Effective Ant Eradication Methods
Argentine Ant Infestations and Why They Occur
If you live in Southern California, you've no doubt battled Argentine ants. Small and black, Argentine ants find their way into homes and infest bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms with regularity, seemingly at random and inopportune times, creating havoc with the order of the family schedule.
Argentine ants are foragers; they seek water and food. They are problematic for most California homeowners, invading and
infesting homes seemingly year round. Understanding a little bit about the
habits and biology will help the homeowner keep these pests at bay.
This approach assumes that the homeowner is able to use insecticides both inside and outside the home, and will take proper precautions to ensure the safety of pets and children living in the home.
Eradicating ants in the home is a multi- pronged approach:
1. creating an exterior and interior physical barrier
2. Eradicating exterior nests
3. Eradicating interior nests
4. Eliminating interior food and habitation sources
5. Eliminating scent trails.
Creating An Exterior Physical and Chemical Barrier
Create an Exterior Physical Barrier
Argentine ants are particularly resourceful in finding entry points into the house. It is important to block their entry points both physically and chemically. Caulk completely around windows and doors, paying close attention to corners, screws, and thresholds. Use foam to fill in large gaps and cracks, especially around garage doors. Carefully survey stucco and wood surfaces and fill cracks appropriately. Don't forget to inspect foundations for cracks and fill them in as well. Where fences join the house, caulk around screws or nails that enter exterior house walls. be sure to look up along wall surfaces all the way to the roofline. ants can enter through attics just as easily as they can enter through foundations. Inside the house, caulk door and window frames, caulk around cabinets where ants have entered. Repair cracks in interior walls, seal them with drywall tape or filler and repaint.
Create an Exterior Chemical Barrier
If you choose to use insecticides to reduce or try to prevent ant infestations, you can create an effective exterior barrier by spraying a continuous two to three foot wide swath along the house foundation. Any break in the swath will allow ants entry. Once the foundation perimeter is completely sprayed, spray two feet up from the foundation along the exterior walls. Again, ensure that the swath is continuous, and that the entire house perimeter is sprayed.
Another option is to control the exterior ant population by using ant bait near suspected ant nests, replenishing as necessary throughout the year, and periodically seeking out and treating new nest areas.
Finally, try using gel-based ant bait around suspected entry points to the house. This works well in cases where it isn't practical to caulk suspected entry points, or when you are unable to completely seal an entry point.
Eradicating Exterior Nests
Argentine ants build nests pretty much anyplace they can, which makes them a formidable opponent to seek out and conquer. The first places to look are cool, damp places near the house. Look under stepping stones, bricks, in planters and around trees. According to The University of California Integrated Pest Management program, Argentine ants make shallow depth nests outside, in the open, in either moist or dry areas When you think you've found a nest, dig a couple of inches into the nest to disturb it. The ants will likely begin carrying out the eggs from the nest. Spray these ants and all around the nest. In areas where you can't spray, such as in organic gardens, or where pets frequent, you can try boiling water poured into the nest, or use ant stakes if possible. Boiling water isn't always successful, and can harm roots of plants. The best approach is to follow the line of ants that are currently invading your home to their exterior nest and destroy that particular nest. Keep in mind, though, that ants can be connected to other nests that might follow the scent trail into the house.
Best Ant Baits and Sprays
The general idea behind ant bait, ant traps and ant stakes is that the worker ants will find them, take the poisoned "food" back to the nest, where it will be consumed by the colony. The ants slowly die off until the nest is eradicated or the ants decide to move to a new nest. This can take two or three weeks, which often is too long for homeowners to endure.
A common complaint about ant bait is that "the ants ignored it." Try using different types or brands of ant bait. Argentines are adaptable in their eating habits, and may reject one type of food over another, so when one brand of bait doesn't work, try another.
Eradicating Interior Nests
Argentines can build their nests
inside the home, though they generally need a food and water source in order to
survive and to thrive. Follow lines of ants to see if you can trace them to
their source. Look near water sources, in kitchens and baths, and especially
around water damaged drywall or wood. Removing and repairing these areas can be
a big help in keeping ants from nesting in the home.
If you are convinced that ants have built a nest in your dishwasher someplace, run a long cycle and try to wash it out. Then clean the entire exterior, including the door edge to remove the scent trail. Place one or two ant baits inside the dishwasher. If you see a swarm, go outside and see if you can spot an exterior line of ants entering the house, and treat the nest if you can find it either with insecticide or with ant bait as you choose. If you can't find an exterior source, you can leave the ant bait inside the dishwasher for a week or more to see if it takes care of the problem. Be sure to remove all ant bait from the dishwasher before washing dishes!
Ants in cupboards are particularly vexing. Remove everything in cupboards and wipe up ants with cleanser. Seal any obvious entry points with caulk. Set out ant bait until the ants are gone (this can take several days.) Don't replace articles in the cupboard until you've thoroughly cleaned the articles to remove traces of the scent trail.
If at all possible, refrain from spraying pesticides in the home. Use ant bait near nests or infestations to eradicate them when possible, and use household cleansers to clean up lines of ants you find in the home. Windex, Pinesol or peppermint-based soaps and other similar cleansers work well.
Eliminating Interior Food and Habitation Sources
Ants don't need much to swarm -a single crumb seemingly will send them into a frenzy. Some tips:
- Keep counters and cupboards clean and clear.
- Wipe up spills promptly and use a good household cleanser. Some people swear by Pinesol, claiming that ants won't touch surfaces cleaned with it. I've found that Formula 409 works well, as does Murphy's Oil Soap on wood surfaces.
- Avoid lemon scented cleansers as some seem to attract even more ants.
- Run the dishwasher daily or even more frequently when ants are a problem. Keep sweets sealed or in the refrigerator.
- Tupperware containers are particularly effective in keeping food contained and out of the ant radar. Jars with screw top lids aren't effective. Ants simply follow the screw threads into the jar.
- Don't forget sugar sweetened medications such as cough syrup, and package sweets such as cookies. Seal even packaged sweets as the exterior packaging may have enough of a scent to attract ants.
- Keep empty recyclables outside so ants aren't tempted to investigate and swarm.
Eliminating Scent Trails
Ants leave a "scent trail" that they follow to food sources and back to their nest. Eliminate their trail by cleaning everything they've touched. Wipe up lines of ants with Pinesol or Peppermint-based cleanser, or with Windex. Clean wood cabinets with Murphy Oil Soap, wipe down containers or food packages that ants have touched. Clean door frames and window sills where ants have entered the home and don't forget to caulk entry holes where possible.
Diligence is the word in keeping ants at bay in the home. By sealing off ant entry points and removing their food sources, the Southern California homeowner can get the upper hand on the pesky Argentine ant.