unlikely ant murderer
November 21, 2022 5:41 PM   Subscribe

cw: swarming insect talk. Every year around this time these so called "well prepared ants" come looking for food & water and they find it all over my house. So then they come out and get it. I need help dealing with not wanting to clean them up.

I used to have enough energy, when I saw a long line of troopers stretching across the kitchen and up into the garbage can, to wipe out the whole line and poison the entrance they came out of and seal it up with glue. That would take care of them for the rest of the year.

This year I'm trying to deal with them but more often than not lately I'm just like ugh I don't have it in me to kill them.

But I have to because they have to go. Logically I know they're all just little chitinous extensions of a massive hive mind anyway and they're designed to fan out and ultimately be destroyed en masse.

It's not something I feel guilty about, because I don't think it's wrong to kill them, I just don't want to, apparently. I just don't like killing things and it takes a lot out of me when I do it, and I don't have anything to be taken out of at this point in time. And there's just so many of them.

I do have a house cleaning service but they came for the week already and my little friends are back. I'm the only person in the house who can do this. And I do have to do it, because I also hate having them on me, and looking at them.

I'm at the point where I don't know what else to do so wondering if anyone has anything for this weird niche problem. Thank you in advance.
posted by bleep to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 5:43 PM on November 21, 2022

You are not alone.

We buy Terro ant traps and put them near where the ants are coming in and by the garbage/compost/whatever food or water source is drawing them in. They eat the bait, take it back to the colony and die there, so we will have exponentially fewer ants to clean up.
posted by jenquat at 5:54 PM on November 21, 2022 [8 favorites]

Yes, the bait traps. Better living through denial. Peel off the seals, tuck them somewhere inconspicuous, and forget that any of this ever happened.
posted by teremala at 6:09 PM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

If Terro isn't cutting it, you can use this, recommended by my exterminator. If you are in the Bay Area, I can send you his name. He's lovely and seems competent and not obsessed with monthly services or anything. Memail me.
posted by purpleclover at 6:26 PM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

If the thing that's hard is the killing (rather than the effort) then you could seal the entrance as usual and sweep up the remaining indoor ants, or trap them in a container baited with something nonpoisonous. And let them go outside.

You might not get all of them, and you might accidentally kill some of them, but you'll save a number of ant lives.

If you have a vacuum with a bag you could also collect them that way, and then either release them or throw out the bag.
posted by trig at 6:27 PM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

They are getting in somewhere, so find the source and seal it up. Much easier said than done, but look over the entire foundation inside your house. We found they had dug into the area surrounding a water pipe in the utility room and have sealed that up. In the meantime, there are crystals you can sprinkle around the outside of your home to repel them.
posted by soelo at 7:01 PM on November 21, 2022

You could do Terro traps - they work great - or you can eliminate the ant food. They are going to your trash because you put food in your trash. Instead consider composting your food and using a container that seals to store it on your counter or put your food trash directly into the trash outside. Ants tend to like certain foods - protein and sugar, in my experience. Put those items in the fridge or freezer. They'll continue to come for a bit until they learn there is nothing more there for them. Also this is a bit weird, but we actually hang our trash from a hook to keep ants out.
posted by Toddles at 7:28 PM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you know where they are coming in, you could place a little line of diatomaceous earth there. It’s effective in a more immediate way than poison since you don’t have to wait while they eat.

Individual ants separated from the colony die, I believe, so there’s no point in a rescue mission.
posted by Comet Bug at 8:08 PM on November 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

Ants hate mentholated foot powder. I think menthol makes their antennae just NOPE right the fuck out of there. But eventually there's no recourse but to trace them back to entry point. You can also wipe down or block the trail when you see a tendril. It's sorta fun to watch them get confused when they can't make their way back. I also put ants into the hive-mind tendril thing. No foul, just don't come here.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:53 PM on November 21, 2022

A thing that helps me deal with the yearly ant invasion is to apologize to the ants for the bait traps I'm setting out for them (as others have said, the Terro ones seem to work well). Something like "I'm sorry little guys but my house is not the right place for you". Sweeping the remaining ants out the door (one of the places they usually come in) is less emotionally taxing since it's like sweeping the floor and I can pretend that at least some of the ants will make it back to the colony.

I suspect I feel much guiltier about the ants than you do and even typing this out feels a bit ghoulish! It is nonetheless unavoidable that as humans, we're going to do things that are harmful to the local environment as part of our existence. Sometimes that harm is less easily ignored than others and it's ok to feel exhausted when you're part of that cycle.
posted by Brassica oleracea at 10:08 PM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

An alternative option is to spray down the countertop wirh amonia based window cleaner; it disrupts the trail. Spray, then wipe down, then spray and leave a fine coating to dry.

If there's not too much tasty tidbits around, this sometimes works....
posted by mightshould at 6:35 AM on November 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

My autumn ant problem seems to be solved partly by removing any leaves that have accumulated next to my foundation. I usually do a sprinkle of outdoor ant poison granules where the leaves had been; it seems to wipe them out within a few hours.
posted by little king trashmouth at 6:42 AM on November 22, 2022

Seconding using a vacuum to pick them up. I used to have an ant problem at my old house, and that was the easiest way to deal with them.
posted by luckynerd at 9:33 AM on November 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

We lived in the Serengeti in the mid-70s, my dad being a wildlife biologist in the field. Our house was built smack on top of one of the traditional trails the nomadic siafu army ants used, and they invaded our house the first night we were there, causing us to decamp to neighbors for a few days until the colony moved on. My dad found out from old bush hands that kerosene disrupted their chemical signalling, so after that when we spotted the columns nearing the house, he'd go squirt kerosene around the foundation, and they'd leave us alone.

I do not recommend kerosene in your case! But anything to block the chemical trails the scouts leave should work, including just scrubbing the floor near the entrance they're using. I wish I could remember where I read this, but I read an (article? book chapter?) by a curious scientist who put paper down at the entrance ants used, so they laid the trails across the paper, then just threw the paper away to disrupt the trail.
posted by telophase at 10:07 AM on November 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

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