Sugar ants

Hi all.
My kitchen has been invaded by sugar ants and I have not been able to get rid of them via just cleaning the counter. I scrub and they are back the next day. I have had to put my compost collecting bucket in a dish of water to keep them out of that and it works, but I can't put the entire of the kitchen counter in a dish of water to keep them away.

What have you all done to discourage these unwelcome tenants?


ClareBroommaker's picture

The only times we've had trouble with ants in the house has been during drought. If the ground there is terribly dry, perhaps a gentle, deep watering of the soil around the house will keep them outside.

We will use a broom and dustpan to sweep them up and remove them.

David Trammel's picture

I'm assuming you don't want to use pesticides or poisons like Borac acid and go for killing the ants and their nest but just keep them out of the kitchen, so I went looking for some suggestions, here's some I think might help.

1) Find out where they are entering from. Sometimes its obvious and other times its not. You'll want to use a layered defense, that is serious measures around the points of entry and less serious methods further in.

If its a hole, then fill it with silicon caulk. If its under the kitchen door then try a tape trap.

Go to the hardware store and buy a roll of 1" double sided tape. If you have an outside screen door, the between it and the inside door, lay a line of tape along the floor. Make sure there aren't any creases where the ants can get under the tap. Check it often (every day or two). Ants can build bridges with their bodies. If there is a spot that builds up, try picking them off with tweasers or pull the old tap up and reapply a new line.

2) Try Cream of Tartar. Sprinkle it as a barrier at places of entrance. Apparently ants don't like it.

3) Wipe the areas near the door with a mix of 1 part lemon juice and 4 parts water. Citrus repeals ants. Remember ants track and lay down trails with chemical scent. Anything that disrupts that can help. Even regular household air fresheners will kill ants.

4) Try a pre-bait smorgasbord. Put a small plate out with some sweets (sugar, honey, maple syrup) and some greasy fried foods (french fries, hamburger) and see which attracts them the best. Ant tastes change over time, so what they like in Summer might not be what they like in Winter.

4) Then try petroleum jelly traps. Take one of those cheap plastic containers with lids you get from the deli counter of the grocery store. Drill a few entrances (1/4" or so) in the sides just below the top lip of the container. Take the lid and smear some petroleum jelly on the center 3/4 of the lid. At the center put the food that attracted the ants best.

You want the container to be upside down (lid on floor) so hold the lid in your hand and put the container on it. Set the trap near where the ants enter OR make several and put them outside the door to catch them as they come looking. Leaving the trap out at night is best if you have children that might pick it up. Ants forage at night.

5) Kill the scouts once you've cleaned. Lone ants are scouts looking for resources. They leave a chemical scent trail as they forage so that others can follow. So if you see a lone ant, kill it then wipe the area around it with a vinegar/water spray to kill the scent trail.

6) Be sure to dry your sink. As Clare mentions, ants often invade our spaces during periods of drought (for them). We wipe and clean the counters but leave this big smelling of water (for them) hole. The wander around looking for it, but then come across other foods.

7) Food-grade diatomaceous earth or baking soda mixed with sugar, both seem to kill ants.

8) Use a mixture of Windex and plain liquid Ivory dish soap in a spray bottle. Supposedly the Windex degrades the hard exterior and kills the ant. I suspect the soap is to make the mixture stick.

9) Cornmeal. Ants will eat it but not digest it and starve. Not sure on this because I think ant food habits aren't tied into what they gather right then. Something about ants bringing foods back to and using it to grow fungus, which they eat, AND ants bringing sugar back for aphids to eat, then ants collecting the aphid sweat to eat (lost in the haze of info I've read somewhere).

Thanks much for your research. I have already tried a few of them, especially the wiping up their chemical trails and killing scouts. I also try and clean up any food bits or sticky spots that I have left on the counter during food prep. I think I might try number 7 next especially the diatomaceous earth when I can find their entry point. I have a bad feeling that it might be between walls.