Whether one lives in the air-conditioned halls of Mudd-Blaisdell, the twisting maze of Oldenborg or one of the picturesque North Campus Clarks, one factor unites the Pomona student residence hall experience: the looming threat of an ant attack.
Ant infestations are notoriously pervasive, and on Pomona’s campus, residence hall ants are practically a listed amenity. While one tiny insect may seem insignificant, the bugs can accumulate quickly, and their size makes them difficult to eliminate.
Andres Torres PO ’24 started seeing ants in his suite in a Mudd-Blaisdell Hall tower on day one.
“You could see the ants getting into the closet. If you left open your toiletry bag they would probably crawl on top of your stuff,” Torres said. In his suite, the problem progressed to the point where he could even feel them crawling on him as he slept.
Across the road at the Oldenborg Center, Alice Qin PO ’24 noticed a trail of ants marching their way into their dorm room around the second week of classes.
“It didn’t look like it was more than, say, 50 [ants], but it was still a lot,” Qin said. “Immediately, I was like, ‘OK, I have to find a way to get rid of them.’”
Ant infestations seem overwhelming, but they are, in fact, treatable — even by college students with little knowledge of insect extermination. Qin took action right away, taking out the trash and grabbing ant spray from the Oldenborg trash room.
“I sprayed them across the trails that they came in from, and then used Lysol wipes to wipe up the area afterwards,” Qin said. Ants communicate and form trails by using chemical signals, and destroying these trails is key to getting rid of the insects altogether. After this, Qin purchased ant traps and placed them around the room to ward off future invaders.
“I put one near the door because sometimes other people’s ants crawl across the floor then enter your room … I had to spray around my window, also, to avoid any points of entry,” Qin said.
Torres followed a similar method, placing ant traps purchased from Amazon in the hallway and by the trash. Eventually, he and his suitemates noticed a decrease in the population of their uninvited guests.
“I’m definitely not feeling ants crawling on top of me anymore,” Torres said.
Willa Frank PO ’25, for her part, swears by Terro liquid ant bait. Aware that ants might be a problem in her room on the first floor of Mudd-Blaisdell, Frank purchased it before moving into campus, setting up the traps as soon as she saw ants on the second day of orientation. Using Terro takes faith, as the traps first use sugar to attract their victims and slowly poison the ants with Borax, allowing them to guide others towards the traps for more complete extermination.
At first, Frank said, the effect is a little jarring.
“[The ants] were swarming to the Terro ant bait, which was really horrifying. But I trusted in the process,” Frank said. True to her word, the ants have stopped invading her dorm.
Frank’s faith in Terro only increased after she used other methods to attempt to exterminate the ants in her hall’s shower.
“I saw [the ants] swarming in the bathroom, and I got Raid-happy and sprayed,” Frank said, referring to the insecticide. “One week later [the ants] were back. So, Raid is toxic; it’s bad for you; it’s bad for the planet; it’s bad for everything … and it doesn’t work.”
While Qin, Torres and Frank have all become experts in the nuances of ant traps and bait, Sierra Tai-Brownlee PO ’24 took a completely different route when it came to her room in the Mudd-Blaisdell basement. After seeing the first ants, she sent an email right to the Pomona Office of Housing and Residence Life.
“They emailed back pretty quickly, saying they would send someone over to exterminate the ants … they [came] and spray[ed] my room. After that there haven’t been ants,” Tai-Brownlee said.
Now seasoned veterans of ad hoc ant combat, the four students have advice for those in their positions.
“Don’t eat food in your room,” Torres said. Tai-Brownlee and Qin agreed.
“Keep anything with scent sealed,” Qin said. “So, if you have like an unfinished apple or whatever, be really careful as to either finish it quickly or throw it out. And when you’re throwing it out, don’t throw it in the trash inside your room.”
While Frank acknowledged the need for cleanliness, she also urged her peers to be gentle with themselves.
“Likely, the source is not you,” Frank said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, having ants is a you problem,’ and ‘All you have to do is be clean,’ but I actually completely disagree with that. There were ants in my room when I got here.”
Dorm life with the possibility of ant invasion isn’t entirely comfortable, and making sure that the ants don’t return requires vigilance and attention to detail.
“It is kind of inconvenient to not be able to eat in your bed,” Qin said.
However, living through a pest problem at Pomona means you’re never alone — there is an abundance of advice and support from peers who have struggled with the same thing. And, as Qin suggested, it could always be worse.
“When you see ants, just respond quickly,” Qin said. “No need to panic — they’re not cockroaches.”
Willa Frank PO ’25 is an opinions writer for TSL.