely - they just get squashed down for a bit and then rebuild.
posted by egeanin at 10:31 AM on October 26, 2017

This is normal. Cal the exterminator to ask about the gel. The stuff that i am familiar with is non-toxic to pets. They also have a line in their FAQ about exactly this. If you see the ants coming around places without little gel dots, you can get some of the Terro stuff and put it down yourself. Ants suck but most of the time they show up (and disappear) relatively quickly.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used to have sugar ants in my car, and I always noticed they'd swarm right before the weather cooled -- depending on where you are, the change in the seasons might have made the ants seek food or shelter in your nice, cozy kitchen.

But the gel traps work well, and yes, it's gross now but in a day or two, it should be fine. If it's not, call the exterminator again.
posted by PearlRose at 10:43 AM on October 26, 2017

as a side note windex is amazing at rapidly killing ants. and it smells fresh as a daisy and streak free after.
posted by chasles at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

I visited a friend this summer who was really upset by suddenly having a big ant problem--we stopped by Home Depot and the problem was down to nearly nothing within just a couple days. All those ants that you see right now? That's fantastic. You want to see that many ants. You want all the ants to find the baits and take the stuff home. You'll see tons--and then tomorrow or the day after you'll have like three stragglers and in a week you'll probably have nothing.
posted by Sequence at 11:19 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

yes! this gel stuff is amazing but the point of it is to get them all to come back take it back to their nest and kill all of them!
posted by ancient star at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2017

Should I burn my apartment down?



Whenever this happened to me back in my apartment days, I'd just avoid the kitchen because if I went in there while the ants were swarming, I COULD NOT STOP MYSELF from killing them all. It's a visceral thing with me, even though I intellectually knew that they needed to take that bait back to the nest. Couldn't help it.

Avoid your kitchen as much as you can for the next couple of days and your sanity will be saved.
posted by cooker girl at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2017

Simple Green gets them too.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is normal. I live in an old house and we get ants every spring and autumn. I used to get all self conscious about them and feel like a failure home owner, but now I just keep some backup packs of the terro liquid bait in the closet and place them as needed.

We have a small dog so I try to place the baits in locations I know she can't get to (under low furniture, behind the toilet, etc). She doesn't seem interested in them but better safe than sorry since the borax could give a nasty stomach ache. They might be harder to place with a cat around, but if you put some obstacles around them you should be able to save the baits from kitty-based-destruction.
posted by donut_princess at 12:06 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favorite homemade, mostly nontoxic ant killer (and scent trail destroyer) is a spray bottle filled with three parts water, two parts isopropyl alcohol, and one part dish soap. Kills on contact, disrupts the scent trail, wipes up quickly and easily, and doesn't leave behind toxic residue.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:38 PM on October 26, 2017

If you are using the gel solution I'm thinking of, it's considered non-toxic for pets. You still don't want to have them gobbling it up, though. It was surprisingly effective for us (after the initial horror of five days of ant swarms) and super cheap on Amazon. We didn't need to call an exterminator.
posted by lieber hair at 2:53 PM on October 26, 2017

Totally normal! Eventually you might find it kind of satisfying. I did anyway, because I didn't know they were there before, but once I did know it was because they were dead.
While it may be non toxic, the gel and ants aren't necessarily the best for your cats stomach, so maybe try to avoid that.
posted by Verba Volant at 3:51 PM on October 26, 2017

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