Friday, November 4, 2011


 In Hawai`i, ants can be a major nuisance in and around the home.  Although they usually don’t cause serious damage, an exception might be the white footed ant that can cause electrical switch damage. There are some 40 to 45 species of ants in Hawai`i. Their feeding habits vary, ranging from sweet to greasy foods, starches and even plant and animal material. 

Ant control in and around the home requires persistence. With a few exceptions it is not necessary to know which type of ant you are dealing with. The control measures are often the same.

Physical exclusion and sanitation are the most feasible non-chemical treatments. While spraying chemicals inside the house may seem effective, it will not prevent more ants from entering the home. The reason for this is that most ants live outdoors and pesticides used indoors are short lived.  Spraying around the foundation will not provide long-term control either because only foraging ants are killed without eliminating the colony. Perimeter treatments may appear to knock down the population, but ants will quickly build back up and invade again. Instead, focus efforts on keeping ants from entering the house.
  • Caulk cracks and crevices that provide entry points.
  • Store attractive food such as sugar, syrup, honey, and pet food in closed containers.
  • Clean up grease and spills.
·        Wiping up ants with soapy water may be as effective as an insecticide spray in temporarily removing foraging ants from the home, because the soap also removes the ant’s scent trail. Some products such as window cleaners will kill ants on contact but leave no residue.

Baits are a key tool in managing ants. The key ingredients in a good bait are a toxicant (something that will kill the ants) and a materials that will attract the worker ants as they look for food. The success of the baits is dependent on a couple factors. First, the workers must be attracted to the bait. If they are not, try another brand. Once they are attracted, they will recruit other workers to it. Workers carry small portions of the bait back to the nest where it is transferred mouth-to-mouth to other workers, larvae, and queens to kill the entire colony. Second, baits must be slow-acting so that the foraging ants have time to make their way back to the nest and pass the poison on to other members of the colony before they die.  If many ants die too soon, live ants will abandon the bait area.  It may take 5-10 days before fewer ants are observed, and actually, several weeks may lapse before the entire colony is eliminated.  If ants are gone in a day, they have NOT been wiped out, they just relocated. When properly used, baits are more effective and safer than sprays.

From University of California at Irvine, here is a simple recipe for ant bait for sugar loving ants.  The bait is made of boric acid, sugar and water. Boric acid powder, specifically labeled for ants or cockroaches, can be purchased at drugstores and in retail centers. To prepare the bait solution, pour 1 cup of hot tap water into a jar. Hot water makes it easier to dissolve the sugar and boric acid. Add 8 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of boric acid. Mix well until all solids dissolve. Mark the jar clearly that it contains poison, and store it for future use out of reach of children, in non-food containers.  Never store pesticides in common food containers like catsup or coke bottles.
For bait stations you can use small glass jars. Mark the jars clearly that they contain poison. Make a small hole in the jar lids, just enough for ants to enter. Put some cotton balls inside. They make it easier for ants to walk to the bait solution. Pour some bait solution into the jars, and soak the cotton balls.
Place the bait stations next to or on the ant trail. Avoid direct sunshine.
Every few days check and add more bait solution if needed.

You can also check out the Texas A&M University website for more recipes -