Hot Topics: Ants!

A row of black ants feeding on some syrup.

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The vernal equinox is almost upon us. Spring is called spring because things spring to life, and ants are no exception. After a long winter’s nap, they are hungry, and you have the food. When the little animals moved into his kitchen one of our moderators turned to the forum and the other members stepped in to help.

Original Post: Ants!

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

For the last week or so we've been battling tiny black ants in one of the kitchen upper cabinets. When we first noticed it there was an unopened bag of rice that was full of ants and few scattered elsewhere in that cabinet. Got rid of the rice, made sure everything we pulled out of the cabinet was free of ants and the sprayed the cabinets [generic ant/roach spray] cleaned the cabinets the next day, resprayed and after a few days - restocked the cabinets.

Today the ants were back for the 3rd time. The ants are so small they can get inside a jar of peanut butter with the lid screwed on tight.

I checked and found no bug activity under the floor but sprayed the crawlspace anyway. They are not in the bottom cabinet, on the counter, in the base cabinet or in the attic. With the exception of lady bugs we've never had a bug problem. How do I get rid of these ants for good??

Highlights from the Thread:

PAbugman Forum Topic Moderator

For ants smaller than carpenter ants we like to use ant bait, especially the liquids and gels/pastes. For the most part, over the counter insecticides will act as repellent as well as kill them. The repellency can scatter them and will work against a baiting strategy. The idea behind baiting is for them to take it back to the colony over a period of days. It works slow.

If they are as tiny as you indicate, I wonder if they are “pharaoh ants.” These guys will scatter and “bud off” new colonies quite easily, especially if affected by repellent insecticides.

If you could find the colony and spray it or very close to it, then the sprays can be effective. Normally we can’t find them, hence the baiting strategy.

Oftentimes I find the little guys living in, around and under window sills and making forays to neighboring cabinets. Behind and under dishwashers is a culprit, too. Also in wall voids nearby.

Get liquid ant bait stations (Terro is one brand) and gel ant bait in plastic syringes. Inject into any window sill cracks and crevices, behind/under backsplash board, electric outlets, etc.

Keep us posted.

aka pedro Member

Not a professional, and nowhere near the same ballpark as PAbugman, but have had plenty of experience with them, so here's my 2 cents worth. They can definitely be a nuisance, and sometimes almost embarrassing, particularly when they happen to show up when you have guests, but we sort of toss them into the same category as something like box elder bugs or lady bugs; they're not hurting anything, and they are going to show up from time to time, regardless of what steps you take. We get them a couple of times each year, usually for two or three weeks at a time, and then they're gone for quite a while. We have found though that the small bait traps that you can pick up at the local hardware store or feed mill seem to be fairly effective, so we always have a couple of them under the toe boards, and they at least minimize the numbers.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Thanks, I'll do that. It's an interior wall so there's no connection to the outside. About how long does the bait take? Everything that was in the cabinet now sits on the island/bar. I've even considered taking the cabinet down but would prefer not to - not as young or stout as I once was.

Is it feasible that the ants originated from a bag of rice? We never saw any ants until the day after buying the rice and there appeared to be more ants inside the unopened bag than in the cabinet.

“They're not hurting anything, and they are going to show up from time to time, regardless of what steps you take.”

Try telling that to my wife. I tried to joke and say that the ants would add more protein to the rice and peanut butter but she didn't see the humor.

czizzi Member

If you are patient and have nothing better to do..... I have been nagged from time to time by the same "out of nowhere" ants. They follow distinct paths, and if you follow them, they will tell you where they are coming from. The very first time we had a problem, I was baffled as to where they came from. Finally, instead of constantly spraying them, I sat and watched. They found a crack in the grout on the backsplash, traveled the length of the cabinetry, exited 10 feet away, went vertical, went behind the crown molding, traveled 30 feet across the family room to the built in cabinets next to the fireplace, down the cabinets to the outlet inside the cabinet. I went outside and followed them as they exited from the siding next to the chimney, across the driveway until the concrete ended and there was the nest, in the middle of the driveway. They got an A for effort and a couple of cans of insecticide which took care of the problem.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I set out the ant bait [Terro] couldn't find the Terro syringe but did get a squeeze bottle of Raid ant gel.
I've not seen any ants or signs that they have been to the bait stations. Would it be a good idea to put some peanut butter on the bait stations? The label says it can take up to 2 weeks to eliminate the ants.

Most of what I've read says to find the ant trails usually on an exterior wall/window. This cabinet is on an interior wall. I've seen no signs of ants in the crawlspace but sprayed there anyway. Likewise there are no ant trails on the foundation. There have never been any ants seen at the exterior wall where the sink is.

Not crazy about all the cabinet's contents being stacked up on the island but the 2 previous times we restocked the cabinets was when the ants returned. Just want to make sure the ants are gone before we put the stuff back.

PAbugman Forum Topic Moderator

I suspect that the ants are in a wall void, or between floor joists within 20 feet, and probably within 10 feet of where they are feeding. Could be in or near soffit, if a first floor. Certainly they will travel farther, but oftentimes they are close.

Don’t adulterate your bait with anything. The initial spraying could have already disrupted them. If so, they may emerge someplace else. Put some stations in the cabinet, put some gel/paste bait on small squares of wax paper in same cabinet, and put your kitchenware back in.

At this point it’s a waiting game.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

There aren't any soffits in the kitchen, the ceiling is only a little over 7 feet high and the cabinets go to the ceiling. Haven't seen any ants anywhere since Friday.

Last night I put a little peanut butter on a piece of cardboard along with a few drops of the bait. Still no evidence of ants but I'm leery of restocking the cabinet as the last 2 times there were no signs of ants until we put the food back.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Ok, the ants came back yesterday. They seem to have avoided the Terro bait stations but did go after the peanut butter with bait added. Now there is no sign of them. Does that mean they are all dead/dying? I'm still gun shy and plan to wait at least a few more days before we restock the cabinet.

PAbugman Forum Topic Moderator

Too soon for them to feed the colony and die off.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Any idea how long it will take? I don't want to put anything back in the cabinet this time until I'm fairly certain they won't return.

Mrfixyagood Member

Terro like others have said, boric acid or demetrius earth and get a bulb applicator from or any other online pest supply. While you are at it get a general insecticide like Talstar or any other brand. Spray the perimeter of your house once the Terro has done its job and use the boric acid behind the stove, fridge, cracks etc.

Terro also sells granules you can sprinkle around your house as a perimeter defense

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Still no sign of ants. Replaced the Terro bait 4-5 days ago. Do you think they are all dead and won't be returning?

Mrfixyagood Member

Very likely. Terro has worked for me in the past in 2-3 days. Heavy in the first and second day but starting to taper off. Important, the ants should have made a direct line to your Terro and back to their nesting place. If that traffic is gone then the Terro did the job. Use boric acid as a precaution in corners of your cabinets with the bulb applicator and spray your perimeter.

PAbugman Forum Topic Moderator

Their non-presence is a good sign; no guarantees though-remember: they are ants and do what they want, not what we want.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I'm going to restock the cabinet.
I appreciate everyone's advice.

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