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How to control sugar ants naturally and keep them out of dog and cat food. A review of popular natural options.

Updated on June 18, 2013

Natural Ant Control Review

I spent last summer in a head on battle with sugar ants. I live in a very old house, and the ants seem to come back seasonally. I know they're here year-round, but each spring they would creep into my home, usually slowly. They'd start with the cat food bowl, then they would go after my toothpaste. Sugar ants like protein in the spring (like cat and dog food, meat, etc.) and are attracted to sugar and sweet smells later in the spring and throughout the summer. Aside from obvious food sources, some big attractions include: artificially flavored lip balm, artificially scented bath products, toothpaste, tea, lotion, and anything else that may smell sweet.

If you've ever researched the ant colony, you know that its nest goes below the ground and has many cavities and caverns. If you've ever tried to get rid of ants, you know it can be a chore.

Last summer I tried nearly every home remedy for ants I could find. But this year, I only had to employ one method, so hopefully I can save you some time. During my self-study I did learn some things, so let's get to it. Here is what I tried and learned:

Cornmeal: Corn meal swells in the intestine after consumption. So feeding this to an ant is devastating. It bursts their stomach open after they eat it, resulting in death. Of course, using a food source to get rid of ants will most likely simply attract more ants. It does work temporarily, but it is not a long term solution. How well does it work? Not very.

Boiling water: You can boil a large pan of water and pour it directly onto an anthill. This is a temporary (and fairly cruel) solution. I don't recommend it, though I do understand the urgency you may feel about getting ants out of your living space - keep reading. By the end of this hub you'll have your answer!

Diatomaceous Earth: Diatomaceous earth is a type of earth that comes from old sea beds where tiny little creatures called diatoms have been ground into the sediment. The result is a fine, chalk-like powder. There are several types, but if you have pets or children, go for the Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. It's affordable, and here is what I learned: Ants hate this stuff but it won't fully solve the problem. When it rains, the DE will mix with earth, and while it can still be effective you'll need to continue applying it - or simply use it in areas where it's dry (garage, patio, etc.). It works as a mechanical pesticide, meaning, it does not poison it's victim. Diatoms have a hard exoskeleton, like a shrimp. The fine particles irritate and damage the exoskeleton of insects. As you may have guessed DE is useful on many types of critters - including fleas, water bugs, silverfish, etc. How does it work for ants? Decent, if reapplied and used year-round. You need to use enough so that it produces a powdery area for the critters to walk through. If using it indoor, mix it with water to create a milky white paint-like substance. It should be thin enough to spray through a large spray bottle (garden type, not cosmetic type). You'll need to continually shake the bottle between sprays because the earth settles. But if you can lightly mist this chalky water over the surface area of your carpet - furniture, etc. you can easily get rid of fleas, etc. You'll want to let it dry, then work it into the fibers with a cloth or broom (floor). Let it hang out for a few days then vacuum. Don't over do it - a little goes a long way! This stuff is golden for natural flea control - and yes - you can even put the powder right on your pet (as long as it's FOOD GRADE). DE is also effective for internal critters - so if you have a dog with worms, etc. you can mix Food Grade DE into wet food. And now, back to the ant battle!

Cayenne Pepper: If you don't have pets or children this could be a good option for you. It should be fairly obvious how it works. As an irritant, the ants simply avoid it. Other critters also hate this stuff. Just be aware that it can also irritate any other animal that it comes in contact with, and not all critters are pests! (Of course, the point of my article is to provide alternatives that work with mother nature, not against!)

Cinnamon: Much like cayenne pepper, this can be an issue if you have pets or kids - but this year the light bulb really came on in regards to how to use cinnamon the RIGHT way for pest control. If you haven't guessed, I've saved the best for last. Cinnamon is the winner. Not in powder form, but cinnamon sticks! Here's how I knew I had a winner: I have an outdoor cat, and while I'm typically gone for only a short period of time, I occasionally have to leave food outside for him. This is usually an open invitation for ants, and once they start here, I have them for the summer. This year, the day I left food outside I put four cinnamon sticks around the bowl of food. The ants didn't touch it. so I left one stick outside near my back door. I put one stick next to my cat's food dish, and one stick in the front of my home. Viola! The ants have respected my space this year, and I have respected theirs - with four small cinnamon sticks and no harmful chemicals!

Make sure you get high-quality cinnamon sticks. I buy mine from an Indian Market that sells spices. The price is also very low in comparison with Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc. I pay 3 dollars for about 50 sticks, and they are great for coffee, tea, cooking and ant control! I hope you've found this hub to be useful.


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    • mariacolomy profile image

      Maria Colomy 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

      DE is a great helper but it didn't always solve the ant problem. It's great for everything else though!

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 5 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Very interesting. Have to try this out. Wish controlling fleas was that easy!!!

      We didn't have a winter this year (AT ALL) and bugs are taking over. I had ticks in January! And fleas are really bad this summer.