Get rid of ants naturally

Asked April 3, 2018, 6:30 PM EDT

Hi! I have been struggling to rid the small sugar(?) ants with peppermint and which hazel spraying he counters. Within 1 day the army is back... I've also used borax and powdered sugar with drops of water...nothing works so far. I'm getting desperate, and nearly to the point of going postal with Raid...please save us all! I'd also appreciate any idea for outside around the perimeter of the house. I've seen tons of ants there as well. Thank you so much, Meg Coryell

Clackamas County Oregon

1 Response

Sorry to hear about your struggle with ants. When people refer to “sugar ants” they’re most often complaining about odorous house ants, Tapinoma sessile, which the public also refer to as sugar ants or grease ants. An easy way to verify their ID as odorous house ants is that they produce an unpleasant, acrid odor when crushed.

In any event, you need to know that it’s impossible to eradicate these small invaders. Even if you could do so, others would soon take their place.

You should be able to limit their uninvited indoor excursions with a multi-pronged approach. Only wiping down their trails with soapy water, peppermint, and/or witch hazel won’t stop them because, as you’ve found out, they will either make new trails or re-create the old ones. Further, killing only visible ants also fails because they represent a mere 10 percent, or less, of the colony.

The bottom lines for managing your frustrations about house-invading ants are these:

1. Sanitation (regularly clean counters, floors and used dishes), and store perishable foodstuffs for people or pets in tight, rigid containers.

2. Caulk and seal entries such as cracks in the foundation or gaps where utilities enter structures. But realize ants will still find a way in.

3. Limit insects that produce honeydew– the sticky stuff on leaves – on outdoor plants: aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scale, both soft and cottony.

4. Limit access indoors by trimming foliage – bridges – away from structures.

5. Use commercially-formulated ant baits and repeat as needed. Effective over-the-counter baits against odorous house ants as well as other common house-invading ants have one of the following active ingredients: borate based, such as in Terro; fipronil, such as in Maxforce or Combat gel; and hydramethylnon, which is in a number of brands. Many ant baits available at retail outlets reduce activity within 24 hours but require a week or more for maximum mortality.

6. Homemade ant baits seldom work because they may be either too weak, functioning as food for the colony, or too strong, killing the scouts before they share the bait with the colony.

Finally, understand that the ants will return again and again. (At my place, they often reappear with most heat waves and commonly a day or so following a heavy rainfall, even periodically during the winter.) Every time the ants come indoors, set out commercially formulated ant bait, and refresh them as needed until the ants are gone.

Perimeter treatment is best managed by a professional pest control company. As always, interview 3 or more companies to compare their suggestions. See “Selecting a Pest Control Company” - http://npic.orst.edu/pest/selectpco.html.