The Antpocalypse

I remember when I first moved to Georgia and became acquainted with the fresh hell that is the palmetto bug (motto: we’re too genteel to admit we’re roaches!), at some point as I sat huddled in a corner, rocking back and forth and trying to find my happy place, I had this vaguely reassuring thought about how “at least they don’t have those awful little house ants.”

You know the ones I’m talking about, right? Every summer in New England, there would be a beautiful morning when you would wake up, listen to the birds chirping, go downstairs, and discover that your entire kitchen was now covered in ants. And let’s not even talk about that time when I was in grad school in California and I’d come home after a long day, flopped down on the couch with a box of Cheerios, and was on maybe my third or fourth handful when I discovered the entire box was FILLED WITH ANTS. (I am involuntarily writhing in disgust, just remembering it.) Palmetto bugs are at least easy to spot and completely unapologetic about how gross they are. Plus they tend to travel alone. But those tiny ants are all DUDES, PARTY THIS WAY, I FOUND A CRUMB! And suddenly you’re tracing the ant railroad from your kitchen counter, up the wall, along the ceiling, around the corner, and out the door.

But at least here in the south we have a Bug Guy, so no biggie, right? Uh, right. Except for the part where he’s not like Batman or anything, and after I make the HELP, WE’RE DROWNING IN ANTS phone call, we still have to wait a day for him to come spray (again).

So, um, yeah. The Bug Guy is coming tomorrow.

A couple of times this weekend we found a few ants in places they didn’t belong, and by “places they didn’t belong” I of course mean “anywhere inside.” One night they were all over the counter in the kids’ bathroom, so we drowned them in ant spray and then cleaned the bathroom the next morning. And one day they were congregating at the far end of the kitchen, on a windowsill by the table. Again, liberal dousing with ant spray, and I went through and cleaned thoroughly the next day. But we all knew what was coming, I suppose.

[Sidebar: What I really enjoy about having a Bug Guy, other than saying that I have a Bug Guy, is that in the six years I’ve lived here, we’ve had maybe four different Bug Guys—all the same company, just personnel changes or whatever—and all four Bug Guys talk about pest eradication like they really care about it, deeply. I like a person who’s dedicated to their job like that. And furthermore, every time we have a problem with ants, WITHOUT FAIL, the Bug Guy comes and tells me why the ants have come inside. I do not ask, mind you. They just volunteer this information because it’s important. So when it’s dry outside and we have ants, the Bug Guy comes and clucks his tongue and tells me that they’re coming in looking for water. And when it’s been rainy like it has been this summer, he comes in and clucks and tells me they’re trying to get out of the wet. WHICH IS IT, BUG GUY? How can ants come inside both to find water AND to stay dry? I never knew that ants were such a conundrum. Tell you what, though—if the Bug Guy comes tomorrow and says, “Hell if I know why they come inside. Probably because they’re aggravating little fuckers,” then I will give him an enormous cash tip. Pinky swear.]

So this morning I stumbled through breakfast and coffee with one eye open, and then a little bit later I returned to the kitchen to put some food in the slow cooker. I always feel very virtuous when I’m preparing dinner early in the morning, you know, and there had been this huge sale on ribs when I went grocery shopping yesterday, so I was feeling DOUBLY smug, because 1) early dinner prep and 2) delicious pork, and I wrestled with this enormous slab of animal to trim and cut it, first, and then I opened up the cabinet to start assembling spices for a rub, and…

… ANTS! The cabinet was overrun.

Nothing destroys smug like ants. Ants are the opposite of smug. Having ants in the kitchen makes me feel like a dirty, terrible housekeeper, even though I’m not, and EVERYONE has ants, and I know this, but still: INSECTS IN MY FOOD PLACE. BAD TOUCH.

My solution to this problem? Scream loudly, first of all. That totally helps. Then I smushed the ants which were crawling on the brown sugar canister, because I needed the brown sugar (obviously). Then I simply relocated my ribs operation to the kitchen counter furthest from the ant party and finished assembling my spice rub, dressing the meat, and setting it to cook. Then I called the Bug Guy to arrange for him to come tomorrow, and told my husband that I was squicked out and was going to stay far away from the kitchen.

As of this writing, Otto has not only completely emptied the afflicted kitchen cabinets, killed all the ants, vacuumed, and wiped down everything that was in there, he’s talking about rearranging the pantry because “it’s a mess” and “we keep talking about making things more accessible and optimizing where everything is.” I allowed as to how that was a great idea but I was pretty busy today, and he assured me he could take care of the whole thing, he just needs to run out for some more shelf liner, first, and then he’ll get to work on it.

Don’t tell him I said so, but this whole Antpocalypse thing is actually working out pretty well for me so far. Evidently the ants come inside because they’re appalled that my canned goods aren’t alphabetized and there’s expired spaghetti sauce way in the back of the pantry. I mean, probably they checked to make sure Otto was off work before they came in, right? So considerate.


  1. Barry Hollander

    If they’re the small black ants, the liquid stuff poured on bits of cardboard and placed where they can find them (but not the kids or dog) will always, in a couple of days, wipe them out. We had bigger black ants last week, maybe because of all the rain. New ant baits did them in so far.

    • suburbancorrespondent

      I think it’s called Terro. Available at Home Depot. I buy it by the case.

      • Lucinda

        This is EXACTLY what I was going to suggest. Terro is a miracle cure. We get terrible sugar ants here EVERY Spring. Why? Because it’s Spring. It’s a lot cheaper than Bug Guy and works pretty well. The best part? They take it home to share with their friends and it kills them all. Problem solved.

        Weirdest place I ever found them? My dishwasher. I kid you not.

        • Melissa

          Terro is DA BOMB! I’m currently enduring my own Antpocalypse. We ran out of the kind that you put on cardboard and lay around, so I went to the store to get more, and they had some called “ant baits”. I’ve tried other brands, but this was the first time I’d see any from Terro. You just set them out and the ants dive in and DIE!!! Wonderful stuff.

  2. RuthWells

    I’m jealous that your antpocalypse is working out so well for you. In June, we had All of the Things Break-a-Palooza,and my pantry is still a mess. You win at house disasters.

    • Pamela

      Nah, remember the pool liner?

      • Otto

        FYI, pool liner – STILL NOT RIGHT. Returning again this week as they may have left a coffe cup under it. Or a rock. Maybe a shot glass?


        • LilyfromGermany

          I suggest dissolving some sugar in the pool water and oh, so politely invite the ants to please drown.

  3. SJ

    Arrrrgh house bugs! I feel so lucky in Seattle, where the typical jam is that you get a large spider pop-in the moment you are naked and in the shower. Oh, and I found one IN my bill stack. Not cool, sir or ma’am. As for ants, I only get the weeny sugar ants. I pretty much have diatomaceous earth er-wher in my house. And very very few mosquitoes. I did not understand why most old houses here did not have screens at all until I learned about the mosquito thing.

    I already have my fruit fly traps out since it’s “hot” for here in June/July this week (90s).

    I’ve lived in AZ and FL and yes, sewer roaches and palmetto bugs. I’d wake up and one would be above me, tipping its hat and saying “hello” in Munchkin voice. :(

    Anyway, I FEEL YOU.

  4. Shannon

    Here in NJ, we have the tiny black ants and they are annoying. They moved in in May and we haven’t been able to get rid of them, no matter what we do. We’ve tried everything, but they keep coming back (every year). Always around our sink. So sick of the little suckers.

  5. Jean

    Can you let Otto know that we have had some spiders inside this year and that I know I have some expired canned goods in my cabinet? I could use his help :)

    PS>..such a bonus for you :)

  6. magpie

    Heh. My MIL is an ant-hater. So when we were forced to stay with them a couple of months ago because our house was uninhabitable due to water damage and that was the weekend the ants arrived in the mail for our kid’s new ant farm? Yeah, it was fun doing the ant transfer at my MIL’s. She may never forgive us.

  7. Heather

    I’m not telling you how to live your life, but I would much rather have harmless ants than carcinogenic and immune disrupting chemicals sprayed all over my home. When I get ants, I clean and sweep and then sprinkle a little ground cloves all over the area which confuses their smell locating systems. Works like a charm.

    • suburbancorrespondent

      I think it depends on how bad the infestation is (i.e., are they crawling in from outside or have they built a nest within the walls of your house?). Believe me, sprinkling ground cloves did NOTHING when I lived in California (aeons ago); I haven’t even bothered to try it here. But the Terro baits are not pesticide-based – they are pretty much borax and sugar, so they are fairly safe.

  8. deva


    Also,love the title “antpocolypse.”

  9. Arnebya

    Considerate little fuckers. That’s a nice motto. We don’t get ants inside much. But. Um, we have a mouse. And every time I walk into the kitchen and see the traps my husband has laid (I expect to see a tiny carcass so I squint at both traps as though seeing a dead, trapped mouse more narrowly is…better?) I want to scrub something because YOUR KITCHEN IS DIRTY AND SO IS YOUR HOUSE AND YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T WASH YOUR HANDS ENOUGH is what plays in my head whenever I imagine a rodent traipsing through my cupboards, across my floors, sifting through my trash deciding what he does/does not want to eat after us. I think I’d rather the ants.

    • Kim

      This. So much this. Little furry freaks pooping on my PLATES. Poop all over my counters. I am not the best housekeeper, so the guilt plays at full volume.
      Last night mt cat chased one all over the house at 4:30am (go, cat,go!) and right now my kitchen smells like candy canes because apparently they don’t like peppermint oil, and the dishwasher is running, and I AM STILL SQUICKED OUT.
      Oy, this country life.

    • jwg

      But does your cat insist on catching mice and bringing them to you in bed, alive? If not, you’re ahead of the game.

      • Valerie

        My fattest cat brings me live and completely unharmed mice, usually just before 5:30am and lets them go in my room. It is exceedingly difficult to catch a panicked mouse at that time of day with no glasses. I apparently have Jedi reflexes. THEN, after taking the scared little stinker outside (way outside), I have to reward the cat!

    • KarenNM

      I totally sympathize on the mouse thing – we had a problem about three years ago but plugged up some holes and they didn’t come back. And then last week, when the weather was nice and we left the back door open late into the evening… we had a RAT. In our BEDROOM. While my husband was out of town. It was AWFUL. Micah the exterminator is my hero-to-end-all-heros. And our back door is ALWAYS shut now.

    • JennyA

      I had to get rid of a perfectly functional crock pot because when I had a couple of mice a few years ago, I had already bleached the daylights out of everything in the house and I opened the cupboard to take out the crock pot and down inside the crock, right in geometrically precise center of the pristine porcelain was: a single, tiny poo. Well, I fully deconned the crock several times over, but about a year later had to admit defeat. I had never used it again and knew I never would because every time I looked at it I saw that one solitary “F you!” poo in it and had a convulsion. So I donated it.

  10. JennyA

    @#7: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa……


    Anyway, yeah. I hate them, but as long as I can remember, we’ve had the occasional Tiny Ant Invasion Force wreak havoc. And there’s nothing you can do but clean, spray, call the bug guy, etc. (or sprinkle magical eco-friendly fairy dust or whatever works for you) and enjoy the freshly organized pantry until the next invasion when it’s too dry out or too wet out or whatever is bothering the picky little assholes.

    • Julie

      Funny! I wanted to reply to #7 but everything I thought about sounded snotty. You nailed it!

  11. diane

    Eeeew. Bless Otto for handling it, and hurrah for the bonus pantry cleaning! The one time I had ants at the old place, they had discovered a nont-quite-closed bag of almonds in the cupboard. Ick. I had to make a quick trip to the hardware store, but in two hours I’d sprayed/killed/vacuumed/wiped up/disinfected/pulled everything out of the cupboard and tossed anything even remotely close to open.

    Otto deserves a prize for this.

  12. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    Yep, the ants have arrived in Georgia for the summer, or something. I’ve been having similar struggles.

    Pro-tip: Dishsoap and water in a spray bottle kills them. You have to be kind of liberal, but it does. Bonus-when you are done, there is already soapy water everywhere to help clean things up! It works on the “palmetto bugs”, too. It was a tip from my grandma, and you know those are the best kind.

  13. carrie on

    I highly recommend Terro liquid ant bait. It has always worked for us, and I’m pretty sure the ants in Texas are bigger and meaner than the Georgia ones, so you should love it, too.

    Also, if you are redoing your pantry, I recommend the better homes food containers from Walmart. They are priced decently, stack well, and have a good variety of sizes. In May I opened my silverware drawer to discover mouse poop, and after spray foaming every kitchen crevice, washing every dish, and saturating every surface in Lysol, I completely redid my pantry with them just in case there were more mice that might want my food. They seal tight enough to keep bugs out, too and are supposedly gnaw resistant just in case you get a persistant pest.

    • Rachel

      Terro liquid on small pieces of cardboard works wonders, but takes overnight or a day or so. I check back on the drops of liquid to watch the ants drink it up & march back to their nest… I may or may not cackle and announce that they are bringing poison back to their home. My kids say I’m evil, but I’m not the one that invited the ants in! Of course, I’m not sure if ND ants are the same as GA ants, but I think Terro would work on your ants too. It’s in an orange & white box.

    • suburbancorrespondent

      Yes, Terro! Also, I keep all sugar (and flour, because of pantry moths) in sealed containers in the refrigerator.

  14. heather

    Ok, so last week I got to gross you out with my miller moth story, now I have another, for your reading pleasure….
    So, Colorado’s dry winter was apparently the impetus for a bumper crop of pavement ants (teensy tiny little workers that party in the MILLIONS) as these things are! Outside, anyways, and I was a-ok with that. We began to see and occasional ant by the threshold in the kitchen that bordered the exit. We put little ant traps down…weeks went by and one morning a couple weeks ago I slept in (SUMMER) and my 12-going-on-18 daughter was up, playing on the computer, completely oblivious to the fact that our dog had pulled raw chicken remains out of the trash (that had not been emptied per my request the night before) and strewn them all over the living RM floor. I awoke and saw it all prior to that first cup of joe and was horrified. The saving grace was that we have laminate wood flooring and not carpet, because ya know, salmonella can be effectively scrubbed from a hard surface. Just as I got the chicken mostly cleaned up (daughter flat out refused, she’s my sensory dysfunctional kiddo who doesn’t quite get natural consequences and I really wanted the clean expedited ASAP, so battles were picked), my 4 y/o with speech issues says, “Uh mama, dere’s sumtin in hewre.”. I say, “Yes I know, I’m getting it cleaned up.” He insisted, “No, dere’s sumtin MOVIN'” and pointed down towards some maggoty looking creatures writhing all over my floor! I thought for sure it was maggots from the chicken, but thought, “It was only in the trash for a night, surely that’s not enough time to get infested?!?!”. And then I noticed the dust piles by the threshold btwn my living room and kitchen that mimicked the hills the ants created outside on our patio. Sure enough, ants everywhere and the ‘maggots?’ Were larvae!!! My skin was crawling. I swept and wiped everything down with vinegar/alcohol and called a fellow scouting parent who happens to be an exterminator by trade, and asked him if these were indeed pavement ants and their babies, and what to do? Answer? Do not spray with ant killer, but get the black ‘hockey puck’ ant traps and wait 1-2 days for the poison to get to the nest and kill them all. It worked.

    But my skin is still crawling, weeks later. Ick!!!

    • Elizabeth

      That is awful.

    • Kira

      OH. MY. GOD.
      That is not okay. You…have my deepest sympathy. (And thank you for tying the massive ant action around here to the dry winter. I just thought certain areas of the back yard had been claimed by hell. Much better.)

  15. Holly

    Here in South Florida, I’ve been waging an eternal battle against ghost ant s. (I’ll wait while you google those) They’re particularly annoying because you can just barely see them, meaning you don’t know there’s a problem until the ants are well-entrenched. The one and only thing I’ve found that works are the Terro brand traps. Not the liquid you put on a card, but actual plastic rectangular containers filled with liquid they have to climb up into to eat. Takes about a day and-boom-no more ants.

    • suburbancorrespondent

      Ghost ants! That must be what we had in Rhode Island one year. I was horrified.

  16. Katie in CA

    I use cinnamon in my pantry cabinets, in the cracks. Keeps the ants out. And smells pretty nice. I second (or third) the Terro liquid ant bait. Our condo bug guy recommends it. Works great. I’m in California, and since we are in the midst of a heat waive, I’m just waiting for the ants to come inside and cool down.

  17. Amanda

    See? The ants did you a favor this time. Also, while waiting for said bug guy, white vinegar and tea tree oil will get rid of the ant trails so the “aggravating little fuckers” don’t come back.

    We have a weekly service here that we just calling housing and tell them we need the guy to stop at our house. We had some carpenter bees, so I asked that he come spray those, and while he was here, could he please hit the ant infested patio? I never had ants until I asked the pest guy (because he also takes care of furry) to spray. They were exacting their revenge on my house.

  18. js

    Hey, did you know that planting mint around your house may deter ants? Oh, but be careful because mint is very invasive ;-)

    I’m with you, if a bug-ANY bug- is in my house, I’m all like, “DIE, you sonofabitch. DIE!” I like Ortho Home Defense for keeping out the creepy-crawlies, though I’m probably going to a special Save-The-Environment-Hell for using it.

    The very last thing I would ever want is for my husband to organize the pantry, though your Otto is very sweet. Seven years, and my husband still doesn’t know the proper place for the canned soup.

  19. Elizabeth

    We did home exchange with a couple from France. They had ants crawling out of the high drain hole in their kitchen sink. Husband duct-taped it shut and no more problems– didn’t really think about it because all we did in their kitchen was make tea. (Who goes to Paris and stays in?)

    Well, we returned to the US and got a very puzzled email. Apparently this happens every year, no big deal or duct tape needed. I suppose I’m not very French.

  20. Beth A

    I’ll take ants over earwigs any day. Earwigs FREAK ME THE HELL OUT.

    • Brigitte

      Earwigs didn’t used to bother me . . . until I idly spun a horizontal fence rail and a flood of them started pouring out the end like water from a hose. Yurgk!

  21. Cheryl

    I’m glad the ants are doomed and Otto is feeling industrious, but how is your pool?

  22. Kristin

    Terro. At HomeDepot. I had to buy some this summer…the ants were a-marching. I hate hate hate trying to establish WHY and WHERE they come from. We’ve done the whole sprinkle ant killer into the anthills but those bastards are wily. The Terro seems to work…they sell them in these plastic pouches but it used to be that you’d get a tube of it and put a little dot on paper by where they are coming in. So if you wanna stretch that dollar, put a plastic trap in the kitchen but go around to other ways they get in and just dab a bit. Like, I’m so classy, I just dumped a glob on the sidewalk next to my flower bed because WHERE WERE THEY COMING FROM.

  23. Diane

    Hi Mir,
    I have never commented on your blog before! However, I soooooo feel your pain regarding ants, I just had to tell you what finally worked for me. We had tried everything! Every ant trap, every spray, everything! I was seriously considering moving. This is what finally worked:
    Make in the proportions below:
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 teaspoon boric acid (you can find on the shelf at Walgreen’s)
    1 tablespoon water
    3 cotton balls

    I was told to put the cotton balls outside, but the first time I did it I tripled the proportions, put 3 cotton balls right in my garbage can, 3 on the kitchen floor, and 3 outside my kitchen window. Within 3 days the ants were gone! I still occasionally see an ant, and when I see more than 5 in a day I make the stuff again. I no longer put the cotton balls inside, just outside. Works great! I’ve only had to do this twice this summer, and we are basically ant-free. And, it’s cheap! One container of Boric Acid will probably last me the rest of my life. Good luck!

    • Vickie

      I do the borax, water, sugar too. Put it out one day, they take it back to their home, they are gone. Only works on the tiny ants. Something about how they scout and then take back home.

  24. karen

    Well, I’m still in New England, and we occasionally deal with those ants. Here’s a question I have for YOU though.. how do you deal with the red clay in the socks, etc?..

    • Debboe

      Just the Terro stuff two summers ago and I swear to you my ants invited the whole neighborhood of ants to our house, they came. I dreamed of them parading thru my entire house, next day called our bug guy, no ants anymore. Thank you Lord.

    • Mir

      New socks.

      Or Oxiclean. That works too, sometimes. And when it doesn’t: new socks.

      • suburbancorrespondent

        Socks are so inexpensive at Target, I just buy new ones, also. Life is too short to do otherwise.

  25. Kana

    Holding you to that pinkie swear, now… ;) Oh man, your Otto is a white knight, whatta guy!

    Is there a rule against calling a scheduling a preemptive spray? I mean, if you’re gonna get ’em every year guaranteed, can’t the bug guys be a little proactive on your behalf? Schedule a hosedown for a week or two before the bomb usually drops, amirite?!

    Also – Hawaii ALWAYS has bugs. All kinds, forever. If you leave even a crumb out, you will have flies and roaches. Leave NO crumbs out, and you’ll merely have ants. It’s something to think about…and probably involuntarily writhe about. :P

    PRO TIP: If the bugs are higher than your head, scream with your mouth shut.

    • Mir

      They come quarterly, and he was just here last month. It’s just been bad this year. (Good news about signing up for quarterly sprays is that any extras you call for are free, as it’s supposed to be comprehensive treatment.)

  26. Chuck

    My last apartment had an ant issue. The bug guy put out bait which seemed to make it worse. I resorted to bug spray that seemed to scare them back into the walls. Also, I make sure to have any sugar, flour, etc. I have on hand kept in a sealed tupperware container. I forgot that rule and discovered a few ants in my pantry recently and threw that box of sugar out.

  27. Karen R

    An IGR with Nylar may become your new BFF. We had a major flea infestation (the cats are indoor only, but have been known to pick up fleas at the vet’s), and this took care of them. Safe for humans and pets once dry, and lasts for six months. Fleas, ants, palmetto bugs — it handles them all.

    Unfortunately, not the adults. When new eggs are hatched, the new bugs are left sterile. So the adults still have to be wiped out, but this will keep them from coming back.

  28. ML

    We had antpocalypse up here in Connecticut today, too!! Maybe all of the wet/dry stuff is nonsense and it actually has to do with the relative length of the day. Or the phase of the moon.

  29. Heathershell

    I live in Alabama and so I feel your pain. When we first moved in our house we were not aware of the fire ant problem that our yard had. We learned that lesson the first summer in the house (HELLO DROUGHT) when they came in our bedroom. Called the bug guy he came out & sprayed, turns out ants are attracted to dead skin cells too (SLEEP WELL!!). His advice was to lime the shit out of our yard (his words too) so now on top of no ants we have no other bugs in our yard PLUS we have really nice thick grass that grows like crazy. The down side (maybe upside since the guy is an idiot) our neighbor hates us because all the bugs went to his yard.

  30. Shanna

    I have found that if you put down cornmeal the ants take it back home and when they eat it they blow up and die. I did this on my patio when my daughter was little and I didn’t want to put down poison and within a week the ants were gone. Safe for kids and pets but deadly to the damn ants. ;) good luck. I also spray vinegar along the windowsills of my kitchen and the counter whenever I see ants. It kills the trail so that new ants don’t just follow along to the party.

  31. Kathie M

    Diatomaceous earth dude!! Sprinkle it around the OUTSIDE of your house. And then also find where the ants are coming into the house and caulk. Caulk is your friend!! Think little tiny holes. I found an ant highway up to my kitchen window from a little hole in the siding. And I’m married to the Bug Guy!!! He did the Diatomaceous earth on the outside. Some kind of bait on the inside that’s considered “green” (since his company is all granola and crunchy these days) and we caulked the heck out of any holes we could find. And no more ants. None. I haven’t seen a single one.

    Oh, and they come inside looking for water when it’s hades hot outside and there’s no water and the poor things are thirsty. And they come inside when it’s soaked outside because their little houses are totally and completely flooded. :D And because they’re aggravating little suckers. Do I get the cash tip? :D

  32. Kim

    I second (third?):

    Borax and sugar in liquid form, for the tiny ants. I mixed a spoonful of each into about a spoonful of warm water until it dissolved and left it out on the counter in a jar lid (after smearing a bit of it around the rim and down onto the countertop to try to encourage them to find it).

    Ants all gone in less than 24 hours. I am amazed.

  33. Katie in MA

    So this one time when I had an ant problem, I called my Bug Guy and he came out and explained that these ants weren’t normal ants. They were Feral Ants. Apparently, when you smoosh these ants, they release a chemical or some sort of radio transmission superpower letting their clan know and the rest of the colony separates into TWO ant colonies so you can’t kill them all. Or, um, something hideous. No, you have to let those suckers live and kill them slowly, with Ant Napalm that they bring back to their home and irradiate their entire ant family. Un. Fun.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest