Baxter County Master Gardener Program • University of Arkansas System • Division of Agriculture • © 2013 BCMG
The recent huge rains in much of the country have brought the ants out in big numbers, fire ants and many other species. Odorous ants are a common household problem in Arkansas. Odorous ants are1/8 of an inch long and brown to black in color. When crushed they give off an odor that smells like rotten coconut or pine scent. They will nest anywhere there is food and moisture and can be difficult to control. Finding the nest is important in the control, below are some tips that will help.
1. Do some research and identify what ant species you are dealing with. Each species has different habits and locating their food, water and shelter will determine your success.
2. Watch the activities of the ants to find where they are coming and going. If you find how they are entering your home, you can physically exclude them.
3. Remove or alter the conditions that invited them in the first place. Keep counters clean of food. Try to keep sinks and surrounding areas dry. Wiping counters down with vinegar or citrus oil can work as a temporary deterrent as well as increase the cleaning power.
4. If steps 1-3 do not slow the ants down, it is time for baits, dusts or sprays. Remember that you are only seeing a small portion of the colony at any one time. Only about 10% of a colony will forage outside the nest. Therefore baits are often the most effective approach. Applying any insecticide organic or chemical will not work to solve an ant infestation in the long run. It could cause the colony to bud or split into multiple colonies creating more problems.
5. Properly made baits are highly attractive to ants and under most conditions provide good control. Place baits into spill proof containers out of the reach of children and pets. The stations will need to be placed along active ant trails. It is important to remember that boric acid contains elemental boron and at high concentrations will sterilize soil. This process is slow and requires monitoring and refilling of the bait stations.
6. Ants have a habit of changing food sources from sugars to carbohydrates. It may become necessary to mix peanut butter with boric acid to supply both forms of bait to keep the ants feeding on the boric acid.
7. There are ant baits with the active ingredient abamectin. These baits can provide good control and should be used for heavy infestations or when other bait is not effective. They can be applied in stations around foraging ants or broadcast around ant trails. Again, boric can be damaging to the soil.
9. If the homemade baits fail or if you’re not the “home brew” type, hiring a professional pest control company would be the next step.
Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor Newsletter
Pest Management News, University of Arkansas, Agriculture System, May 31st 2015, by John D. Hopkins