Ants are the most frequent and persistent pests encountered around and inside homes and buildings. Besides being a nuisance outdoors ants can contaminate food when they come indoors. And who wants thousands of ants crawling around their kitchen cabinets?
To most folks, most ants look alike. But there are many species, some of which occur in the landscape, but will often travel inside your home looking for food and water when the weather is dry outside. The type of ant will influence the method you use for control.
This article is about controlling one of the most common ants: the Sugar Ant. These tiny dark brown (they look black) insects are also referred to as Grease Ants, House Ants, Kitchen Ants, Piss Ants (that's what I call them), Sweet Ants and, the name professional use: Odorous Ants or Odiferous Ants. These are the ants that seem to appear out of nowhere in your kitchen when you leave sweets foods or drinks on the counter. But these ants will sometimes switch off sweets when they need some protein. And, if the weather outside is dry and they're thirsty, they'll visit sinks and other water sources throughout the home.
Dealing with Sugar Ants can be very frustrating however there are several simple methods of control you can attempt without the help of a professional. Though this article pertains to Sugar Ants the recommendations for control pertain to most all structure-invading ants, except carpenter ants. There is also a species of Carpenter Ant that is quite small and Carpenter Ants are known for damaging wood.
When attempting to control any type of ant, the mistake most folks make is spraying only the ones they see with an insecticide. This method rarely if ever works because the foraging ants you see represent just a fraction of the entire colony. The rest of the colony, which is usually thousand of ants are at home in the nest, including the egg-laying queens which are deep inside the nest. So, to eliminate ants altogether you will need to use a method that gets to these other colony members.
Of course, the best method for control of insects is prevention, however this doesn't always work in the case of Sugar Ants. If they're after water there's not much you can do to close off all these sources inside your home. You can however find a way to contain opened boxes of food in your cabinets in containers that will prevent ants from entering. Too, sanitary measures, such as keeping counters and floors clear of food, crumbs, and liquids/drinks will help.
Outdoor Ant Control
*Go to next page for Indoor Ant Control
The Sugar Ants you might see inside your home may actually be nesting outdoors in the yard. In the wild, sugar ants typically dwell in woodlands, forests and heaths. Sugar Ant colonies can be found in soil, between rocks, in holes in wood and around the twigs of trees or shrubs. When they build their nests in soil, they can be recognized by large dirt hills surrounding the colonies’ entrances. They can be found foraging all over the yard and around the home during the warmer months. During the summer, I know they're around when the climb the hose I'm using to water hand-water plants and my legs. Good thing they don;t sting like fire ants do!
Try if you can to trace an ant trail back to the nest. One way to entice ants to reveal the location of their hidden nest(s) outdoors or indoors, is to place small dabs of honey or jelly on an index card, etc., next to where ants are observed. After the ants have fed, they will head back to the nest. While it often takes some patience to find an ant colony outdoors, control results will be more rapid and permanent directly treating the mound rather than only spraying where ants are seen trailing.
Below are a few methods for outdoor control at the site of a nest/mound or on ant trails.
When a nest is discovered, the colony often can be eliminated by drenching the with a liquid insecticide such as Liquid Sevin (carbaryl) or an insecticide containing pyrethrin. The larger the colony the more liquid solution will be required. You can use a 5-gallon bucket or another type of large container for the drenching.
This is the method I usually use. Powders/dusts, such as Acephate, can be used as a contact killer and are usually effective to kill an entire mound overnight. When ants are most active, spread the acephate dust on top and around the mound. In effect, you're creating a "ring of fire" that any ants entering or exiting the colony will come into contact with. The dust sticks to their bodies and is then taken into the mound where it is transferred to all other ants in the colony, including the queen(s). If you cannot find the colony, Acephate dust can be applied along the ant trail or around the foundation of your home to keep ants blocked from entering the home.
Another effective and convenient way to control some species of outdoor and indoor-nesting ants is with a granular bait product. Sprinkle the bait in small amounts beside outdoor ant mounds, along pavement cracks, and other areas where ants are nesting or trailing.