March of the Sugar Ants

We have been battling sugar ants all month long. We started noticing them coming into the house late in February, when the spring rains started. As this is a yearly ritual, I put ant bait in the usual places; on my kitchen windowsill, near the dog's food, under the fridge. I didn't see too many around so I felt like I was on top of things. I was wrong.


Both of my teenage sons were complaining about having ants crawl on them when sitting in their rooms. I figured there was probably some source of leftover food in there and set them both to find it. My oldest started cleaning around his desk and garbage when he noticed a trail of ants going into one of his drawers. We discovered an entire ant nest layered between stacks of leftover papers. Yuck! I didn't have the presence of mind to take a photo before we cleaned it up for that one. After that, both rooms have been kept much cleaner. But we were still seeing ants around.

About a week later, we were doing some cleaning and rearranging in the living room, preparing for a family visit. My younger son discovered a small trail of ants climbing between a stack of tiles and the window molding, in the back corner. The tiles are on a low plant shelf which contained several different potted plants. Under the tiles were hundreds of black ants and what appeared to be just as many yellow eggs. The ants had made another nest!

We have cleaned up this new nest and the surrounding area, and have left the houseplants outside for the time being. There are still new ants wandering around though so I'm keeping an eye on the different places they might try to live next. In past years, we have found ants making nests under our spare refrigerator, inside our coffeepot (yuck!) and inside houseplants. They are always looking for areas that are dry and warm, with access to a food source.

Like slugs and aphids, ants are a part of a healthy ecosystem. Instead of eradicating them, we simply want to keep them out of our living spaces. Here are the three steps to discouraging these unwanted pests.

Remove Food Sources

Keep your kitchen and bathroom clean and organized. Make sure food waste is not left in bedrooms, especially sticky wrappers or fruit peels. Rinse dishes and recycling and take garbage and compost outside regularly. Raise dog and cat food off the ground. I keep my fruit bowl in the center of the kitchen table and the ants almost never climb up.

If you see wandering ants, wipe down the area with vinegar or an all purpose cleaner to prevent others from following their path. If you see a line of ants, note where they are coming inside so you can stop them at the source before you wipe it down.

Keep Them Outside

There are people who recommend planting strong smelling herbs, like mint around your house to deter insects. I have not found this to be effective as I often see ants right near my patch of mint all the time. I know that certain types of flowers and fruit can attract them, like peonies. I would keep plants like these away from the foundation to help keep the ants outside, where they belong.

Cinnamon is my favorite way to discourage ants from certain places. You can get very cheap spices at the dollar store. I bought a giant size cinnamon powder at Costco awhile back which I have been using with abandon whenever I see ants that I can't deal with right away. The cinnamon scent seems to really confuse them and they have trouble with powder substances, which is why chalk lines are sometimes effective. In my experience, nothing will keep them away forever.

I have also used pure cinnamon oil to wipe down entry points. Other strong smelling oils, like tea tree oil, are said to work as well. The oil itself makes it difficult for the ants to cross. But these are only deterrents, you really want to make sure to get poison back to the queen or it is a never ending battle.

Kill The Queen and Nest

The most sure way to get rid of ants is to hire experts in pest control to take care of them for you. Most companies have special rates to come out every year. They often spray around the foundation and also leave special bait which kills the queen and nest at the source. But there are other ways to accomplish this at home, especially if you are on top of the first two ways.

I have had good success with boric acid based baits, like Terro brand. You can make this bait yourself with borax and sugar but I haven't tried to make it yet. I have also heard people recommend mixtures of baking soda and sugar, Splenda or other artificial sweeteners or cornstarch. I know from experience that ants are very attracted to artificially sweetened mouthwash but it appears to kill them almost immediately.

Another good tip is to pour boiling water into all your sideway, driveway or patio cracks. The ants live on the underside of the concrete slab of our patio, which you can tell by the small piles of dirt which pile up. The non toxic boiling water will kill the entire nest and is very effective for weeds.

If you have any other tips about dealing with these tiny black pests, please share it in the feedback. Good luck!


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March 31, 20162 found this helpful
Top Comment

My home sits on a half acre parcel of land. During the Summer, there are thousands of ant hills, all around. It's difficult to walk just about anywhere on my property without stepping on one. As you might guess, I've had a lot of experience in dealing with ants.

With a couple hundred potted plants sitting around, there will be at least 20 to 30 with ant nests in them. The ants are literally everywhere.

It would be cost prohibitive to try to treat my whole property. The best I can do is submerge the potted plants in water, overnight. I have to do this to many pots several times a season.


I have lost many potted plants to ant infestation, over the years.

I am able to keep the ants out of the house. I do this by using a boric acid/sugar mixture. The mixture must be placed absolutely everywhere that it is practical and safe to do so.

I have never had a roach infestation. I have though, a few times, seen one or two in my home. When I do, I immediately refresh all the boric acid/sugar mixture that's around. No more roaches.

I think a boric acid/sugar mixture is the cheapest, most effective treatment one can use, for both ants and roaches. I will add that it's effectiveness is totally dependent on proper application.

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April 1, 20160 found this helpful

What is the boric acid to sugar ratio?

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April 1, 20161 found this helpful
Top Comment

One part boric acid to ten parts sugar should be OK. If too much boric acid is used, the ants wont eat it. I think powdered sugar works best. Ants are attracted to a sugar/protein mix more so than a sugar/boric acid mix.


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April 1, 20161 found this helpful

I fill a spray bottle up with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water and a few drops of dish soap and spray this on ants I find indoors. It kills them fairly quickly, I prefer this to something like Raid. That said, If you have an ant colony, this will not fix the problem.

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April 1, 20162 found this helpful

I have had success with keeping ants out of my house by placing our jam jars outside [hidden near the house] when we are done with them. The ants clean them out and do not go to the trouble of coming in to look for food. Have also used other high sugar content food containers. This is in Ohio and was suggested by an exterminator, he said it is easier than trying kill them once they are in plus it is 'green'.

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April 3, 20160 found this helpful

I have been something similar for years they are looking for food so I feed them little jam or apple core little sugar havnt had any in the house in years

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April 3, 20161 found this helpful

I've used vapor rub (any brand will do) to discourage ants from certain areas. When we used to an outdoor dog, I smear a fine film around his food bowl which seemed to do a good job of keeping them away.


I've also done the same when I noticed them coming in through a small opening on a window or door. We also spray vinegar to "wipe away" their trail. Boric acid is great but can be harmful to those with respiratory issues and animals so use with caution.

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April 4, 20160 found this helpful

I've tried everything and nothing worked well enough. The sugar and boric acid worked OK and cut the population by about 60%, but it failed to eradicate them. I used it in the house where the ants were and outside I poured some on their ant hills every time I saw one. It was really hard inside the house to watch them gather at it and eat it without killing them, to allow them to carry it back to their home to kill the rest. I fought the ants for years and was vigilant about it. One year, I tried food grade diatomaceous earth--WOW. Within a few days, the ants population were cut way down.


Within a week, the ants were gone. They do come back yearly, but only about 5% of what I used to have. And I haven't even put any diatomaceous earth out in the yard or sprinkled it around the house. It has amazed me.

In the summer, I put my plants outside on my porch and they often get ants in them. I simply water them with water that I've added a little Original blue Dawn to. The soap kills the ants and doesn't harm the plants at all. I just water the plants until the water drains out the holes and fills the saucers, and the ants can't escape.

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April 4, 20161 found this helpful

Ants do not breathe thru their mouths, but thru tubes in their bodies, called spiracles. Powders like cinnamon and chalk work, because the powder is sucked into the spiracles, suffocating them

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January 31, 20170 found this helpful

We had a ant infestation that was drawn in the house by cat food. I tried ant traps no good. Someone told me about corn meal. I put trails of corn meal around the floor and in two days we were ant free. It has been 6 months now and still no ants.

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