Q: We live in an area where there is a lot of white sand and acres of pine trees. We've cleared out a couple of acres to live on, but are having trouble with ants: small, large, black, and fire. How can we control them? We have ant mounds every few yards.
Hardiness Zone: 8a
Linda from Mauk, GA
Anthills tend to be a seasonal problem, and unfortunately, they are most prevalent on sandy soil. Because you have so many mounds, your best bet is to treat as many of the individual mounds as you can with a broadcast bait. You will need to kill the queen to get rid of the whole colony. Realize, however, that this may only get rid of the ants temporarily, and that they may reappear elsewhere in the yard (hopefully farther out on your property) with a newly appointed queen.
In terms of a broadcast bait, you can make you own by mixing 1 cup of sugar, 4 teaspoons of boric acid and 24 ounces of water in a glass jar. Close the jar tightly and shake the mixture thoroughly until all the crystals dissolve. Pour 1 cup of this mixture into a smaller jar filled partially with cotton balls. Screw the lid back on, seal around the lid with weatherproof tape and punch a few small holes in the center of the lid. Draw a skull and cross bones on the jar as an extra precaution for passers-by and keep pets a children away from the jars!
Put one of these near the entrance to each mound. The ants will get into the jar to eat the sugar and return to the nest and pass it on to the rest of the colony. If you start to see a lot of dead ants next to the jar, the solution is too strong. Start over with a new solution containing less boric acid.
Diatomaceous earth is also said to act like a barrier if sprinkled around the mounds. To ants it's like crossing small pieces of glass and will encourage them to relocate mounds to a safer location. For fire ants, you can also try pouring half a cup of Epsom salts into the nest and all around it. Short of bulldozing the mounds and clearing more of your property, repeated flooding of the mounds can also be effective. You have to do this every few days, however, and be very persistent.
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I live in the south, too and it is a problem year round here. I have found that boric acid powder (sold here as "Roachpruf") mixed with powdered sugar or plain sugar is as effective as anything. Most remedies are so expensive and you have to keep putting it out over and over. I think the ants just pack up and move anyway. This powder sells for $2.00 at the dollar stores here. It is supposed to kill the queen ant. Just remember to keep it away from your kids and pets. Read the label. Good luck. (05/24/2006)
I use diatomaceous earth. It's natural and you can buy big quantities to use in your spreader. It's not expensive and you can get either locally at a nursery or from gardensalive.com. (05/25/2006)
Used coffee grounds are not liked by ants. (05/26/2006)
Baking Soda: They will not cross this; I have put a line of this on the outside edge of our house. Now, if they are already in the house, I heard cinnamon works; I don't have a lot of experience with the cinnamon though. I have mixed the baking soda into my childrens' sandbox to keep them out, very effective.
Go to your $$ store (Family dollar or Dollar General) and look for a liquid, different names, you put a small amount on little cardboard strip that comes with it. They will drink it and take it back to the nest and destroy it. I did this two years ago and no more ants. They swarm this stuff. I think I paid $1.99 at my Family dollar.
An excellent South African product is Blue Death.
The main ingredient is Permethrin. (05/31/2006)
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