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How to get rid of ants?

antAs Summer rolled along brining relief and joy to Chicagoans from winter, along came with it the pesky insects buzzing around, Chipmunks burrowing , Rabbits devouring tulips and the dreaded Ants.  As much as one can admire them in regards to their hard work, tenacity, group work, they are deemed pesky pests once they enter our homes that need to be eradicated. From a health perspective in rare cases they can cause Asthma and Allergies.

Depending on the area of country various types of them can invade homes. The variety of ants found in U.S.A are  Pavement Ants, House Ant, Honey Ants, Carpenter Ants, Yellow Ants and Pharaoh Ants.

Following are some methods on how to get rid of ants.

Killing the ants.

The first instinct upon spotting ants is to kill them. This just rids of the ones you see but does nothing to get rid of the actual ant colony, where majority of ants are housed. By killing the ones you see is merely eradicating the workers that are on a food run. Ants have a strict social hierarchy where the Queen or Queens of a colony keep producing ants, mostly female ones that act as workers that you often see on the ant trail, these  are constantly on the lookout for food.

Creating a homemade borax solution.

Bait them with borax and sugar solution. Follow the below steps to prepare a borax solution.  The recipe calls for three parts of sugar for one part of borax.

  1. Quarter cup borax.
  2. 3/4 cup of sugar.
  3. Couple of cups of water.

Mix them up to make a enticing sugary syrup solution that ants can feed on. Use this syrup to place in small bottle caps and place them near an ant trail or areas where you know ants have been entering the house. Take precautionary measures to keep it away from children and pets as boric acid is harmful.  One trick is to pour the solution in a bottle with a small mouth and place it sideways on the floor wherein it’s easy for ants to enter and difficult for pets to get into.

Common ways to get rid of ants.

  1. One way to get rid of ants is to spray the area where you see ants with peppermint oil or vinegar,  or black pepper, but these probably work on a small number but generally lack the punch and power to knock out the entire colony.
  2. A mixture of water and vinegar sprayed on to the ants will kill them. A does of peppermint oil will keep the ants away, spray them near entrances to the house or any enter points you see ants marching in, peppermint oil will keep them away. It’s essentially the same method with tea tree oil.
  3. Generally ants are consumers of sweet and are attracted to syrups, sugar, honey etc. If you spot some in your kitchen give them a dose of cayenne pepper by placing it in the location you spot them and this will be a deterrent to them.
  4. Also there is the process of using Lemons and Oranges to keep ants at bay, by squeezing some lemon juice at entry points near doors and windows. Similarly pulverize few orange peels in a blender, add some water to it and spray it on the ant colony to let the ants migrate somewhere else.

 

Commercial Baits

Commercial Ant Baits. — Browsing the isles your of home improvement store provides a plethora of commercial baiting products, the most common ones are feeding baits (fig 1) , which the ants enter, consume bait and are supposed to take it back to the colony and spread amongst the colony members. In my experience these are useless, at least in the case of Carpenter ants, probably because of the size of the ant is larger compared to the entry point of the bait station, which renders it useless.

fig 1.

 

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get_rid_of_ants_bait1

5 Powerful ways to Get rid of carpenter Ants.

Carpenter Ants are unique in the sense they are one of few species in north america  that can cause damage to homes that have wooden structures, specifically moist wood, as they can burrow through them with less effort. They are are substantially large compared to other household ants and range in size from about 1/2  inch to 1 inch long. One of the tell tale signs is presence of Frass, which resemble shavings of wood that sometimes even contain dead carcasses of insects, which this species is noted to feed on.

They are nocturnal and mostly forage at night. But I have seen them during day time but in rather small numbers.

1) Commercially available Boric Acid Solution.

I had resorted to three of the five different methods to get rid of them. First was a product named Terro, Ant Liquid Killer.

As I was specifically trying to eradicate carpenter ants, you should know that they have two types of  feeding cycles, one is protein and the other being sugar cycle, (contrary to popular belief because of their name, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but remove wood in order to make nests. If you happen to catch them during the sugary cycle, they will devour this product.

The manufacturers page is ambiguous about it killing carpenter ants, but from personal experience they will definitely be attracted to this product, in fact they will gobble up as much as they can.

After 2 weeks of drinking this stuff up there was some relief from the ants but they have returned, they seem  fatter and bulkier than before, probably the sugary syrup fattened them up instead of killing them, could be the smaller ones have been killed which has brought out the larger ants.  I continue to use this as some lab tests have proven that ants need to be fed boric acid for longer periods of time in order for it to be effective.

2) Spray Borax

The problem we had was the ants were in couple of different places in the house. One location  we had were coming in from the floor behind  the baseboard. (see video below). After attempting to attack them with the store bought borax solution which helped reduce their numbers, I tried spraying boric acid through the crevice using a boric acid puffer bottle. This seemed to take care of them completely as i have not come across any carpenter ants in that location.

dollar-store-boric-acid-rid-ants
Boric acid in puffer bottle

Insect related supply stores sell boric acid powder in puffer bottles, that are convenient to spray.  The slender tip of the bottle is ideal to place it through the exit point and pump a few to get that powder partly along the ants trail behind the baseboard.

You can also buy boric acid in a box and use a device known as bulb sprayer, you simply fill the sprayer with a small amount of boric acid or diatomaceous earth and spray in affected areas. Take precaution to not puff out in the open inside the house if you have pets. I found the below puffer bottle at a dollar store.

carpenter-ants-terroIMG_8676

3 ) Fumigating by using a Fogger.

This method is generally used for bed bug infestations, as this contains powerful pesticides that are pervasive and quite harmful to humans if inhaled, it is crucial to leave the house when the fogger is in use and stay away from the premises for about two to three hours after the can of fogger has been engaged. I had to use this method as Frass was visible in a location that surely seemed to be coming from the rooms ceiling. As the location was not accessible, I deployed a can of Fumigator in and closed the room up overnight, there is almost no frass accumulation now.

carpenter ant frass
Frass falling from ceiling.

During spring cleaning the outside shed had ants, spiders, moths and numerous earwigs.

I emptied the shed and started the fogger, after about three hours everything was cleared. It was like a mini nuclear explosion that wiped out everything thing inside the storage shed.

Resorting to fogger should be carefully considered because of the highly toxic ingredients, because of inaccessibility I used it. Make sure to read the instructions. They are highly flammable and is even recommended to not have any lights on when the fogger is being dispensed. It is essential to turn off any pilot lights and other source of heat.

4) Using an Ant to spread Boric Acid to the colony.

 

Ants work in close quarters to each other and inevitably rub against each other, everyone must have observed that when ants passing each other in opposite direction  nudge each other as if to pass information along, this is because they communicate by pheromones which are produced by secretion glands that help communicate by odor, this closeness to each other can be used to an advantage.

  1. Take  a plastic container and fill it up with Boric powder.
  2. Pick up a few Ants that you spot and place them in the container.
  3. Shake the container so the ant(s) roll in the powder and boric powder has adhered to the ants.
  4. Leave them out where you found them.
  5. The boric acid carrying ants will take the boric acid with them and spread it amongst their colony, eventually to the queen and wipe out the colony, this may have to be repeated a few times in order to get to the queen.

 

5) Using Diatomaceous Earth.

What the heck is this? Diatomaceous earth, AKA D.E is a white powder like substance that exists naturally, it consits of fossilized remains of algae. Below are some uses.

  1. ) It is available in Food Grade and commercial grades. Food grade is harmless to humans and some even consume it for many reasons, such as better digestion, relief of joint pain, better skin and hair plus a wide variety of other reasons. Definitely consult a doctor before consuming it.
  2. Commercial grade is available for cleaning pools or as deodorizer etc.

But the most important commercial use is as a pesticide, it is know to kills ants and other bugs. It’s best to use food grade as it is harmless to humans and pets. The one warning is – it is harmful to inhale and hence should exercise caution when handling it. Ideal way is to spread it where ant infestations are known to exist. Diatomaceous earth is razor-sharp at a microscopic level which penetrates the ants exoskeleton which dries its body and eventually killing them.

6) Exterminator

Finally if none of the above methods derive results, then a call to a professional exterminator should be considered. I did have an exterminator present a quote which consisted of signing a one year contract, and was divided into a schedule that consisted of applying the insecticide four times in a year. ( One spray each quarter ). The cost was about $850.00 , which is a little steep. Definitely try out the methods mentioned above that can relieve ant issues if one of the methods are implemented patiently.

Getting Rid of Odorous house ants.

This common ant species is addicted to all things sugar. It’s common name is derived from the fact that – as a defensive method it releases an odor from it’s anal glands when disturbed by predators, in order to repel them. These ants have a constant craving for sugar based food. Unlike carpenter ants they do not cause damage to the wood inside your home or bite you, as they lack stingers. To prevent them from entering your home, keep clean of food particles and water.

Key points from Lab tests.

Before you start spraying highly concentrated boric acid, it’s best to try the sugary concoction of baiting, laboratory tests of ant colonies specifically fire ants were reduced by 90% within six weeks using boric acid concentrations of 1.0%, 0.75%, 0.50% and 0.25%.  It is prudent to keep the boric acid / sugar/ water bait for longer periods. Tests have shown when exposed to this bait for about 10 weeks the ant colonies were completely eliminated. Florida’s carpenter ants’ threshold is about 30 days when used with 1% of boric acid.

Final Advice

In conclusion, it is imperative to get rid of the entire colony of ants rather than only the ones you see. Locating a colony can be rather tricky,as they are housed inconspicuously within the home or outside in the garden.

it is essential to locate the nest and kill the queen, whose sole purpose is to produce copious amounts of ants. The queen ant is a matured ant that produces the ants within the colony. Depending on the species there may be multiple queen ants present in the same ant colony and all need to be killed in order to clear the ant colony. An interesting bit of information I recently encountered was that some queens live up to 30 years.

If it’s carpenter ants then the best bet would be that they are nesting in some area where wood is present.  Usually firewood that’s stored out in the yard which is ideal for Carpenter ants. The best precaution is to make sure this wood is  free of moisture which is ideal for carpenter ant colonies.

Most commonly ants have colonies in and around  homes in the garden, near the bushes or trees nearby and they enter the homes in search of food and may create various satellite colonies within the house or out in the garden.

 

 

References:

http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pc_ants.htm

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/news/20050225/ants-can-cause-asthma-allergies

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/ufbir/chapters/chapter_34.shtml

https://www.ars.usda.gov/arsuserfiles/60360510/publications/Klotz_and_Williams-1996(M-3020).pdf

http://www.schoolofants.org/species/118