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Odorous House Ants and Homemade Baits

Updated on June 3, 2009
Tiny Pesky Odorous House Ant!
Tiny Pesky Odorous House Ant!

What are these ants?!

I live in Dallas, Texas and I am VERY familiar with outdoor fire ants! When my grandmother began having trouble with ants in her kitchen, I hurried to check it out right away! Fire ants don't typically infest homes, but they can and are dangerous when they do.

I saw the tiny dark ants scurrying all over the kitchen counters. They were about the size of fire ants, maybe a tad smaller, but a bit darker. I quickly figured out that they weren't fire ants because they didn't bite or sting!

Store bought baits didn't work...

Well, I didn't concern myself with what species of ants these were at the time. I set up several of those cute little ant baits around the counters and caulked the obvious place they were coming in near the window. It soon became obvious that the little critters had no interest in the baits.. They just considered them an obstacle and walked around them! I tried a different brand of baits with no better results. It also had become obvious that these persistent ants had found another way in after I had caulked their last portal!

Homemade baits didn't work either!

The ants had begun moving into other parts of the home.  They were now in the bathroom and a bedroom.  I considered calling an exterminator, but really didn't want poison all over my 88 year old grandmother's house!  I looked up several bait recipes on the internet.  First I tried peanut butter mixed with brown sugar and boric acid... The ants had no interest.  Next I tried molasses with the poison.. Still no interest.. Vegetable oil?  No, still no interest!

Time for some research!

I finally decided to find out exactly what kind of ants these were and how best to defeat them!  Yes, now it was war!  The problem is that all of the ant identification sites require you to know things about the ants' physical make up that you can only see with a microscope!  I finally found a "test" I could do that would let me know definitely whether or not these were Odorous House Ants..  The test requires that you squish several of the ants with a paper towel and then sniff the squished ant bodies!  If you smell a coconut odor, you have Odorous House Ants!  So I squished about eight ants into a paper towel and sniffed.. Yes!  A very coco-nutty, tropical odor!  Sort of like suntan oil!

What do Odorous House Ants eat?

Research on this particular ant taught me that they can get very particular about their diet! Like most people, I thought all ants loved sugar at all times, but this isn't so! The colony goes through many life-cycle changes and the nutritional needs of the colony change with those cycles. The colony does need sugar at times, but it also goes through stages of needing protein and other stages of needing fats! The worker ants will swarm all over what is needed at the time and ignore everything else! Fascinating, huh?

Odorous House Ants swarming around a spoon much as they did my grandmother's chicken fried steak!!
Odorous House Ants swarming around a spoon much as they did my grandmother's chicken fried steak!!

How I finally baited the ants!

The trick is to figure what your particular ants are needing before you make your boric acid baits. I knew mine weren't after sugars, peanut butter (protein) or vegetable oil.. So what else to try? My grandmother finally had the answer and she didn't even know it! Not only as to how to bait the ants, but why they were there in the first place! My grandmother often fries things in flour and oil. She wastes nothing, so she keeps scraps to give to the neighbor's poor old dog. Frustrated that the ants would not eat anything I put out, she said, "Well, I had some steak scraps on the counter this morning and they just swarmed it right away! All over it before I could get it in the doggie bag!" I asked, "The chicken fried steak?" She told me yes! Chicken fried steak!!

So my grandmother had spoiled the ants with her southern cooking! (She did me too, I don't blame them!)  I cut pieces of chicken fried steak into about half inch cubes and put them on small pieces of wax paper. I sprinkled boric acid over the steak and on the wax paper around the meat. 

AND THE ANTS CAME!!!!!!!  I finally baited the ants!!!! They immediately swarmed the tainted meat!


Well, I left the tainted chicken fried steak bait out for about 24 hours.  Then we threw them out, as you don't want old meat laying around your home for any length of time!

However, while it was out, the ants just swarmed it!  I hope they took enough back to the nest to kill the queen and the colony.  So far I have seen no more in the bedroom or bathroom.  In the kitchen I have only seen two or three scout ants.  I don't know how I know they are "scout ants".. But lets just say they are..

I will keep watch over the nex few days to see the long-term results and post them here!



What has worked for you? Was this helpful?

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      4 years ago

      I've been fighting this battle 3 years! At first we saw stink ants only in summer, and the boric acid worked, but once my son mistakenly let a swarm go off in his bedroom, they have infiltrated everywhere. They have also adapted to keep eating Terro w extra boric acid(lots n lots) w/o harm! I've mixed lots of bait, but they adapt, where it used to kill em 2 years ago. They've also adapted to run when they see me or play dead?! My son and I have noticed other adaptations. Right now they are trying to mate from variousplaces in the kitchen ( winged escapees). When I spray one crack off, they quickly try another the next day--or even an hour later. This has been going on for over a week. I once mixed about 1/2 boric acid w sugar stuff,.but they ate it + lived to want more... If they don't run, they sometimes "play dead" until we check, and they are creeping us out!

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      6 years ago

      I believe these are what we have here in the house. I noticed them in the laundry room on the 1st floor and in the upstairs bathroom right above on the second floor.

      They were here last summer and have just returned from their Winter Vacation in Florida. They have reappeared in the same locations.

      I have baited them inside using numerous liquid baits. The ants love all the baits and swarm it. However, they KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE! Even after baiting them for weeks, they keep coming like the bait is a buffet. Perhaps the bait is ineffective? I'm using PIC Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate right now and they are presently (as we speak) sucking it down in three different areas).

      Anyone else had ants like this which seem resistant to baiting? I must be the one they were talking about who has the colony of millions.

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      Matt Holland 

      8 years ago

      Let me give you some insight on my odorous house ant issue. We have several colonies living in our home and the bait traps do not work for these little ants, even if they store bought trap they're interested in that will have little impact on the colony. Those traps contain very little bait and poison, and often time as you said they lose interest in search of other things.

      We decided to call an exterminator to do an external spray of the house, to 'SEAL' the house off from insects getting in. Little did I realize at first this exterior spray of the home traps the living insects inside, then they have absolutely NOWHERE to go to find a meal but inside the home, so expect a rise in insect presence (odorous house ant imparticular) after an exterior treatment. The moment the ants find something to eat in the home, trust me you'll notice a very large trail, larger than you have seen before. Follow the trail back to where they are coming from, chances are it's a place you have never seen them intering. You have the attention of the entire starving colony with no way to get other food outside the home they now only have inside. Now is where MY WAR begins.

      You are absolutely right with discovering their food cycle so you can set up a taste test. They tend to like 'wet' foods more for some reason. I have also noticed you can mix up a combination that they will love. Coconut oil / Strawberry Jam + Lots of Boric acid well mixed in. Get a cereal bowl sized container and get it 1/4 to 1/2 full with this concoction put it close to the entry way of the ants and come back 2 hours later. You will see a very large increase in ants feeding, you might even see 2 or 3 other species outside of the odorous house ant. The coconut oil with a coconut smelling ant seems to really hit home. 12 hours after placing out the trap, the bait has diminished a bit and so have the number of ants. In a few days what I can do is another bait and switch. Put out some non poison leftover scraps, then when the trail comes out switch the food with the poisoned bait.

      Remember, the colony will often divide and split up into multiple queens with the odorous house ant to protect themselves. Put a scrap food item in different rooms and be ready to make different traps. If the traps are a substance that the boric acid is soluble in the poison is slower acting allowing the ants to carry the poison back to the colony and only die upon actual consumption and not delivery. If you just cover your bait with boric acid and it is not dissolved into the bait this will actually just make the ants suffocate during their travel back. They breath through their legs, walking through boric acid gives an ant a slow death. Killing the trail but not killing the colony.

      Hope my two cents helped.


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