Steve Tvedten's "The Bug Stops Here"
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Ants are the most dominant group of social insects. In the savanna of the African Ivory Coast the density of ants is more than 7,000 colonies and 20 million individuals per hectare. Ants belong to the insect Order Hymenoptera and are close relatives of bees and wasps. Throughout the world there are over 20,000 species of ants, but only about 50 are known to be pests of the food or structures of man. Except for the polar regions and a couple of islands, they flourish on all land areas of the earth, from rain forests to deserts. All pest control technicians become involved with ant problems at some point in their career— most commonly because ants are found foraging or nesting inside structures - or because swarming ant reproductives are confused with swarming termites. Only a comparatively small proportion of ants cause damage - only these ants are considered to be pests around our homes and buildings because they feed on and contaminate our food stuffs, damage our wood structures, build unsightly mounds in our lawns and even fewer ants are aggressive and are able to inflict painful bites or stings. Most ants are extremely beneficial cleaning up mess after mess and up to 95% of all weed seeds! (They truly are nature's little garbage collecting ladies.)

Foraging - Ants are omnivores and eat a wide variety of food, including other insects, seeds, nectar, meats, greases, sugars and honeydew. Honeydew is a liquid produced by plant-sucking insects, such as aphids or plant , mealy bugs (groups of small insects with a white powder clinging to them), scale insects, and plant hoppers. These insects feed in groups on plant stems and leaves. Many species of ants protect these aggregations from other insects. Ants are a part of this pattern; they also take drops of honeydew continuously produced by the small sap-sucking individuals . Some ant species appear to just wander randomly; others trail each other precisely from colony to food and/or water source and back. Most ants follow structural guidelines as they travel, rather than in a straight "beeline". Ants communicate with each other using different methods, including pheromones, touch and stridulaton (sound production), for transmitting messages. Workers foraging for food attract attention and communicate their messages when they return to the colony. Honey seems to really attract honeydew-eating ants. Add 5% or less boric acid or sodium borate or food-grade DE to make an excellent sweet bait which has both a food attractant and a convenient moisture source.

ANT CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT - The best control for ants is cleanliness. The ant's greatest enemies are other ants. It is important to note that all of the ants found indoors, only a few species are responsible for the majority of infestations; some species are not common inside a structure but appear sporadically; and other types of ants are found inside only under rare or accidental conditions. While the third group is difficult to prepare for, the first group will be studied, discussed, and control experiences analyzed. The middle group may take an inordinate amount of your time, with inconclusive results. These elusive ants may appear several times in one year, then not be encountered for several years. Some are more or less common in some regions and uncommon in others. Remember, most ant infestations originate outside the building.

 I have found schools that have been sprayed with various volatile, synthetic pesticide poisons once a week for 15 years or more without every getting "control". Ants are the most common cause of callbacks for the pest control industry, so why use their volatile poisons?

Inspection - The key to virtually any ant control is to find the nest. All ants are social insects that live cooperatively in a colony. Large numbers of ants can be killed without ever solving your pest infestation. Keep a daily log or record of where ants are seen. Bait the workers with jelly, peanut butter, cut-up crickets, oils, proteins, etc., and follow them back to their nests, or inspect with a yellow or red light at night.

Habitat Alteration

Intelligent Pest Management®

Fire Ant Repellent: Lightly sprinkle baby powder with talc or food-grade DE on shoes, socks, cuffs and legs to protect yourself.


  1. Be sure to trim all branches that touch or overhang the building and caulk all visible cracks, crevices and other openings. Make ant barriers with petroleum jelly, Comet®, talcum powder, food-grade DE or medicated powder. Maintain routine and thorough sanitation. Caulk all openings to the exterior and install door sweeps.

  2. Routinely clean with Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint (1 oz. per gallon) and/or borax (½ cup per gallon of hot water), empty garbage and vacuum daily. Carefully caulk/seal all cracks and crevices where a nest is suspected. Properly store food and garbage. Vacuum up all visible ants.

  3. Lightly sprinkle food-grade DE, talcum powder, baking soda, Tide® soap or freshly ground pepper or calcium chloride (Comet®) outside and lightly dust with talcum or Comet® or calcium chloride dust or baking soda or medicated body powder or food-grade DE inside along the edges and in all remaining cracks, crevices and sill-boxes. Keep food and garbage properly stored away from ants. Improve drainage. Trim all branches that touch or overhang the building. Put bands of Tanglefoot ® or STP® oil treatment or petroleum jelly around the perimeter of infested trees.

  4. Mix 45% baking soda and 45% powdered sugar and 10% dry active yeast or powdered vitamin C and place the bait mix wherever you see ants. Mix 5% - 10% food-grade DE in honey or (fermenting type) molasses. The only way to eliminate ants permanently is to destroy the queen(s).

  5. Spray ant trails with diluted Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint or Lemon Joy® or vinegar or perfume or sprinkle talc or food-grade DE or freshly ground pepper or calcium chloride (Comet®) or baking soda, or draw a line of chalk or petroleum jelly where you do not want them to cross. Properly install and maintain dehumidifiers. Eliminate moisture problems and improve ventilation.

  6. Spray all visible ants with diluted Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint (1 oz. per quart of water) or vacuum them up.

  7. Spray nests with white vinegar, Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint or Fantastic®, or sprinkle them with talcum (baby) powder, calcium chloride dust, medicated body powder, food-grade DE, Comet® or crushed chalk. Fumigate with carbon dioxide or steam them. Finding and then eliminating the nest is the most effective ant control technique.

  8. Make your own fresh borax or boric acid baits using their preferred foods, e.g., a liquid bait can be made with ½ teaspoon (or less) of boric acid in 2½ fluid oz. of honey or corn syrup or molasses - heat and stir until the boric acid or borax is dissolved completely - mix in at least 1 - 2 equal parts of water (dilute the bait more if you see dead ants by the bait) then put in small vials or lids or small tin foil "cups" where you have seen ant activity - but safely out of the reach of children, pets and wildlife. Bait until control is achieved (usually borax or boric acid baits should have 5% or less boric acid or borax).

  9. Ants in your pet's food? Draw a line of white chalk or petroleum jelly around the dish.

  10. Mop the floors with ½ - 1 cup of borax or baking soda per gallon of hot water. Keep crawling children off the borax cleaned floor!

  11. Flood or drench all outside nests with 3 gallons of warm water and 4 oz. of Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint or carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide or diluted orange juice or steam. Be sure landscape mulch is 2" or less. Remove all debris.

  12. Ants in voids or hollow trees - Dust with talcum powder or food-grade DE and then fill the cavity with aerosol foam insulation. Put bands of Tanglefoot ® or STP® oil treatment or petroleum jelly around the perimeter of infested trees. Eliminate all moisture problems.

  13. Flood or drench all outside ant nests, e.g., fire ants, with
  1. 1 gallon of orange juice plus 2 gallons of water plus 2 tablespoons of dish soap.

  2. Several 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola.

  3. 3 gallons of warm water and 1 - 2 oz. of Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint.

  1. Alternative Sprays and/or Powders
  1. Mix 10% salt and some white pepper or Tabasco® sauce in water and spray to repel ants.

  2. Blend one clove of garlic, one onion, one tablespoon of cayenne pepper and a quart of water. Steep mixture for one hour, strain, add a tablespoon of liquid soap and spray it for ant control.

  3. Wash kitchen surfaces with vinegar or baking soda solution. Sprinkle baking soda, calcium chloride, bone meal, chili powder, talcum powder, Tide® soap, and/or powdered charcoal in and around suspected points of entry.

  4. Pour a line of any of the following where ants are entering the building: baking soda, calcium chloride or Comet®, cinnamon, talcum or chili powder, bone meal, medicated body powder, food-grade DE, cream of tartar, red chili pepper, salt, Tide® soap, dried mint or sage, cucumber peelings, or simply draw a line of chalk.

  5. Mix of 10½ oz. of water, 3 oz. of hot sauce, 1 oz. of Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint. Spray where ants enter the home or building.

  6. Spray them with virtually any cleaner you have. Create a barrier with petroleum jelly or STP® oil treatment.

  7. Leaving a large piece of peanut brittle in the sun can trap literally thousands of small sweet-eating ants on the sticky surface per Howard Rustin.

  1. Other Alternative Baits

  1. Combine: 1 part active yeast, 2 parts molasses and 1 part sugar. Mix the ingredients well. Drop a  teaspoonful on several small squares of white paper. Place the paper squares along ant trails where they will not be disturbed. How does it work? The ants are attracted to the sugary feast and consume it readily. The action of the yeast, however, produces gas in their bellies and they can not rid themselves of it. They essentially pop. The best part of this method of alternative pest control is that it utilizes no volatile poisons which could harm you or your family or your pets.

  2. Mix ½ cup molasses and ½ cup peanut butter and 1 packet of active dry yeast.

If you are still seeing ants, read The Best Control© or The Best Control II© on CD-ROM - there are many other controls available. 

Good Hunting!

Note:  Some products mentioned can be purchased at at Safe2Use


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