How to Get Rid of Ants on a Boat

How to Get Rid of Ants on a Boat

A few years ago, I got an ant invasion. It was a dreadful experience since I had never witnessed such solid layers of ants.

My friends and I had planned to use my pontoon boat for a relaxing adventure on the water.

And just a few weeks before the actual tour day, one of my friends decided to come and have a look at the boat and help me plan on the snacks to bring on board.

After hopping into the boat, I realized that we actually had uninvited guests, which made my blood pressure drop suddenly in shock. This was really disappointing.

I couldn’t believe what I saw, but I knew I had to act immediately. I was confused about the infestation since I had cleaned my boat previously after using it.

We did a search and found that the ants had a nest nearby and got into my boat, probably looking for food.

Luckily, my friend was ready to help me get rid of the little critters. I’m not going to lie, it was quite hectic, but we managed to eliminate them.

With the awful infestation, I decided to research more about ants, and how to get rid of them when they invade.

Here, I’ll share everything I’ve learned about ant infestations and how to eliminate them when they infest your boat.

What Causes Ants on Boats?

What Causes Ants on Boats

Most people think that ants can only survive on land as they have access to soil for making their nests. So, it’s easy to assume that they cannot live on a boat.

Unfortunately, it happens so often, even though boats aren’t the most ideal places for ants to take refuge.

Some of the reasons ants infest boats include food residue, moist wood, and dock or storage location.

If one ant finds food in your boat, it goes back to inform other members. So, whether the food source is in your pantry, trash bag, or there are just food crumbs on the floor, the colony will invade and feast.

And if there is a constant food supply on board, they won’t have a reason to leave your boat. They might decide to form a nest underneath the deck and stay in the boat for good.

If the dock or where you store your boat has ants nearby, they are likely to get on board. This happens mostly in dark storage areas where ants have their nests near the boat.

For such cases, the colony can become a big issue as they’ll keep coming back to your vessel when their nest is nearby.

Moist or wet wood usually attracts carpenter ants. If there is any wet wood on board, carpenter ants will come to live in it while still eating it.

Once they land on your boat, ants can cause severe damage, especially if you have a wooden deck. So, it’s important to get rid of them immediately when you notice their presence before the problem advances.

Types of Ants That Infest Boats

Types of Ants That Infest Boats

Knowing the type of ant you want to get rid of will ease the problem. You’ll be able to quickly find the right solution and kill the critters or repel them.

Keep in mind that not all ant traps or liquid patches work for all the ants. So, you want to be specific with the problem to avoid buying the wrong products.

These are the most common ants that invade boats:

Crazy Ants

As their name suggests, crazy ants are wild critters that can infest a boat and get everywhere in your vessel, especially if you interrupt the colony.

These ants can easily make a boat their home since they are not too selective when it comes to finding a place to stay.

Since they thrive in both wet and dry conditions, crazy ants can make a home in any boat area, including underneath the deck.

If you spot a few of them and ignore them, you’ll be surprised at how rapidly they increase in number, making it harder to eliminate them.

Carpenter Ants

Unlike most ants, carpenter ants do not feed on food crumbs and trash. They eat wood instead.

While they are somewhat beneficial in nature as they help chew away rotting wood and clean up debris, carpenter ants can cause serious damage to boats.

If your boat has a wooden deck, these are the last critters you want to see as they can hide away in the deck and eat it.

Dark Rover Ants

These ants love sweet things like nectar and honey, and they often visit places with juice, syrup, or something sweet.

Dark rover ants like to live in humid places with heat and can make their nests underneath any untouched area on your boat.

And while they won’t bike you like other ants, their colonies can be dreadful and tough to get rid of.

Argentine Ants 

These are everyday household ants featuring a small body and a brownish-red color. They are common in the Southern United States and usually invade homes and gardens in large colonies.

Like dark rover ants, Argentine ants love sweet things like nectar, and they rarely bike. They can easily make nests in small, moist, and cramped places around a boat.

European Ants

European ants are quite dangerous, and you should be cautious around them as they bite hard. Their sting can also be severely painful.

These ants are resilient, and it can be pretty hard to repel them. Once they infest your boat, they make a home in the warm areas.

Odorous House Ants 

When crushed, odorous house ants have a pungent smell and can easily contaminate your food.

If you spot them, you need to repel them as soon as possible as they can quickly spread their unpleasant smell all over your boat.

What’s more irritating about these ants is that they can live for several years, unlike most ants, which means that their colonies can strangely expand within no time.

How to Get Rid of Ants on a Boat

How to Get Rid of Ants on a Boat (2)

Whether European or carpenter ants have infested your boat, you can easily get rid of them, and there are more than a few ways to do that.

Here are some of the effective methods you may want to try:

Ant Killer Liquid Patches 

I found ant killer liquid to be the best ant repellant in the market. After using it on my boat, the infestation was over within a week.

The liquid has a thick consistency, and it comes packed in small tubes that let you squash it onto the cardboard patches provided in the package.

What I loved most about the liquid is that it doesn’t have anything harmful to humans, so my pets and kids were safe while I was using the patches. And it kills all kinds of ants.

It contains boric acid, which is deadly to ants and many other pests that are likely to invade your boat.

To get rid of ants with the ant killer liquid patches, all you have to do is lay the patches down in the place where the ants are doing their crawling business.

The sweetness in this liquid will attract the worker ants, and they will definitely come along to eat and take samples to their fellows in the satellite nests.

Now, this is when the magic happens since whatever they take home is a dose to kill their colleagues.

If they don’t take much to the nest, you might see more ants in the first few days as their workers lead them to the newly discovered food source.

But there is no need to panic as a sharp drop of the colony will follow as the borax in the liquid takes full effect. You’ll soon see a colony of dead ants.

Depending on the colony size, you can expect the whole process to take about three to seven days. Sometimes it may go for more than a week, especially when the colony is incredibly large.

The only downside of using ant killer liquid patches is the gel stickiness. I didn’t bring the kids and pets to the boat until the infestation was over.

Luckily, it took us only a week to get rid of these little critters.

Ant Bait

While the ant killer liquid was working pretty well, my friend suggested accelerating the killing with ant bait.

I readily agreed since we both wanted to improve our chances and ensure that nothing came in the way of our anticipated adventure.

So what is ant bait, and how does it work?

Ant bait is a small trap that contains a sweet liquid that attracts and kills bugs once they ingest it.

Ant bait traps enclose boric acid gel into tiny plastic containers. We used the Terro Multi-Surface Liquid Ant Bait.

These ant traps work magic as only ants can get into the little containers. And when they get in, they are sure to eat the sweet liquid and direct more ants to it.

Using ant baits was a great idea as it gave me peace of mind, knowing that the creepy ants won’t return after they are gone.

It was also a clean and fresh way to eliminate the remnants after cleaning the boat.

Most people also love the fact that these baits are highly versatile as you can attach them to any part of your boat.

Clean the Boat Thoroughly

Clean your boat thoroughly to ensure that there are no crumbs or food debris left on the marine decking. Without any food sources, ants will have no choice other than to leave your boat and find a new habitat.

This method works best for smaller colonies when the ants haven’t made their nest already.

So, if you spot a few ants in your boat, just clean the boat deeply, and the ants will be gone with no reason to return.

Be sure to vacuum any cracks as they might have food particles stuck in there. Then spray non-toxic bug spray to make the boat a little hostile for bugs from ants to cockroaches.

To remove the microscopic food traces, add a few drops of vinegar to a damp cloth and use it to wipe the boat’s surface. Most critters hate the vinegar smell.

However, if what’s in your boat is a well-established colony, cleaning may not work. Keep in mind that the ants have workers and scouts, and they might get food from other sources, only to bring it to your boat.

For such cases, the first and second methods or even a combination of the two will get the job done.

Replace and Treat Old Wood in Your Boat

As you might have noticed, the strategies mentioned above work for ants that feed on food debris and sweet things.

What about carpenter ants, which are not really food motivated like other ants? Do you throw some rotten lumber for them to feed on so that they don’t ruin your boat?

Well, the best way to keep carpenter ants at bay is to treat your boat’s wood and replace the rotten parts. Older boats are more susceptible to carpenter ants as they are likely to have soggy wood.

If there are already too many ants on board, you may want to use a bug killer spray before treating the wood. The Raid Ant Killer Spray is an excellent option as it kills the bugs on contact.

You can also use an insecticide or dust powder to kill the ants before treating the wood.

Treating the wood will prevent moisture absorption and block any carpenter ants who want to build a home in the boat.

What Should I Do to Prevent Ant Infestation?

What Should I Do to Prevent Ant Infestation

With the horrifying experience I had with an ant infestation, I would never want this to happen to any boat owner out there.

I’ve also vowed to put several measures into practice to prevent future ant infestations.

After researching and dealing with a crazy ant infestation, I learned that there are a few things boat owners can do to keep the critters at bay.

Why wait until ants invade your boat to repel them while you can simply prevent the infestation or even attempts altogether?

Here is all you have to do:

  • Secure the dock lines with a cloth soaked in engine lubrication oil. Ideally, cut the fabric into thin strips, soak them into the oil and wrap them around the dock lines.
  • Keep your stored food and pet food in sealable bags or tight containers. Leaving any uncovered food on the shelves inside the boat is a great attraction for pests.
  • Inspect any incoming bags and cardboard boxes as they may have bugs or eggs.
  • Avoid keeping sugary treats and uncovered peanut butter in the boat, as most bugs love such foods.
  • Clean the eating and galley working areas often to remove any food scraps.
  • Keep the boat sink clean and dry after using it.
  • Wash the boat’s surface with dish soap, and be sure to get all the nooks and crannies.
  • Clean all the dirty dishes and food surface areas on your boat after every meal.
  • Produce clean trash and ensure no food debris is left in the cooking area or food containers.
  • Empty your trash bags and trash bins regularly to ensure that nothing attracts ants and cockroaches.
  • Dry any damp wood in your boat and replace the rotten ones. If possible, treat every wood in the boat to prevent moisture absorption.


How to Get Rid of Ants Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Ants?

Boric acid is the fastest and safest way to get rid of ants. Most boric acid products for killing ants are readily accessible online and in local stores.
Whichever product you choose, be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them throughout the process.
For mild infestations, you can sprinkle a mixture of vinegar and water to repel the ants.
Keeping your boat clean and eliminating the food source will also discourage the pesky ants, and they will eventually start leaving.

How Do I Keep Ants Away Permanently?

You can keep ants away by maintaining cleanliness and storing your food properly. Emptying your trash bag regularly will also keep the bugs away.
For a faster natural remedy, you can use scents that these pests hate, including lavender oil and peppermint.

Final Thoughts

How to Get Rid of Ants

Like most bugs, ants can become terrible trouble when they attack a boat.

Now we both know that ants won’t just invade your boat from nowhere. So, be sure to use the above tips and keep the little pests off your boat.

If you are faced with the ant problem, you can use the methods explained above and relieve your boat of the invasion.

Once you succeed in getting rid of ants on a boat, don’t throw the bait traps and the liquid patches away. You never know when the stubborn critters might attack again, and you’ll be dealing with the same problem.

If you cannot handle ants, feel free to call a pest control professional to help. Hopefully, your ant problem doesn’t get to this point.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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