major ant infestation...please help!

blacksockzJuly 19, 2010

Hi all,

My 3 year old woke me up this morning, rather frantically, and brought me to the laundry room where I discovered hundreds of teeny ants.

I killed whatever was there, but they seem to me ignoring all my efforts and keep coming back. I did some research and found there are a variety of ants, but I can't figure out which one is mine

Has anyone had any experience with in-house ants, are they Pharaoh or Carpenter and do you have some way (other than calling some pest control company) to deal with them myself?

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If the ants are teeny, they are most likely sugar ants, which are fairly easy to control. Mix borax and sugar 50:50 and place in shallow containers where the ants are - they will take it back to the nest, ants die, problem solved. Also (and I know this sounds strange, but it works), for some reason, they don't like cinnamon. If you can find where they are entering your house, spread a line of cinnamon - they don't like to walk through it.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 2:46PM
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Thank you so much for that advice... where can you get borax? I'll try the cinnamon first...I know what that is :-)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 3:07PM
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Join the club! I had an ant problem earlier this summer and solved it by using a mixture of boric acid powder (not borax) and sugar (as bait). As you've discovered, killing the ants you see doesn't do any good because they just keep coming. Instead, you'll need to put out some poison that the foraging ants can take back to the nest to feed to the colony.

Since you have a toddler, I'd recommend using ant cups, which you should be able to find in any supermarket. If the area where the ants are coming in is not reachable by your child, you could use boric acid instead. Boric acid is toxic in large quantities to humans and pets, but according to Wikipedia, not much more toxic than table salt, and IMO much preferable to commercial airborne insecticides that you breathe in. It's also cheap, and the ants won't become immune to it. Here's the recipe that I used:

1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. boric acid
1/4 cup water(optional)

The key is to not make the mixture too strong or too weak. If it's too strong, it will kill the foraging ants outright, before they have a chance to feed it to the colony. If it's too weak, it won't kill the colony. You may need to experiment to get the dosage right. I probably could have gone a little stronger.

I found the boric acid at Walgreen's - about $3 or $4 for a a pint (more than a lifetime supply). You can either mix the boric acid and sugar and sprinkle it along the ant trail, or add water and paint the syrup on a small piece of cardboard and place over the ant trail. (Don't put the syrup directly on the trail surface, because it's messy and hard to clean up after it hardens. I did this at first because the instructions I followed weren't very clear.) You'll have to keep applying it every couple of days until the ants have disappeared. This technique was very effective for me, but I was disappointed that it took about 10 days before the ants were gone. After they're gone, clean the area thoroughly to prevent other ants from trying to follow the same ant trails. I used ammonia because I read that it obliterates the pheromone scent that ants leave on the trail.

From what I've read, some ants (at least at certain stages in their lifecycle) won't go for sugar. If the ants seem to ignore the bait, try adding some fat (a small amount of peanut butter or vegetable oil).

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Key to identifying common household ants

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 3:22PM
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Borax is sodium borate, a salt of boric acid. I prefer it to boric acid because it is in powder form. It is readily available in most grocery stores with the laundry detergent, typically under the brand name "20 Mule Team."

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 4:54PM
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Or, you could just buy a squeeze bottle of Ant-Be-Gone, apply as directed and have them gone the first time out. (I'm not pushing the product otherwise, just trying to help here).

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 5:11AM
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Alice, boric acid IS a powder - very easy to use, either dry or dissolved in water. I've read (but can't find the source right now) that borax can be used as an insecticide, but that boric acid is more effective. I haven't tried borax, so I can't say. But I find it interesting that the 20 Mule Team Borax site doesn't say anything about this use, even though it lists dozens of other uses. Maybe they're deliberating suppressing this info because they realize that people won't want to wash their clothes with an insecticide?

Larke, Ant-Be-Gone and similar products such as Orange Guard are effective CONTACT killers and deterrents, but they won't wipe out the nest (unless you can find the nest and apply the product directly). The advantage of using boric acid is that the foraging ants carry it back to the nest and feed it to the colony, eradicating it. It does take longer because it's not a contact killer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia article on Boric acid

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 11:32AM
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Many years ago we had an ant infestation. Our kids traced the ants back to their nest outside and poured boiling water into the nests. The ants never came back. Boiling water is as non-toxic a product as you can use.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 6:36PM
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Instead of making up all the witch's brew- just go to the store and buy some ant baits. Pretty simple huh?! They are enclosed so kids and pets can't get to the bait. They work very well.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 11:55PM
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The "witch's brew" is generally safer than the ant bait, not to mention cheaper. However, they are easy and effective.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 12:53AM
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I had a big black sweet eating ant infestation...none of the ant baits did a thing...but the Terro Borax ant killer got rid of them.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 12:58AM
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