Ants in the bathroom!
October 6, 2007 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Ants in the bathroom!

We're re-caulking a bathtub that badly needs it — the old caulk is black and peeling. When I pulled away the last strip of old caulk, out poured a few dozen tiny red ants. We hadn't been seeing any in the house until now; apparently they were happily living in the wall until I disturbed them.

What's the best solution here?

In particular, do I have to take care of this before I reapply the caulk? We're all looking forward to bathing on Monday, so I'd rather not wait too long unless I have to.
posted by nebulawindphone to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I have found the Terro Liquid Ant Traps to be tremendously successful for dealing with ants. They will get worse for a day and then disappear entirely.
posted by Anonymous at 10:22 AM on October 6, 2007

the only method that's been successful for me is to watch the ants very carefully, find out where they are coming in, and seal up the hole with caulk.

but i think its true that the ants may always be hanging around in the walls of the house and there may be nothing that can be done about that.

also ants HATE peppermint. you can make a mixture of peppermint oil and water and spray it around. this worked well when my mailbox was infested with ants...
posted by joeblough at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2007

Borax dissolved in water makes fabulous ant-bait and then poison. Leave a dish out for a few days, and use just enough water to barely dissolve the borax.

Yes, you should deal with the ants before re-caulking.
posted by janell at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2007

2nding Terro. Die you little bastards, die!
posted by wafaa at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2007

I would simply caulk over the hole, and let them go back about your business.

I see no need to kill them all. Ants, as far as pests go, are quite inoffensive and harmless.

Insecticide is not.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2007

I would simply caulk over the hole, and let them go back about their business.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2007

I'm not sure where you live, but if it's been a dry summer/fall, the ants are in your walls and home trying to find moisture. From your description, they don't sound like carpenter ants, but I would Google "carpenter ants" to see a pic and make sure.

If they're not, they probably gained entrance through a crack in your window frame, or space in your siding. They'll leave as soon as it gets wet again. If you're uncomfortable with the thought of ants nesting in your walls, then you can call a pest control company to leave bait in that hole that you made. The ants will take it back to the nest and the rest will die. Other ants trying to find a home will do the same.

Personally, I'm not fond of ants, and we've had the same situation as you. I would rather they nest somewhere else, frankly, but the decision to treat is up to you. The pro-applied baits are targeted just to specific ants, rather than wide-spectrum-kill-all-the-bugs over the counter stuff.
posted by Flakypastry at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2007

n'th Terro -- it works really well. However, it's aimed at sugar-loving ants, which may not include your type of ants (I'm not sure what kind of red ants you have). The ants are probably looking for water, so try to seal off any other water leaks.

Relevant McSweeney's link, FYI.
posted by spiderskull at 11:58 AM on October 6, 2007

You can try to caulk them in as suggested, and maybe you'll be lucky with that. But I've see many a tub in which some ant carcasses had obviously been accidentally embedded in the caulk.

Kill. Vacuum the hole to get out all the bodies. Then caulk.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2007

oh yeah - as nakedcodemonkey says, vacuuming can work wonders. a shop vac is what you need.

also in my case, i had ants all over the house, in the bathroom, bedroom, etc. but i found that they were coming in through a massive hole in the kitchen where electric service was brought in for an over-range light. once i sealed that up i never had ant problems to the same degree ever again.

so they may have all been coming in the house thru that one hole.
posted by joeblough at 3:58 PM on October 6, 2007

Ants, as far as pests go, are quite inoffensive and harmless.

Except for carpenter ants (black ones), which will eat your house. Termites (white), which look a bit like ants, will also eat your house. Both are also signs that your house is rotting. Since these are red ants, though, no worries; they'll only eat you. (Although, being in the bathtub area, there might be some rotten wood in there somewhere.)

Don't just caulk it back up. If you need to be quick about it, at the very least try to stuff an ant trap or two in the hole and only then seal it up. Vaccuuming will just spread the problem from the wall to the vaccuum. The best way to get rid of the visible ones is by squishing them with a bunched up kleenex. Try to avoid bites.

You could always call an exterminator....
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:15 AM on October 7, 2007

Vacuuming the hole does not spread the problem to the vac.

(1) You've killed them first.

(2) Ants* are suffocated by the dust in the bag. So vacuuming kills off whatever those few strays who survived step 1. If you want to be extra cautious, just vacuum up a bit of cornstarch, boric acid, or baby powder. No one is coming out of there alive.

*Works for spiders too.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:07 AM on October 7, 2007

well... after a couple of years, the ants started appearing again, after the heavy rains we've had here in NorCal.

i ran around watching them and caulking again, but finally i just couldnt find any more cracks, and still the ants were coming in.

under microscopic examination, they reveal themselves to be argentine ants. i went out and got some terro after i noticed ants in the back of a kitchen cabinet, milling around one of those "combat" traps that i had placed there a while back.

3 minutes after placing the terro trap, there must have been 1000 ants all over it. i put 5 more traps there, and now there are about a zillion ants, happily taking the bait back to the colony. its been about 24 hours now and there are still the same number of ants.

unfortunately, everything i've read says that it might actually be impossible to destroy an argentine ant colony, because they can be massive and have several queens. so it will be interesting to find out if this will actually work.
posted by joeblough at 11:03 PM on January 24, 2008

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