If you’ve ever had an infestation of ants in your RV, then you know how disconcerting it can be. We can relate. Our new RV came with ants.
In 2019, we bought a new motorhome from a dealer in Florida, and apparently our RV had been on their lot long enough to become the permanent residence for at least two colonies of ants.
The RV Ants Infestation Conundrum
Chemical pesticides are never an option in our home. We believe these harsh chemicals are dangerous to humans and even more so for our canine companions. We were desperate to find a natural and effective way to kill the ants we could see. And, also all the ants in the colony. We believed they were somewhere between the outer and inner walls of the RV.
Natural RV Ant Pesticide Tips
After doing some research, we decided to feed the ants a half-and-half mixture of our own design. The first ingredient was something they would readily eat and take back to the colony to feed their queen and the developing brood, and the second ingredient was identical in texture and composition, but it was there to kill the queen, the brood, and all the forager ants.
The primary ingredient that attracted them was confectioners’ sugar and the ingredient I used to kill them was baking soda. I have also read that Borax, instead of the baking soda, will do the job nicely. I did finally source and procure a box of Borax but by then the problem was nearly resolved with the baking soda, and I felt the soda was safer for the dogs, so I never tested the Borax.
My Baking Soda and Sugar RV Ant Trap Plan
The method I used was to create a flat surface for the bait by folding a piece of tin foil until it was fairly stiff but could still be flattened onto the surface closest to the concentration of the ants. Then I put 1/8 teaspoon of both ingredients on the tin foil and mixed it thoroughly.
I first tried using a small paper plate instead of the foil, but it was like creating an obstacle course for the ants, which unnecessarily obstructed their efforts to take their prize back to the colony. I wanted the forager ants to locate the bait, eat some, grab some, and head back to the colony as quickly as possible and creating a flat surface was better than having them crawl up the underside of the paper plate to locate the bait.
Changing the RV ant bait daily was the solution
This mixture will harden and become less effective in about 24 hours since it absorbs moisture from the air, so the mixture needs to be replaced daily. I found that the ant activity was more intense on the flat tin foil sheets then on the paper plate and the foil could be easily wadded up and thrown away each day when I refreshed the bait.
My philosophy of why this worked is not very scientific. But I believe that the ants couldn’t tell the difference between a particle of sugar and a particle of soda. After sampling some of the bait (presumably the sugar particles) some ants determined that it was suitable to take back to the colony.
The ants that sampled soda particles first may have continued their search until they eventually sampled sugar particles, and then arrived at the conclusion that the bait was indeed food. Once the foragers established a path between the bait and the colony, other ants joined in the process of carrying the bait back to the brood and queen.
Fortunately, most of the ant activity was at night. In the morning I would kill all that were still on the counter and clean the counter with a natural disinfectant spray. I did my best to keep them under control all day, then put out fresh bait in the evening. This process took at least a week, but slowly I noticed that there were fewer ants showing up around the RV, and then one day there were none. Since then, I have not had any ants anywhere in the RV and I am truly thankful for that.
Other Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants in Your RV
There are other things you can do to prevent an infestation of ants. I wish the dealership had been more proactive in preventing the infestation in the first place, but they didn’t. Here are more ways to get rid of ants in your RV.
If you’re in an area where ants are prevalent, you can use Diatomaceous Earth around the outside of your RV to prevent them from establishing a new colony in your RV. This is a natural and completely safe powdery compound that is mined from calcium deposits on the seabed.
Put DE anywhere under and around your RV where ants might gain access. You can put it on your electrical cord, sewer connection hoses, water line, tires, or anywhere ants might establish a path into your RV. Ants can gain access from overhanging foliage, so don’t park your RV where tree branches touch your roof, or they can crawl up and under anything that is connected to the ground.
Diatomaceous Earth is such a fine dry powder that it literally clings to the dampness found at the joints of any exoskeleton insects (ants, fleas, ticks) causing the joints to freeze up, much like a motor freezes up if the oil gets too gummy. Because it only works when it’s dry you may need to repeatedly apply DE to exterior surfaces.
Cedar Oil and Diluted Vinegar also Repel Ants in Your RV
If your environment is too wet to use DE, other options include Wondercide flea and tick spray. That’s just cedar oil. Diluted vinegar is also effective as an ant repellant. Of these three, I think DE is the most effective, but it must be dry to do any good. Of course, it’s better to prevent an infestation rather than deal with it after the fact, but that’s not always possible.
If you have a problem with ants in your pantry, don’t despair, just use the bait, be persistent, and be patient.
Read more about RV pest prevention:
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com
William McHale says
I tried using Terro liquid ant bait in my kitchen. They use borax to poison the ants. When I placed the Terro bait near my window sill, sink, stove, and refrigerator, I was greeted the next morning with hundreds and hundreds of ants in my kitchen. Surprise! Since they successfully attract ants, place the bait outside near the nest to attract them away from your kitchen. I wish I received your article a few weeks ago–I would have been able to use your Diatomaceous Earth suggestion.
Sal Guastella says
I have been using cotton balls and a mixture of boric acid, and sugar (diluted in hot water) for years to get rid of ants, and it has always worked great. I mix up about one teaspoon of boric acid with four teaspoons of sugar (it’s easier to dissolve if you mix it up first) and add it to about a cup of hot water. I stir it until it is all dissolved, then pour some onto the cotton balls that I place in the areas where the ants have been seen. Depending on how bad the infestation is, it sometimes takes a week to ten days to get rid of them all. They drink it, go back to the nest and die, where the other ants eat them, and then they die. More ants hatch from eggs and they show up to drink it it until they have all been killed off.
Kathi Feyti says
Thank you. I have not been successful with ANT Traps, but I am wondering if I can open the ANT Traps and put in your mixture. I am going to try both. But my biggest question: How do you ever travel with 4 AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERDS! My one Lily Aussie is enough.
Thomas Gollan says
The tinfoil sounds good. We used paper plates, but cut them in half so there was no need to crawl up the side. Ours were carpenter ants, and they did serious damage in the walls and roof. We mixed borax with sugar and enough water to form a paste. One day we found the trailer full of large winged ants! When the colony is under attack, they grow wings to fly off and form a new nest. That told us we were winning! After a few more days, no more ants!
Awesome post! There are a TON of ways to get rid of ant in your RV, and I like the different approach that you took with this one. Natural ingredients are always a much better way to go for sure!
I run an outdoor website myself and as another writer, I appreciate the time you took to write this article. Very informative, helpful, and accurate. Well done!
Ps: Have you ever thought about utilizing the chalk treatment?
Pat Mitchell says
Will this work on Fire Ants?
I have great luck getting rid of ants with my shop-vac 🙂
Joseph Spence says
Borax + Honey
50/50 borax and powdered sugar. Use a teaspoon full, they will be gone in about a day.
I’m camping in central Florida and used electronic repellers successfully. Brand name is Pesthunter and they come 6 to the box which was enough for my 35′ Cruiser. Got them on the web for about $20 as I recall.
I have used a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. I sprayed them then used bay leaves.
Advion Ant Gel. Amazon.
One 1” bead on the pathway and the ants track it back to home base. They state it’s pet safe. Used it for several years and it is 100% effective. In two days they are gone.
I use mouth rinse on countertops until the other measures have a chance to work.
Darlin D. Aviles says
I got them from a guest who came over to visit, they stayed in a higher end Hotel ,not a low rent place…Unreal !!!!
Dee Phillips says
Great post!! Thanks Peg. Hope that all is going well in your travels
Steve W says
Some DE is hazardous to humans. The kind used for swimming pool filters can irritate the eyes and lungs. Just be careful when handling not to get it in your eyes or breathe it in.
Wayne Hall says
While in Texas, we were inundated with Argentine ants. We were told put Vaseline on elec cable, sewer hose, water hose. Apply it about 10-12 inches from entrance to RV. It worked great. Also used DI earth under tires and jacks. We were there Somerville, Tx campground 3 months with no problems.
Ok I should have read this article first but when I raised the sleep sofa in the RV and saw hundreds of black ants I freaked out and used a bomb now I have lots of cleaning to do at least I know I’ll have to continue other treatments for awhile with products less harmful