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Getting Rid of Ants

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Getting Rid of Ants

Warning about "Ant Chalk" (Editor Note) Ant chalk has been recommended on BPN over the years but it is hazardous and should not be used. Ant chalk is illegal in the US. It contains unknown, unregulated pesticides that have poisoned hundreds of children. The packaging can contain extremely high levels of lead. Children may mistake the chalk for blackboard chalk. See California EPA Warning about Ant Chalk and Ant chalk could harm people more than ants
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2010 - 2012 Recommendations

Ants in garage

Jan 2012

We have a colony of ants living in wall of our garage. I can see where they enter the wall through some cracks in the concrete in the inside wall near the ground. I know they are in the walls of the house too because ever so often some of them come out into the 2nd floor bathroom, but mainly they keep to the garage. How do I get rid of them? I read about using ant bait, borax, orange oil, bug spray, but don't know when to use these and in what order. I tried the ant bait already (''Grants Kills Ants'' brand) without any effect. Please give DIY advice for getting rid of the ants; also when I should call an exterminator, and whom should I call? Thanks!

Here are off-label instructions for Gants Ant Stakes: Remove one stake from box. Using a knife or screwdriver pry the stake open to expose the wax like toxic chemical inside. Using the same tool pry a small amount of the wax-like ARSENIC material out of the stake and put it on a piece of wax paper. The amount is like a kernel of corn. Add 10 drops of water to form a small puddle around the wax to dissolve it. Place wax paper near ant trail. Within an hour the puddle will be covered with ants busy hauling the poison back to the nest (sorry insect lovers). Leave in place and keep the puddle damp like honey consistency as needed until all ants are gone (usually within 24 hours). This method works 95% of the time on most all ants. I have only seen one species of small grease eating ants that aren't attracted to it. One stake used in this manner will provide years of ant killing pleasure and enjoyment for the whole family. ant free
I have used spent coffee grounds in the past: put a pile near where you see the ants being active and they will over time take them into the nest where they are allegedly toxic. I am not sure it is a perfect fix, but it seems to help. Good luck! Maggie Harmon
Hello- The Berkley Ecology Center has a helpful fact sheet on their website about Ant Control that may answer your questions: Good luck!! Stacy

Getting rid of ants

Oct 2011

I need help with getting rid of ants in my home. Its been an ongoing battle with these little critters. They seem to pop up everywhere. I've tried to keep the insect spray we use inside safe for pets and our baby and use Orange Guard. Outside we use a stronger stuff to spray the perimeter. Nothing seems to work and these guys work fast. I often follow their path and it disappears, may be coming in from under the house. I think I've given up on keeping them out with my method and considering an exterminator. Is is worth it, does this work? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Tired of ants

We tried natural approaches (e.g., cinnamon), ant traps, etc., and couldn't get rid of our ants either. We finally called Terminix. They use a special poison that only affects things with chitinous exoskeletons (i.e., insects) and doesn't hurt people or animals. The ants literally crumble to dust. De-anted
I've been there. At our old apartment, EVERY time it rained, ants came in through the window jambs and between the walls. We were on the second floor, kept a clean, tidy house. It was a really old building and we suspected the ants were always present in the walls. I tried everything I could find for 'natural', non-toxic home remedies: cloves, coffee, mint, cinnamon, vaseline, and more. My husband would Raid them, but they kept coming. Finally I found a recipe online for 'natural' ant bait that is actually the same stuff as in some of the poison baits you can buy, but cheaper and using things I already had in the house:

Borax Ant Bait

1/2 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Borax (20 Mule Team; less than $3 for huge box)
approx 1 Cup Water, warm

Combine in a small bowl. Mix well. Not all of the sugar/borax will dissolve. Don't worry. Do not increase Borax by much or the ants won't eat it, but you don't have to be exact in measuring. Punch or drill holes around the side walls, below the rim of a few small, plastic (take-out soup, med. yogurt, margarine, feta) containers with a tight fitting lid. Place at least 1/2-3/4th inch of solution in each container with a few cotton balls, replace lid. (Works without cotton balls, too.) Place containers next to or on ants' trails and WAIT 12-24 hours. It will get worse before it gets better - within a few hours, hundreds of ants will be swarming the bait. RESIST the urge to wipe them all out, as they are diligently taking the poison back to the nest - which is what you want, right? Sometimes placing the bait where it's not readily visible helps. Some ants will act a little nuts. At about 12-14 hours after they discovered the bait, there won't be ONE ant. YES, it thoroughly wipes them out, from the nest. If Ants regularly return (which means there are multiple populations like at our old apt.), you can leave the container in the cupboard/closet/behind dresser/back of pantry, making new solution to replace old about every month or when you think of it. If you're worried about having containers of poison around (I have small kids, too), make the SAME solution and soak 6- 10 or more cotton balls. Use a chopstick-like tool to push the soaked cotton balls into cracks and crevices on/near the trails, letting excess liquid drip into the crack. I've even poured solution into and then sealed larger cracks with a cotton ball. As long as it's inaccessible, don't worry about putting too much solution or too many cotton balls. When the solution dries, the cotton ball will be cemented in place and VERY difficult to remove, so make sure you're not putting them in 'temporary' places.

Go Get 'Em!
I don't mind ants....OUTSIDE!

How to deal with ants

Jan 2011

We live in an 80+ year-old house in Berkeley, and we seem to get ants coming in through the woodwork when the weather is right (too dry in the summer, or too wet in the winter).

I didn't really mind them very much, but my wife goes absolutely nuts she sees them in the house. We have an infant now, and recently she noticed them around the changing table, crib, etc. and it took all of me to stop her from doing something radical.

As a true Berkeley resident over the years I read a lot about what brings them indoors, the Stanford research, the whole Argentinian ant gang war going on around the world, etc.

We have never gotten them in the kitchen, just bedrooms, livingrooms, the bathroom, around plants, and recently our baby's room. We've tried cinnamon powder, we've sprayed the outside of the foundation with an ant pesticide, but never considered anything else. I don't like pesticides, especially given that we have a baby. Cinnamon powder seems to have worked, but it is very impractical to sneak it into every crevice and crack on floors and windows not to mention the stains it leaves on wood trim. Vinegar just smells awful given the many areas we'd need to apply it to.

Has anyone tried anything that worked, and didn't involve chemicals? Olivier

Hello, We too have had ants and hate pesticides. I buy clove oil at whole foods, usually about $8.50 each. Right near where you'll find the oil, you'll see a little blue spray bottle- I buy one of those, fill it with about 3 bottles of undiluted clove oil, and then I spray away. The ants hate it and usually do not come back. It's natural, but be careful- it will strip the poly off your hardwood flooring and who knows what else. Do not wash off for the first day or so, and then repeat. When applied liberally, the ants tend to go away until the next year/rainy season. Hope that helps. anon
The archived advice probably has this in there somewhere. I think the main thing to know is no matter what you use, you will at some point have to do it again, because the ants aren't going to be eradicated from CA. But I am in the same boat, have a low tolerance for ants in the house but don't want to use pesticide spray, so i mix boric acid (ala recommendation of Richard Macfarland, the 'Bug Man') with something they like to eat (leftover meat of anykind or cat food) and put it out on cardboard pieces for them to find (usually just plop it down in the middle of one of their trails). Boric acid comes in big yellow container from hardware store. It is NOT good if you have pets or crawling babies who could accidentally eat it. But if you can manage around that, the ants will find it, bring it back to their nest and within a week you will notice the ant stream is thinning and within 2 weeks they will be gone. Gone for a year that is-- then they will try and come back (the nest rebounds)and you'll have to do it all over again. Good luck in the same boat
We get ants in our house when it rains, and I find the easiest non-toxic way of getting rid of them is to be diligent at killing all the ants you see right away. Then take some detergent and clean the area where you found them. Ants leave scent tracks for other ants to follow, so you have to clean off the scent tracks so new ants don't follow the track the first ant left. I then use orange oil (you can buy these at the hardware store) and spray it around the baseboards, etc. The orange oil smells bad to ants and deters them from crossing the oil. If you can find out where the ants are coming in, it also helps to fill in the hole with caulk or glue. If you want to get rid of the ants from the outside, you can buy ant traps that have poison in them. Since it's outside, your baby is less likely to play with them. The ants are our house are impervious to ant traps, so the quick clean up and orange oil works pretty well. --Got rid of my ants (for now!)
Hands down, diatamaceous earth ( a natural sedimentary rock) works!!! You can buy it online or many hardware stores. It's in a powder form in a cannister and non- toxic. The ants disperse when they try to cross through it.
First off, I share your pain! I am certain we live on an ant hill and have had our share of ant infestations like I have never seen. I too go crazy like your wife, so can relate....they will drive you mad! We have a now 4 y.o and what has seemed to work - at least for us is to use Grants Ant stakes outside and some inside - especially behind appliances and places on the counters where they are somewhat hidden and behind furniture where kids can't get to. We line up the Grant's on the outside of the house where our kitchen is (for us that's Ground Zero) and replace them every few months after the stuff inside is gone. We space them maybe 2 ft apart and with this many it has seemed to work. Inside, we also use Orange Guard which is non-toxic (active ingred is orange peel extract) and spray that right on the ants when we see a bunch of them. We leave it on there for a little while and then clean it up and try to make sure the area is clear of food particles. It is kind of oily, so can be a bit messy, but apparently the orange essence helps keeps them away. It isn't cheap - $8 a bottle and we get it at the Ecology Center. All in all, this combo has worked for us, but isn't immediate. Rather it takes a few days to see them mostly disappear. We have gotten used to living with the stragglers and to accept that it is a battle we just won't win. Good Luck...... anon
I swear by Terro for ant control. Safe for kids and pets. Call the 800 # on their website if you have questions. It's inexpensive and easy to find at most drugstores and hardware stores. Ant-break survivor
Google Berkeley Ecology Center and they have a section on what to do w/ ants.

At my old place, I had a huge gaping hole in the bedroom closet where the ants would come in from underneath the house.

What we did was: 1. vacuum up any we see instead of killing them as they leave a scent when they're killed. 2. spray Orange guard over any trails. leave it there for a bit before we wipe up. 3. dump baby powder or corn starch over that gaping hole so they can't come in. If it's not a hole, I usually just spray where they're coming into the house w/ orange guard 4. find out where they are coming in on the outside and put those boric acid ant bait stations outside the house. You can get those at Ecology Center or even Ace I think. anon

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Weekly ant invasions - tried everything

April 2009

Ants have become a serious problem for us over the past 3 years. We have weekly ant invasions and I am ready to put an end to it. We have tried just about every tip & trick in the book. I am considering calling an exterminator but I am scared because I have two young children and a pet. A friend who is a biologist with pets used a local exterminator service that sprays orange oil. They were very happy with the results. Still calling an exterminator freaks me out but so do the ants. Any advice would be appreciated. Had it with ants

We have ant problems too. They never go away forever, but do subside. This is what we do. Address the problem as soon as confronted with it. Eliminate what is attracting them. Wipe away the ants with a soapy sponge, or use Simple Green instead of the soap. Keep at them: as soon as you see them, wipe away. The theory is that if you kill the leader ants, they don't have time to go back and tell the rest of the the tribe ''found a target!''. Then, install the Grants Kills Ants spikes, (buy at Longs, Ace Hardware, Home Depot), at the spot where you believe the ants are intruding into the house. Also, if you happen to have bushes or trees abutting the house that attract aphids, consider hosing away the aphids. I understand that they attract ants. ant brigade
Orange oil does not work long term. Neither does mint oil or anything else. These things work short term as they disrupt the scent pattern of the ant. But after a while, new ants come and they are back to their old tricks. I was so obsessed with ants for a while I even had them identified. You most likely have Argentine ants and they have no real enemies here.

What has worked best for me is TERRO ant baits. I think this is the best thing that I have used in 10 years of fighting ants. They are relatively non-toxic. See their website for further info. It is basically Borax dissolved in simple syrup. You don't want your kids or pets eating it, but on the toxicity scale, it is on the low end. Now there are three separate kinds. There are the liquid ant baits, the drops that you put on the cardboard paper, and the OUTSIDE ones. I recommend with reservation the liquid ant baits. While very effective, these are a mess. They spill really easily and they ruined parts of my floor with their stickiness until I figured out exactly how to use them. If you do use the liquid ant baits, put down a layer of aluminum foil under the trap. I recommend the drops that you put on the cardboard paper because you can control how much bait you put on the cardboard and avoid the stuff dripping everywhere. You can also tape them down. But, put them down on foil. I also adore the outside baits, which I have all around my property. I even have them in my laundry room and in certain out of the way places inside my house. Once again, put them down on foil.

It is pretty disgusting how they work. The ants find the bait and them MILLIONS come and feed. In about 3 days they are all gone for a good 3-4 months. Amazing.

While the liquid ant baits are available everywhere, the drops and the outside traps are not. I get mine at OSH.

They need to be replaced about every 3 months. Good Luck

I sympathize with your ant situation. I am ant free since I followed the bug man's advice. His name is Richard Fagerlund. You can't go wrong with him. Maia
Without fail, diotomaceuous earth is the best natural product out there to disperse ants. It's a white powdery substance that ants hate. You can buy the powder form in a cannister from a garden or hardware store (call OSH, Home Depot, etc.) Chinese grocery stores also care them in a chalk form. Ask for the white chalk that ants don't like. It's easier to apply than the powder form since you just draw a line with the chalk and the ants will not cross it. I think it's non-toxic too but you can do your own research on the internet. Good luck! slushy

Editor note: "Ant chalk" is NOT the same thing as diotomaceuous earth. It is instead composed of unknown, unregulated pesticides. Do not use it!

HELP! Need a baby safe way to kill ants

Dec 2008

We have a 8.5 month old and also a house FULL of ants. I am not exaggerating when I say there are hundreds in all rooms. I am now finding them crawling on myself, in my bed and on my son. I have tried all the non-chemical tricks, but think we need to call in the exterminator. Any non-toxic ideas or experiences? We are located in the Temescal neighborhood.

Before you call the exterminator, have you tried first cleaning your kitchen thoroughly? Then squash one single ant in the line of ants. Leave the squashed ant in the ant line. The other ants sense its demise and go crazy and make a complete turnaround. It actually works, I have tried it. Now that is chemical free! Good luck
Oh, I so hear your pain! We had a horrific ant infestation when my daughter was 2.5 mo. old and the combo for us that worked and continues to work the best is: Orange Guard and Grants Ant stakes. I have bought the ant stakes at Target, but other big box stores may carry them and the Orange Guard at either the Ecology Store (on San Pablo near Dwight) or Andronico's. The Orange Guard has orange oils and citrus essence, so it is a bit oily/greasy, but seems to help do the trick. I spray it directly on the trail and then leave it there for say an hour or two or more, then clean it up. With the ant stakes, I would buy many boxes, then put them around your house outside (especially the side of the house where the most ants are and the garbage/recycling) and then around the countertops in your kitchen and in cupboards. The ants will initially collect around the stakes, but they take the mixture back to the ''mothership'' and it keeps them at bay for a while. I don't know if your child is crawling, but now is the time to get baby gates and locks on the cupboards/drawers. This combo is not an immediate solution such as Raid, but rather it takes a few days to see any results. Good luck an hope you find your solution quickly...... anon
Try Terro products such as this one:

They are not baby safe in the sense that a baby can eat them, but you can place them where the baby can't reach them and the ants (if they are sweet-eating ants) will flock to them, carrying the sweet/borax mixture back to their nests where it kills the colony. They are very effective and do not require spraying or exposing your baby to any chemicals so long as you keep the devices themselves out of reach (very important).

You also have to be patient with this system: it takes 5-10 days for them to be really effective. But the wait is worth it because you kill the whole colony. You can find this product at most hardware stores, and I've seen it at Home Depot in Emeryville (if you must). Judiah

We have used a spray made of mint oil. It immediately kills ants. The only store I've been able to find it at is Rainbow Grocery, in SF. However, after battling ants for a year, and becoming sick at the smell of mint, we ended up hiring an exterminator. -anon
I use ant chalk. You can get it at Happy Grocery on Solano. Supposedly it is toxic, even though the paper inside (mostly in Chinese) says non toxic. The thing about any chalk is you only need a small amount where the ants are coming in. It's tempting to use it everywhere, but REALLY you only need to do it where they are coming in. I figure that with this small amount I can prevent babies/pets from getting into it. In a few hours there will be a lot of dead ants but no live ones, or very few. Ant chalk costs about 80cents per stick and lasts a long time. Last year we had a HUGE infestation and the chalk wasn't enough. I bought these covered cups of ant poison at Longs Drugs in EC Plaza. The ants could crawl in (it looked like syrupy stuff inside) and they'd take the poison back to the nest. I put a cup in their path in a few places including where they were coming in. It took a few days but the ants were all gone. I dont' remember the name...they looked like clear plastic tablespoon size cups of syrupy looking stuff. Good luck. I'd be going crazy. ants are my nemesis!
I wanted to respond to the person who suggested ant chalk as a baby safe way to kill ants -- ant chalk (which is illegal in California) contains dangerous and often unspecified chemicals. Please see this warning from a previous BPN posting: and this response from Richard ''Ask the Bugman'' Fagerlund in his column:

Fagerland recommends using boric acid or diatomaceous earth to control ant -- although both these items should be kept out of reach of children as well, they're less toxic than chalk, Raid, etc.

I think the only truly baby safe ant control method is wiping up the ants as they come in. When this isn't practical, we sometimes put a small amount of the poison of our choice right at the entry point, and that's usually enough. Sometimes takes a day or two of vigilance. Careful

This is in response to the previous recommendation of Chinese ant chalk as a baby-safe way to kill ants. This product has come up on BPN before, but readers new to the list might not know that ant chalk IS extremely toxic. Although it can still be found in some stores, it is illegal in the U.S. - because it has caused hundreds of child poisonings! Definitely not baby safe. Please, the only way to keep dangerous and deceptively labeled products like these out of our homes is for all of us to stop buying them. Concerned
Word of caution: I'm pretty sure that ant chalk has lead in it. I wouldn't use it around kids. You can use regular sidewalk chalk. It isn't as quick but it does work. anon
Please do not use the chalk from China for ants, ESP. if you have a baby in your home. That stuff is highly toxic, completely unregulated, and chalk gets everywhere so you can't really contain it. I use Orange Guard spray, I get it at OSH. It's mostly concentrated orange peel, non-toxic, smells nice! and not only kills ants (and other pesky critters) but also repels them with repeated use. --ant-free
I have developed a sure fire way to deal with ants in an off- label manner that provides immense satisfaction and no mess! I buy the Gant's Ant stakes and take them apart with a screwdriver or knife. Inside is a block of a honey colored waxy goop. Carefully removed a small corner of the goop (a matchhead)with a toothpick and place it on a 5''x5'' piece of wax paper. Sprinkle the glob with a few drops of water and a small puddle will form. Place this along the ant trail and sit back and enjoy the show! Within an hour the ants will completely engulf the puddle sometimes in groups stacked 2-3 levels high on each others backs to load up on the poison (arsenic) and carry it back to the nest. By morning they are all gone! You have to be careful children don't eat the bait of course. The stakes don't really work very well unless you keep them wet all the time. They are O.K. for outside around the foundation if the rain or sprinklers keep them moist. For indoors I prefer the above m! ethod which works for all but grease eating ants. One box of stakes used this way lasts a lifetime! Don't tell Gant's! Ant Killer with a smile

Ants in house w/slab foundation

March 2008

We live on a house w/slab foundation (no crawlspace underneath). We must live over ant Manhattan b/c they are coming in everywhere in our house and I can't find a source! We'll have scout ants scattered throughout the house, I'll find trails everywhere and no food sources. For example, this morning I found a trail from the back of our toilet to the back of the wall behind the toilet -- I swear I clean behind there weekly! -- plus scouts in the adjacent master bedroom, across the house in the dining room, etc. How do I get rid of them naturally? I don't want to spray toxic stuff inside the house, esp. when I find scout ants on my kitchen countertops (countertops that have been cleaned the night before!). The ant bait gel doesn't seem to work. The orange natural repellent isn't working. Even my vinegar-based household cleaner doesn't seem to repel them. Any suggestions you have would be great!

Try to figure out where they are coming in an seal the holes. This will help (a little)

Make some baits. I drill holes in the bottom of pill bottlers or film cans (if you use an analog camera). Put the baits next to where they are coming in.

Bait Mix: Dissolve 1 Teaspoon boric acid and 6 tablespoons of sugar in 2 cups of room temp water. Be sure to completely dissolve acid and sugar.

Soak cotton balls in solution. Place one ball in each container. Refresh every 3-4 days.

You no doubt have Argentine Ants (the little ones). They are IMPOSSIBLE to completely exterminate. And if you could, they'd just move in from next door. All you can do is manage them. The containers are to keep pets away from the bait. It's not super toxic. It will take a few days to take effect, but it does a good job at really beating down the population until a new queen starts pumping out replacements. You'll first notice that the ants become fewer and they are drunk. Then they vanish for a while. ray F

Help! Ants out of control!

Jan 2008

Does anyone have any ideas for controlling ants without using insecticides? We have chronic ant problems. We've tried boric acid, nontoxic sprays, etc., etc. This year we gave up the fight and have diligently used grants ant stakes, then hired Western Exterminators who've done repeated treatments inside and out with their Eco products. Our home reeks of clove, and we still have daily surprises-- ants in the cereal, ants in the coffee maker, ants in the tub... We are convinced the ants love our radiant heat cement slab. We're desperate, but we do not want to use harsh insecticides in our home. Thank you for any ideas you may have. Disgusted and desperate

Cinnamon is a great natural deterrent to fighting ant invasions. Sprinkle a line of cinnamon wherever you see ants trying to enter your home. They'll turn on their heals and retreat. It won't kill the colony, but it will keep them at bay without affecting your family's health. Ant-free the spicy way
We joke all the time that our house must be built on a giant ant hill but you wont be able to get rid of the ants -- apparently we're living on top of a *supercolony*, a huge biomass of Argentine ants that stretches from Ukiah down to Baja, Mexico! (You can read more here, just scroll down till you see ''California Supercolony of Argentine Ants'': The original ants came over on coffee ships during the 1890s and are so genetically similar now that they can swap workers and even queens! (An ant from San Diego dropped into a colony in Oakland will just start to work and will be recognized as a family member, not an enemy). The best you can do is make your house less interesting than your neighbor's. Our best tactics so far -- kill any scout before they can report on all your goodies, wipe the trails out with vinegar or Citrasolve, patiently watch where they're coming in and caulk it up. Poisons are futile -- any ants you kill will quickly be replaced. I've read that Grants baits aren't much good against these ants, but they do recommend ''sweets syrup + borax'' type baits like Terro. Other than that, there's really not much you can do. (Even the native ant's predator, the coastal horned lizard, wont touch Argentine ants and as a result is now in sharp decline because the Argentine ants are wiping out all the native ant species!) Talc and cinnamon work well as a deterrent. Decidedly Anti Argentine Ant

Still have ants after hiring an exterminator

Feb 2007

Based on BPN recommendations, we hired Employ exterminators to treat our two story for ants. Andre has come out 3x over two months. He used Phantom and it helped a bit but we still have ants roaming around. Has anyone else had this experience? Should we try another company or another product? We tried to use Grant Ant Stakes, dicotomus earth(sp?), Chinese chalk, cinnamon, baby powder, and ant pellets but all with limited, temporary success. Has anyone had success with getting rid of the ants or should we just consider the ants as permanent houseguests? Anonymous

I understand that Chinese Chalk for ants contains lead and would, therefore, be much more unhealthy than ants. Check it out before you use it. concerned
For some reason Borax worked for us after absolutely everything failed. It is definitely worth a shot! It is really inexpensive (found with cleaning supplies, I got ours at Wal-mart.) I just dumped some around where the ants were and at the windows and places they were coming in at. They were gone within a day! About a year later they came back (probably the weather) and I did the same thing. Once again, gone before the next day. It really is something amazing! kerby
We have used boric acid (buy it at pharmacies) mixed with some jam. The ants eat it and take it back to the queen and the whole group will die. Before we finished our basement we would leave the boric acid mixture down there. This winter we had an attack in our bathroom and kitchen. It is unnerving watching them swarm onto the plate of jam, but within days the whole event was over. I have also used that spray that has orange in it(orangeguard) that is safe around dogs, but not with as much success as boric acid. Here is one web site...but just search on ants and boric acid and you'll have lots of recipes. article.htm Good Luck
After living in different parts of the state and the Bay Area, and dealt with ants invading the house, I have been able to get their activity down to a minimum. It takes time. I have never used a service, but currently use ''Terro brand, Ant Killer, Liquid Ant Baits''. This link tells a lot about the product including that they are not toxic. And I'm conscious about toxic products, especially in the kitchen. I place the baits at entry points outside the house, often as close as 3-4 feet apart. Sometimes I have placed a broken terra cotta pot over it so it is more esthetic and animals wonC-t mess with it. I have noticed consistently that after a year in a new house with ants, that I will only see them a couple days before it rains, or when it gets very hot. That is the time to renew that baits. I put them out twice a year. This sounds like a hassle, but it's inexpensive and I rarely have ants in the house. My boyfriend thinks I'm obsessed with ants but was surprised that I could predict rain by noticing their activity increase. Oh, if the ants don't seem to want to go in the bait, I spill a tiny bit into their path and they just jump on it. Best of luck. --Dealt with ants.
Based on the recommendation of a friend who had personal experience with them, and based on a recommendation on BPN, I used AANTEX. I was very happy with them. Not only did they do the job and do it right, but they took the time to explain in detail how everything worked and why certain things work and certain things don't. The ladies who work in the office are also very helpful and not a hard sell. I called to ask about another pest and they didn't try to sell me on having someone come out--instead they gave me honest suggestions of what to try on my own. They got rid of our ants and we are VERY happy. Happy and Ant-free
The ants got so bad in our building we decided to move, but because of the housing shortage, we haven't been able to find another place to live. In the meantime, this is how we keep the ants out. When there is an invasion, we vacuum them up with a battery charged vacuum. We put a little baking soda inside the vacuum so that the ants suffocate. When we can't vacuum, we use Victor's Poison-Free Ant and Roach Killer which we get at the hardware store. We only use soft cedar scent and avoid the mint scent variety since it smells awful and the odor lingers for days. It contains sodium lauryl sulfate which is an irritant. This kills the ants. It has no effect on their nest so eventually they come back. Finally, we use duct tape to cover holes and cracks where the ants come in. It's unsightly but temporarily effective until the ants find another way in. Feel Your Frustration
We've slowly gotten rid of most of our ant issues by me tediously vacuuming up the ants & tracking where they come into the house and then I seal the cracks with clear/white caulk (depending on where the crack is & what's around it). Cornstarch also works really well as a temporary measure or to keep them off kitchen counters (it's too slippery for them to walk or something?) but they don't go away for good unless you seal the cracks. mad caulker
I have had success (though not COMPLETE elimination of ALL ants) using a combination of meticulously caulking up every hole in the house where they come through, and this formula I found on the internet using boric acid, which you can find at a drug or hardware store. It is not toxic to humans in these small amounts (though I am careful and treat it as toxic). I pour this liquid onto a paper towel in a container, and put it right in the stream of ants. If they don't find it, I ''help'' some ants find it and they'll tell the others. Here's the formula:

1 Tablespoon of Boric Acid, 1 tsp of Sugar, 4 oz water

Whatever you do, DON'T use the Chinese chalk -- it is so toxic it is illegal in the US!

I have read that the Bay Area has a huge swarm of these tiny ants throughout and no matter how many times you exterminate, there will always be more, so not to bother with exterminators. I think that physically sealing your house might be more the answer than poisoning the ants that are in such mass numbers outside. Good luck.

The Bug Man has a column in the SF Chronicle on Saturdays. He may be a good resource for you. This is a quote from his recent column: ''Pesticides aren't necessary and will probably do more harm than good to the environment. Most pesticides are far more dangerous than any of the pests they are designed to control.'' Richard Fagerlund is a board-certified entomologist at the University of New Mexico. For more information or to contact him, see jen

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

More advice

March 2006

If you keep the smell of peppermint where ants are coming in they will leave. I use a condiment cup to put drops of 100 % peppermint oil in (not the kind you can buy in the food section), then pour some hot water over it. They will eventually leave. I have to do this usually after every winter. When I first start seeing them I might change the cups twice a day, but once a day may be okay. Just keep the smell of peppermint strong, and they start searching for a new home. If the problem is near a sink you can take advantage of dumping out the old peppermint water by turning on the hot water first. It causes a short-lived blast of peppermint odor. Sure beats filling rooms with bug spray smell.

Large-scale ant infestation

March 2004

We are having quite an ant problem. I think it has gone beyond the ''the ants are coming inside to get out of the rain'' to ''the ants live in the walls and sometimes come out for a snack''. I spray Orange Guard; they go away for a day and then find a new route in. I thought it was the rainy season but now I'm convinced it's a large-scale infestation. I've seen the many recommendations posted on the Web site (baby powder has not worked for me, incidentally) and have not yet investigated ant stakes but will give that a try. I'd just like to know what I'm dealing with first, so I thought an exterminator might at least be able to tell me. My questions are: (1) does anyone have a recommendation of a good exterminator who will understand my perhaps conflicting wants to poison the ants but not my child, cat or the groundwater, and who might honestly give me an assessment of the extent of the problem and (2) has anyone had a major ants-in-the-woodwork problem such as this and fixed it via ant stakes or some other home remedy (besides baby powder)? Thanks! Jennifer

during the rainy season 2 years ago, i had an ant infestation in which the ants just kept coming and coming and coming. i tried various solutions, but found the most useful was to put multiple (5 or 6) grant ant stakes out near the spot of ingress (if I could find it, or the place I saw the ants on their endless march. so, for example, in the kitchen, i put four each on the window sill, by the faucets, one my dish shelf and on the counter adjacent to the sink. In my bedroom, where i could not see where the ants came from, I put 4 each near the wall bordering the garden, in my closet and under my bed where I had seen them, and where the stakes were not visible or easily accessible to little ones. (i was going to put them outside each wall, but could not because of the architecture. It took a few days to discourage the colony, but i've not seen them since. Nselk
re the ant invasion, I went and got books in the library about this and found out that sprinkling BoricAcid powder in the pathways where they come in works great,; it's a stomach irritant if eaen by humans. It really works so much better less smelly and toxic, and it works, rather then the sprays, traps, etc. Leia
I found Employ Exterminators very easy to work with. We had a huge ant infestation under the house and they had to come back for 3 visits within 2 months(all covered under the one-time fee of $120). Richard knows about the habits of ants and is considerate about the hazards of spraying where there are small children. He will be able to answer all your questions. I might be able to control the ant situation with home remedies now, but I'm relieved to have had professional help first. Each nest has many thousands of ants, as you know if they are invading your home! Suzanne

2003 & Earlier

Ants are everywhere - how to get rid of them?

Sept 2003

We would like to get an advice on how to get rid of ants. We are keeping our house as clean as it can be possible with a small child, but ants are everywhere. As soon as we think we sealed the holes, they appear from different end of the house, with no evident source of food. I am a little bit concerned about ant killing products because of their toxicity. In fact, I do not know how safe, or unsafe they are. At this point, we will take any piece of advice. Thanks

The ants are crawling in your garden by the millions. These are the Argentenian kind that have been invading our environment along the coast. There's only one thing you can do: do not take them inside your home. Especially this time of the year, they go crazy with the heat and it takes literally seconds for them to crawl up you shoes and legs. What you need to do is make sure you and kid(s) are totally free of ants before they go into the house. This is an extra task but worth it. We keep our house clean and have no problems unless one brings an ant in from the outside. Also, don't put items down in the yard and bring them in the house without checking it out thoroughly. They will make sure to bring the rest of their tribe once they get inside your house. This method works for us, we hardly ever have a problem, with the exception of very wet or cold weather conditions. These ants are serious, they can make your life miserable by invading plants and terrariums inside. Stakes, poison outside does not help because there are so many (take a shovel and dig around in your yard, they're everywhere). Hope this helps. Been there..
Check out this website for ant control: momofjesse
I've had good results (not astonishing) with puffs of baby powder on the holes where the ants come in. Sometimes it takes more than one puff (on the new hole) but it's a nice, nontoxic (if messy) way to stop them from coming in. Jennie
I've had the greatest luck with keeping ants out with a product that's so safe for babies its made for them! Find where the ants are coming in and sprinkle a tiny line of baby powder across the entrance. The baby powder clogs the ants pores, through which they breathe, and thus they don't cross the line. I think it also interferes with their directional ''trails'' but not being an ant expert can't say for sure WHY it works, I just know that when we get ants I baby powder their entrances and Voila, no ants. Karin
My advice is to give them all names and accept that the ants will be a part of your family for awhile! I'm kidding, of course, but these Bay Area ants are a pain! I read an article a few years ago that explained that the ants are nearly impossible to get rid of, and that their instrusion has nothing to do with the cleanliness of your house, but the weather. That said, I've had luck with two products: No Poison spray and Grant's ant traps. The spray comes in either peppermint oil or orange oil. It kills the ants on contact and they hate the smell. Your house will be left with a strong mint or orange smell, but it's liveable. I put the Grants around the outside of my house as well as 'safe' places around the house (Under the sink, top cabinets) where the kids can't reach them. This combo seems to have my recent invasion under control. ant-free
I have used Grant's ant stakes and only have to leave one around the ants for about a day if they are inside, a little more if they are outside, but then I don't see them again til the next season. You don't have to add water to the stakes or anything and they aren't really stakes anymore. You can just lay them on your counter overnight or when you go out then the kids won't try to bother them. Bye the time you get up or get back the ants should be gone. The ants take some of the bait back to the ant home and then supposedly poisons them all. Michelle
Hi-- we are constantly protecting our ''front line'' against the ants ourselves, and have developed several strategies. First, as recommended by ''The Bug Man'' in the Chronicle, if you can afford having some time go by, put out bait laced with the poison ''boric acid''. It is a powder and ants especially love it when mixed with a can of dog/cat food. Leave it out where the ants will find it and for the next week there will a parade of ants collecting the poison taking it back to their nests and then killing the entire colony slowly where they live. However, given the size of ant colonies we're dealing with, this can take a couple of weeks to be completely effective--you have to kill several generations. So secondly, if you can't stand the ant incursions into the house and are past being patient, as we found ourselves, buy ''Bugs-R-Done''. The pesticide is limonene, and according to their label and some research I did on the EPA website for registered pesticides, it can safely be used inside the house and even around food (this became paramount for us as our ants invaded our freezer). So for the instant kill we sprayed this pesticide, though to be as cautious as possible we did it after our kids went to bed and closed off the room from our dog as well until the smell went away (smells citrus-y). You can buy BugsRDone at either Berkeley or El Cerrito Natural Grocery. Good luck, and believe me, I know how frustrating it can be! Luisa
I would like to share info about a wonderful product I use to prevent ant invasions . It's called Orange Guard. I first found it at the Ecology Center on San Pablo Ave in Berkeley. I went there because I wanted to find a non-toxic product to get rid of ants in my apartment. This product fits the bill perfectly. It's non-toxic and safe to use around food, pets, and humans, as the active ingredient is an extract of orange peel, which apparently is very toxic to ants. It's a spray, and has a pleasant orange smell. I have used this product successfully many times. I just spray on the ants, their trails, and the place or places where they enter the house. Sometimes I have to do this several times, waiting awhile to see if the ants reappear, and carefully tracing their trails back to the entry point. But it always works. I have recommended this product to many friends, who have used it successfully. Only one family said it didn't work for them; maybe they have different type of ants? It can be purchased at the Ecology Center on San Pablo in Berkeley and also at Ace Hardware (Grand Ave, Oakland) and also Who Lea
I recommend looking up Dr. Richard Fagerlund at The Chronicle runs his column, and the web site is full of useful information. We used his trick of baiting the ants with a concoction of PB&J and boric acid in a straw (PLEASE see his web site for details!), and after the initial disconcerting flurry of activity from the ants, they did eventually die down. Dr. Fagerlund says that baiting is the only effective way to goV. Jenny

Ants constantly in the house

May 2003

We have an ant problem. I know there is a large nest in the back yard under some concrete, but the ants are also constantly in my daughter's room, which is in the front of the house on the second floor, and have come out of heating ducts in other rooms, so I fear that there are nests in the walls. I've used baby powder, cayenne, etc. and caulked cracks, and this dissuades them temporarily but it's an old house and there are a lot of cracks and a lot of ants. I think I need some kind of systemic solution, but I don't really want to spread toxins around my house. Does anyone have experience with non-toxic exterminators for ants? Have they been effective? Who would you recommend? I'm in San Francisco. Thanks.

It is impossible to get rid of ants outside your home, and undesirable b/c they play important roles in recycling dead matter. Most integrated pest management experts recommend using diatomaceous earth for eliminating ant and other insect problems inside the home. Because this material is like ground up glass (a physical hazard if breathed in), it should be used in inaccessible areas. It's very inexpensive, and will work as long as the foundation remains dry. It's the same material that the ''flea busters'' use on carpets, I believe. I wouldn't use it inside the house except on edges and in very small amounts for ''emergencies'' such as animal mites that are biting the heck out of a person. It works immediately!

Remember not to leave ant traps with chemicals outside; besides rain and sprinklers leaching out toxins into the soil and ultimately into the groundwater, it also can attract ants to your house! I find Grant Ant stakes to work very well (it contains arsenic) so be very careful. Some like Combat ant killer, but my ants don't seem to like them. Boric acid is sworn by some to solve the problem, and it's less toxic. Remember to remove the bait after the ants disappear. I put mine in a clear plastic bag until the next battle... also important safety measure around kids. Arsenic is a carcinogen.

Another preventative step is to kill the scouts as soon as you see them, and then wipe up with soapy water.

If you're interested in decreasing toxic chemicals in the environment to protect kids, please see: We're gathering names to talk with Cities, schools, and Park & Rec to replace toxic pesticides (including RoundUp) with safer alternatives. Susan

Here is what I did with my Ant friends after asking a few friends about what to do... I sprinkled Bay Leaf, Cinnamon and Cayeen pepper around the points of entrance and within a week (or less) the ants moved out by them selves. For some reason ants really dont like these spices. goodluck Hana If you try let me know if it worked for you problem.
For fact sheets on less toxic methods for pest control, go to this URL and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Bait traps work well for getting rid of ants because they carry the poison back to the nest to kill the queen and others. The poison does not get broadcast around your house. good luck! Susan

Ants in the crawl space under the house

Dec 2002

Does anyone have any recommendations for getting rid of ants in the crawl space underneath the house? I've read the tips on the website and have tried a number of things but with only limited and temporary success. Once they are in the crawl space, they continue to come out here and there thru-out various rooms of the house and it's really hard keeping them out for good. I've been trying to get rid of this problem for several weeks now and would appreciate any help and advice (including possible reco's for companies that use environmentally safe pest control). Thank you! Grace

The reason cinnamon, baby powder, diatomaceous earth, and turmeric all work is because they aren't so much a repellent, as the powder is so fine and dusty that it affects their breathing, and ability to plunder through. You have to keep reapplying, but it definitely detracts them. We keep it around our door cracks and window sills that aren't well sealed. I heard a story about ant life a while ago on NPR and the expert talked about what happens when you kill them, and they emit the scent of death, so that their hive mates, can easily retrieve the carcass, and will do so until they are successful. The scent is so strong and pervasive, that he was unable to wash it off after repeated attempts, so we have refrained from killing them, and have just been escorting them back outside. It seems to work. They also send out scouters before the rest of the ''gatherers'' so if you find a couple of strays, send them back outside and that can also mess up their mission. Linee
Try Grants ant stakes - they are the best of that type of product. Just let the ants swarm it overnight and they will be almost gone by morning and really gone within a couple of days. Julie
I have had success using baby powder. We get ants each year and I sprinkle the area/block the area where they come in. The ants can't walk through the powder and it is non-toxic. Good luck. Rochelle
You can get toxic and poison free spray made by VictorPest at ACE Pastime Hardware in El Cerrito/Albany (border), or call around to local hw stores. It works and has a nice minty smell (mint being the active ingredient). VictorPest has a website - check them out ( Kathy

Ants in the kitchen

Dec 2002

We have had ants in out kitchen for 2 weeks now and just when they seem to be going away, they come back with a vengeance. Does anyone have any suggestions that they know will work? We have two little babes who could get into anything toxic. My past experience is that ants will come inside when the soil gets wet outside but they seem to disappear in a few days. Maybe they just like my cooking?? Nooo. Any help is welcome! Elizabeth

Does anyone have any recommendations for getting rid of ants in the crawl space underneath the house? I've read the tips on the website and have tried a number of things but with only limited and temporary success. Once they are in the crawl space, they continue to come out here and there thru-out various rooms of the house and it's really hard keeping them out for good. I've been trying to get rid of this problem for several weeks now and would appreciate any help and advice (including possible reco's for companies that use environmentally safe pest control). Thank you! Grace
The reason cinnamon, baby powder, diatomaceous earth, and turmeric all work is because they aren't so much a repellent, as the powder is so fine and dusty that it affects their breathing, and ability to plunder through. You have to keep reapplying, but it definitely detracts them. We keep it around our door cracks and window sills that aren't well sealed. I heard a story about ant life a while ago on NPR and the expert talked about what happens when you kill them, and they emit the scent of death, so that their hive mates, can easily retrieve the carcass, and will do so until they are successful. The scent is so strong and pervasive, that he was unable to wash it off after repeated attempts, so we have refrained from killing them, and have just been escorting them back outside. It seems to work. They also send out scouters before the rest of the ''gatherers'' so if you find a couple of strays, send them back outside and that can also mess up their mission. Linee
Try Grants ant stakes - they are the best of that type of product. Just let the ants swarm it overnight and they will be almost gone by morning and really gone within a couple of days. Julie
I have had success using baby powder. We get ants each year and I sprinkle the area/block the area where they come in. The ants can't walk through the powder and it is non-toxic. Good luck. Rochelle
You can get toxic and poison free spray made by VictorPest at ACE Pastime Hardware in El Cerrito/Albany (border), or call around to local hw stores. It works and has a nice minty smell (mint being the active ingredient). VictorPest has a website - check them out ( Kathy
Go to: I ordered ant baits from this company, and I find that it seems to work better than most other products. Also, there is much info on their site, and they are helpful on the phone also. ernie
For very persistent ant problems, like ant nests in household walls, the only GUARANTEED solution is Grants Ant Stakes WITH ARSENIC. Grants also makes stakes with Borax, but it takes so long to poison the ants that they repopulate before the colony is killed. This tip from a PhD Entomologist who knows. Linda
Warning about Ant Chalk

From: Steve (Mar 99)

A recent discussion on UCB Parents recommended the use of "ant chalk" as a tip for controlling ants in the home. Please let your members knows that ant chalk often contains insecticides; that's why it works so well. It can be extremely hazardous to children, especially if ingested. The packaging may also include high levels of lead. Ant chalk is illegal in California and should not be used under any circumstances, especially in a home with small children.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued a press release on ant chalk in November (see Ant chalk has made several California children very sick. If you have ant chalk in your home it should be disposed of as household hazardous waste. If you know stores where ant chalk is still sold, you should call DPR's Enforcement Branch, at (916) 445-3920, or the local county agricultural commissioner.

Please don't let kids get near this product.

Persistent ant problem

Jan 2000

With all the rain, we're in need of an exterminator. We have a persistent ant problem. Old-fashioned tricks don't work -- they are literally piling out of cracks in the walls and along baseboards, forming inch-thick marching lanes to and from things like the cat's dish and stray crumbs. Can anyone recommend a good service? (We live in Berkeley.) Can anyone speak to the dangers involved, in terms of chemicals used, the ways in which the chemicals are used, and children in the house? Thanks! Annie Before calling an exterminator, try using the outdoor ant stakes indoors. We put one under the sink where it was out of reach and it seems to have worked pretty well. The ants take the poison (arsenic) back to the nest and after a week or so it kills off the nest. Also, we put our cat's food bowl in a larger flat pan of water to keep the ants away, should they ever re-discover it (and it seems to have kept them away).

I think the problem with the exterminators is that they spray poison all around the perimeter of your house, inside and out, and that poison then stays there for future generations! My use of the little arsenic stakes might be just as bad----are there any environmental/chemical experts out there that can place the different options---from chili powder, windex, boric acid, ant stakes, on up--on a scale of earth friendliness? Sally

(From David Kibbey): 5 oz water, 4cc (or 4ml) Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap, 5cc tobasco sauce. Mix & spray well. Use a child's medicine spoon to measure the cc's. Works well. Merry
I wanted to pass on a recommendation for what we consider a miracle solution for our ant problems. We've had periodic invasions for years and tried spraying, ant traps and stakes, cinnamon, etc. Then we discovered dried pyracantha berries and it's worked like a charm. I'm not sure of the brand name but it comes in powdered form and can be found in natural food stores. (We got ours at Berkeley Natural Grocery.) At the first sign of an ant invasion we sprinkle some in their path and at the source (when we can find it) and that is usually the end of it. It's supposed to be pretty environmentally friendly, but not entirely non-toxic, so we try to keep it away from food and kids. But we have used it on our kitchen counters in out of the way places. Laura
I was using the supposedly non-toxic chinese chalk until reading about it on the Digest. Then a friend recommended using baby powder. Just squirt it on the offending areas i.e.wherever they seem to be coming out of the wall. It worked immediately just like the chinese chalk. One added benefit though is that you don't find all the little carcasses around like you do with the chalk. Those really bothered my little girl who was way into ants and all insects. Good luck. S.

Ants all over the house

Dec 1998

We have ants all over our place now. I think it is because of the rain that they rush inside. I used cinnamon for a while to block their paths and holes since I wanted to avoid using any kind of poison at home and it worked very well, but only for a few months. Now the problem is bad and we have ants every where even in the 2nd floor bathrooms.

I am thinking about getting the house sprayed. Has anybody done it? What are the risks involved for children considering that my children are allergic to many different things? Should I wash all the dishes afterwards? Should we only have the premeter of the house sprayed? Other cautions to take? Any alternative solutions? Soheila

I refuse to use poison within the house, but have found it effective to use Safer's household pest spray in the basement, and outside at the foundation and on the trails on the house itself. Reapplication is necessary almost weekly, though. Safer's spray is hard to find. I've found it at Berkeley Ace on University and the large hardware chain on Ashby below San Pablo.

Hate to say it, but we still get ants trying to get in. I'm busy caulking holes along floors etc. Remember their nests outside are flooded, and they're going to keep looking, so you must be vigilant. Chris

I've recently discovered by pure accident that Lysol Kitchen Antibacterial Spray kills ants on contact. No pesticides and a nice smell - it's a handy alternative for ants in the kitchen. Regan

I don't like to spray for ants inside my house either. What works for me is to scatter dried chili pepper flakes in their path (not powder or whole ones). I clean up the ants first with Windex or some other cleaner and then sprinkle the flakes in the corners of the cupboard and other out-of the-way places. I put the flakes where no one will touch them inadvertantly. I recently had an ant attack after two years of peace, so I think the chili flakes lose their potency after a while. Lynn
Before you spray, I highly recommend trying another inexpensive and alledgely non-toxic solution. It's called miraculous insecticide chalk. I think it's just boric acid in a chalk form. You draw lines across the ants paths or around place you don't want them to go. It's very effective, and it can even be fun and artistic. I totally swear by it.

It's imported from China, hence the excellent name. You can buy it from most grocery stores in Chinatown (Oakland or SF). You can also buy it at the Ashby Flea Market from the stall that sells all kinds of household cleaning supplies in the Northwest corner of the market. Peter
[Editor note: don't use this - see Warning about Ant Chalk]

When we bought our house it came with some kind of 1 yr. warrantee against blah blah blah, incl. pests. So when our ant/spider (I'm paranoid of spiders, ants are simply annoying and taste bad) we called the warranty place and they sent Western Exterminator Co. The man used a water-based spray around all the baseboards and up the joints of walls in the house and garage, then he fogged the inside of the house and garage. Finally he fired up the engine on the truck and used a high-pressure water-based spray all around the outside of the house, perimeter of the property, all around the yards, etc. It took him no more than 1/2 hr. Our prep. consisted of moving furniture away from walls, covering/putting away dishes and other things that come into intimate contact with your body (toothbrushes, etc.) We had to stay out of the house for 2-3 hours to let the fog do its works which was no prob. since it was during the work week anyway. Nice thing about this method is nothing was extremely dangerous to humans. The water portion of the spray procedure was used simply as a carrier to lay down a surface of powder that 1) serves as a mild irritant to a small pest, 2) dries out the body of pests that get it on them (he described it as how babies get powder in the diaper to guard against moisture) so they die, 3) they carry it back "home" to kill further pests. Initially it worked great with NO pests. 2 mos. later we saw an ant here and there, same with spiders, but nothing the problem like it was before. Jonathan
Grants Ant Stakes, placed where ants can get them and kids can't, have been very effective for me. Follow the directions, it takes a few days but generally then the ants are gone. They do not put fumes in the air. Lynn
We got a professional exterminator, and they placed a powder into the walls and beneath the floor to kill the nest -- very large, very determined nest. This is our first year in the house. We didn't even have to leave the house for the wall injection, although we did, and aired the house out afterwards, for the initial spraying (diazinon, at least outside). He didn't spray in the kitchen, since we were not (!) having a problem there. They have broken out three times in different places in the house -- inside of a few hours, thousands of them can set up a trail to whatever it is that seems to draw their interest.

The exterminator specializes in Montclair, if anyone wants his company's name. Small, local firm, 20 years in the area. Heather

regarding ant invasions: I've found that a bleach/water solution sprayed on the ants usually does the trick. Less noxious than pesticides, and gets your counters mighty clean. andrea
I know this sounds crazy, but lemon scented Sunlight dishwashing liquid works wonders on ants. I don't know if it is the soap or the lemon or both but they will not cross a path of the stuff. Whenever we start to get ants I spread it around the area where they are coming in or all along the path they are taking. It is a little messy but at least I know it isn't toxic! Kim
Before using insecticides, try spraying vinegar on the areas where the ants are coming out of the walls, etc. I've heard that works well, although I've never tried it. Also, there are diatomaceous earth-based products available that, I believe, are non-toxic. These are mainly for indoor use, as they will wash away.

I've sprayed insecticides and have confined this treatment, as much as possible, to the outside areas. This has helped control the problem.

If you do have to use insecticides indoors, try to avoid an overall application, especially in the kitchen area. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to wash counters, dishes, etc. Spraying inside the house, you should plan to vacate for a couple of hours to let the odor disperse.

I keep saying my house was built on the largest ant hill in the world! I don't know if we'll ever be rid of them, so we have to deal with them the best way possible. Hope this helps. Robert

ok, i admit i never tried this but many of people have told me this works: ants will never cross a chalkline. draw a chalk line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. Carrie
I've also found Grant's ant stakes to be very effective. They're small and contain the killer goop, whatever it is, in a small compartment with a hole. To keep kids from getting into the stake, I find a spot in the ants' trail that is above kids' reach. Ants are drawn to the goop and take it home to the colony to do its work there. The directions may not mention this, but the goop activates better if you stir it up with a nail after you add the boiling water. Linda
I too have found Boric powder useful for ant-reduction but the Consumer Product Safety Commission is cracking down on the chalk for mof it because it is illegal and extremely dangerous--ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS--There have been cases of kids eating it and becoming very sick or even dying because they thought it was regular chalk to play with. Boric acid is very toxic (you can buy boric acid in powder form at Longs)--read the label--you have to wear gloves, avoid eye contact, etc. Laura Beth
Hello, I am very thankful for your messages. I find them all very useful in approaching my ants problem. I have decided not to spray my house, but use a couple of alternatives that have been suggested. I am sharing the responses I received because I am sure others can benefit from your advice. Soheila
My mother's house has been infested with ants as long as I can remember, back to when I was a small child (and I'm now 40). Nothing has worked. Recently, her housekeeper suggested sprinkling Johnson's baby powder where they congregate (which is everywhere, so this isn't a totally practical solution) but sure enough, when I sprinkled all around the kitchen sink, they disappeared! I've heard that those ant stakes with arsenic work like a charm if you put a perimeter of them around the house, but I haven't tried it and that option does involve poison.
We have had problems with ants in the past, and used simple ant bait houses that you can buy that are quite safe to use (safer than spraying, I think). The trick is to put out a lot of them (we had 6 in our kitchen) and leave them there for several days. The ants take the bait back to their hive and they all end up dying back there (not in your house). There are several brands, and you should be able to get them at places like RiteAid or OSH.
Have you tried boric acid (its a powder) on the ants? It's supposed to be quite effective, and relatively non-toxic (i.e. safe to use around the kids). Boric acid is a white powder. You can find it in almost any hardware store, in the gardening section.
Hi Shiela, I understand your problem. I have my home exterminated twice a year. After El Nino, the back wall of my house was completely covered with ants and they were coming out of the cracks of the ground plus they were everywhere in my home. But exterminating is a great idea. We have a house full of asthma patients so I was very hesitant to spray any chemicals in the house. But they come and spray the perimeters and it is wonderful.

Another solution is going to the hardware store and purchasing liquid silicone (sp?) and put it any cracks of the house. The insect chalk works well also but my problem needs more than chalk. I have also used Amonia diluted in water. That is a temporary solution and is not as harsh as raid.

I hope you find a quick solution. Keep in mind that after the rainy season is over you will see more ants.

I have occassional ant dramas, and I deal with it by being extremely vigilant (everything gets put on hold while I fight the ants!), and with "ant chalk" that get at the Ashby flea market. (it's Chinese made) I've had some concerns about toxicity, but recently read that it's harmless. I mostly try to keep my son away from wherever I've applied it. It works EXTREMELY well. However, with a full on infestation like you're describing, it could be too messy. Perhaps once you've got the problem under control you could use it as I do. I can't stress enough however the vigilance aspect - if you say, I'll deal with it in the morning, you'll never win the war!

[Editor: don't use this. See Warning about Ant Chalk above

From: a mom

In reference to the insecticide chalk...It is highly effective as well as highly toxic, even though it says on the box that it is perfectly safe for children and pets. Remember it is made in China, where regulations may not be what they are here. There was a notice in the newspaper last year about it. The danger I think is that it looks exactly like a piece of chalk and would be easy for a child to mistake it for one. It works in less than an hour and the effects last for months. Even though we have a 4 year old, I use it and a day or two later clean where I had applied it. It's the best thing I've found for ants.

From: Cathy

I know you already got both of these recommendations, but I thought you might want to hear how they worked for me. We had a terrible ant infestation in our home right after we moved in last January. Luckily, they weren't in the kitchen, but they were everywhere else. I have a preschooler and was also reluctant to spray. A friend who has pets told be about daetenaceous (sp) earth. I found it at ACE hardware and, while there, was advised to try the powder boric acid. I purchased both. After I got home and read the boric acid label, I wasn't comfortable using it in living areas. So I used it under the house in a narrow crawl space, where I found the ants coming in. When I shone the flashlight on the dirt in the crawl space, it looked like the ground was moving , there were so many ants! I liberally sprinkled the stuff all over the ground (wearing gloves, glasses and a painter's mask as recommended on the label). Inside the house, I used the daetenaceuos earth along all walls in each room that had ants. I just made a thin line with it along the walls. (I poured it right on top of ants that were there.) Any ants that were not on the perimeter, I just picked up by hand with a washcloth. It ended up killing the ants within the day. A couple of days later I just vacuumed it up. The remarkable thing is, we have had no ant problem since and this was almost a year ago!

From: Christina

I too have had great success with Johnson's baby powder, although you end up with little piles of powder and ant corpses spread around, and you may have to keep applying it as they try different cracks. Interestingly, Safeway brand baby powder does not work at all. I think it dessicates them, probably like the diatomacious stuff.

From: Donna

Ground nutmeg makes a great, non-toxic ant repellent. They hate it and scamper away immediately and you can safely leave it on counter tops and in cabinents (a bit messy at times).

From: Lisa

Did anyone mention cinnamon as an ant repellent? It smells nice, and it works! We've sprinkled it along the edges of windowsills and doorways, leaving it there for a few days or so. We found out about this through a gradeschool science fair. One of the students set up a project with several circles of possible repellents (cinnamon, garlic, and I don't remember the rest) and put some ants in the middle of each one. Ants escaped from all but the cinnamon circle. So, if you just want them to go away, you might try it.

From: Glenn

One more quick one on ants: I have been led to believe that ants follow each other by scent. After getting rid of the ants via your favorite method, wipe out their trail by spraying a solution of water containing 2% bleach. This way, if they do come back they have to begin all over again finding the way to your goodies. Doing that, plus caulking, works quite well.

From: Dawn

Regarding the ant discussion: The correct spelling is diatomaceous earth. It's made up of dried, powered diatoms, the tiny creatures that whales eat. They are mostly silica, and the dust clogs the breathing mechanisms of ants and fleas (and presumably other small insects). The downside is that the broken exoskeletons are very sharp, although they are so small that human beings won't notice it. The problem is that it can, over time, wear your carpets out. However, that's with continued use over a long period, and I know people who have sworn by the stuff for years with no obvious problems.

Suggestions for deterring ants

July 1999

Two off-beat things that we discovered (by accident) will deter ants:

1) WD-40 will suffocate them if you spray it on them, and will interfere
with their trails otherwise 2) anti-fungal foot powder or spray will also interfere with their trails.

Good luck! Dawn

You might check the trees and shrubs for scale - ants live off of the black sooty stuff left behind by scale on leaves. Spraying the leaves with oil (from a garden shop) will get rid of it and indirectly control the ants. It works the other way 'round, too: putting Tanglefoot (an incredibly sticky preparation) on the trunks of trees and bushes will keep ants off, and with them scale and aphids. The good thing about Tanglefoot is that it's non-toxic and it stays where you put it, unlike sprays. John
If you cover the holes or cracks they are coming in with Johnson's baby powder, it will kill the ones coming in, and discourage them. They will sometimes find another crack nearby, but if you keep squirting them, they will go away. Safeway baby powder doesn't work -- we've had luck with Johnsons. (I think it dessicates them.) Christina
I meant to write this one a long time ago, regarding the ant questions. I've recently started using "Simple Green," completely by chance, and discovered it works GREAT to deter ants. I spray directly on them, which kills them on contact (so much for being non-toxic!), then spray the area they were coming through. I usually have to repeat this twice, but that's all. I've also found spreading ground cloves around the entry point deters them. It certainly smells nicer than anything else. Katherine
We use a spray bottle filled with water and dishsoap, and it kills the ants after about 5 seconds. It's non-toxic and good for cleaning surfaces. It works well on long lines, too, although you still have to block their way or find their nest. My husband was watering the plants yesterday and found an ant's nest IN the pot of one of our plants--so check your plants out too--they may be harboring secret nests. You can check by watering them and seeing if ants come running out of the dish. You probably have to re-pot the plant (wash off its roots first) if there is a nest!
I don't know how to get rid of ants permanently but last winter I was killing ants right and left with a spray bottle with a mixture of Planet dish soap and water. In general, dish soap is supposed to be more effective at killing ants than those nasty sprays if you use the right kind.
I just had an ant invasion and I used vinegar and citrus solvent. I clean with that and I just grabbed the bottle and started spraying. The ants disappeared and I haven't seen one yet and its rained several more times after that one spraying. Its non-toxic and very inexpensive. That combo does a great job in the cleaning department as well. Donna
My daughter made a pot-pourri ball: an orange with cloves decoratively placed around it. She was at her aftercare program and a few of us adults began talking about the rain and ants, who seem to be a couple these days. One woman said that cloves are known to be a deterrent to ants. I arrived home and placed the clove-speared orange on our kitchen counter right where the little critters trend to begin their's been five days and still no ants. There's my little solution; I hope it works for you too! Suzanne
Hello, just responding back to you regarding your ant problem! My family and I went through the same problem about a year ago. Whenever it got too hot or too cold theants would start coming in. The bathroom and kitchen! We could not leave anything out! I finally decided to concur this once and for all! I went to Home Depot and explained my problem and asked them for the stronger thing that had for ant invasion. They told me about ant steaks. They are silver and they have a little poison in the middle of it. The ants eats it and take it back to the trail and they all eat the poison and and are destroyed for good! I have not seen any ants since, and it's been over a year! I also sprinkled ant poison powder around the windows. It takes about 2-3 days for them to die. The first day is the worse because you see hundreds of ants coming back to eat the poison. Try it because it really works! Good luck. Email me back to let me know how it works for you! Michelle
Our University extension service here in Minnesota recommended "Terro" which is an ant poison that destroys the nest because the ants take it back with them. It was very effective with an ant nest built under my doorway. Not somehting to have around kids or pets. If you think they are getting in from greenery, suggest trimming it rather than destroying the nest. Also, you might want to find out if these are carpenter ants (if they have those out there) which might indicate you have wood rotting in your walls (or wherever they are nesting) that needs to be addressed. (The ants are a symptom rather than a cause.) Mary Ann
I've found that getting all the fallen leaves up off the ground helps in controlling ants. The leaves create safe havens for them. The one year I hired someone to do a *really* good job of raking up all the leaves off my hill behind my house, I never had any ants!! Good luck! Linnea
You might check the trees and shrubs for scale - ants live off of the black sooty stuff left behind by scale on leaves. Spraying the leaves with oil (from a garden shop) will get rid of it and indirectly control the ants. Regan
In response to the prior message, it works the other way 'round, too: putting Tanglefoot (an incredibly sticky preparation) on the trunks of trees and bushes will keep ants off, and with them scale and aphids. The good thing about Tanglefoot is that it's non-toxic and it stays where you put it, unlike sprays. John
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