- Education and Science»
- Life Sciences
Ways to Get Rid of Ants at Home
Safe Ways to Get Rid of Those Little Ants
Every year, in the warmer months, the ants come marching into our house. We have small (about 1/8th inch) dark, almost black colored ants in Southern California, called Argentine ants. They can become overwhelming in numbers! Since our home is in the foothills on the edge of a canyon, we really have had a problem. I don't mind a few outside, but we have been inundated. Also, it is miserable trying to keep them out of the kitchen and the pet food. We try to avoid using pesticides, and I have tried just about every "organic" or "safe" method of getting rid of them. Here are some of the methods that our family has tried, along with comments.
Eliminate Water and Food Sources
Wash the dishes right away, keep crumbs off of the kitchen counters, keep trash outside, dry the sink and counters after you are done with food preparation and store food in closed plastic containers. Keep the floor swept. Comment: It isn't easy to keep every crumb out of the house when you have a family, but everything you can do helps!
Keep Ants out of Pet Bowls
One option is to let your pets eat, and then pick everything up and wash the bowls. We have been leaving our cat's food out, so I came up with my own method of an ant barrier for the pet bowls, but it isn't foolproof. I place their bowls on a water-filled tray. The cats are messy, dropping food onto the ground or into the "moat" of water. Sometimes the ants make a bridge, and get over to the food, too. But overall it is a good deterrent. I am now trying some ant-free pet bowls (which I didn't know existed until recently!) I'll let you know how these turn out.
Ant Free Pet Bowls
These products all have a place for water to make a "moat" to keep the ants out!
Caulking or Sealant
Seal ant entries around the windows or baseboards, wherever you see them come into the home. This might take some time, but little by little it will help. Comment: I bought some clear caulking to seal the areas where I see ants come in and I hope this will help.
Seal Ant Entry Areas
Pure vinegar can be a deterrent. Spray on counters or the windowsill, outside the windowsills, or wash down the porch or any entry area and let it air dry. Comment: This was a slight deterrent for our ants. But "our" ants have been very stubborn and come out as soon as everything is dry!
More Barriers and Deterrents
Cornstarch - Sprinkle some at points of entry to the house. Ants do not like to cross over it.
Chalk - Draw a line to keep ants from walking over it.
Spices - Ground cinnamon, ground cloves, crushed mint leaves, ground cayenne pepper (don't get it in your eyes!), can all be deterrents. They can stain carpet.
Comment: I found these to work for awhile, and then the ants find a way through again!
Vacuum up the ants when they are overwhelmingly in the pantry or other part of the house. You can put talcum powder in the vacuum cleaner bag to kill the ants when they get in the bag since it dries them out. My husband started resorting to vacuuming the ants up when they got into the kitchen or pantry, with a small vacuum and a hose!
This sounds awful, but the ants are killed instantly rather than dying slowly from a toxic chemical. If you can actually see where the nest is, carefully pour boiling water down their nest. Comment: I tried this on an ant hole that I could actually see, and I think that one colony was killed. The trouble is, Argentine ants have many colonies.
Grants Ant Stakes (Gel)
These were a favorite of mine in our previous house. If we ended up with any ants inside, I would put out these bait stations (for example, on the windowsill or behind the trash can, wherever you find ants), out of the reach of children, and after the ants found the bait, they would swarm over it, eat the bait for 1 to 3 days, and then totally disappear. At first it looks like you are just feeding them (lol) but they are actually taking the bait back to their colony. If the queen ants are fed, they will die and the whole colony will die. Comment: Sometimes it takes awhile for the ants to notice the bait. Old instructions on the Grants Ant Stakes said to add a drop of water, and stir the gel with a toothpick. This helps the ants to notice it. Don't touch the gel, since it contains a pesticide. Throw the toothpick in the trash after use. The bait is kept in the container, so it is better for your home environment rather than spraying pesticides around or in the house.
Terro Liquid Ant Bait Stations
These contain borax, which is toxic in large amounts, but pretty safe since it is contained. Avoid touching the liquid. To use, an opening is cut in the top of the plastic station, so that ants can go into it, eat some of the liquid, and then take some back to the nest. This can kill the whole colony, too. Comment: I saw many ants come to the liquid stations, and a lot of them were trapped in it. After two weeks, I still had ants, though. I ordered some more and used them another two weeks, but still had ants. I am not sure if the liquid got to the queen ants. I would like to try some homemade borax stations next, since the Terro was pretty expensive.
Homemade Ant Baits
Here is a recipe I used to make homemade ant baits. Make sure they are out of the reach of children or that pets can't get into them. Others have said this works well.
Use 4 to 6 containers with lids. I used small pimiento jars or you could use baby food jars, label the jars and lids POISON or use poison stickers. Remove the lids and poke two or 3 holes in them with a large nail - large enough for the ants to crawl into the jar. I placed the lids onto a piece of wood to hammer the holes. Put 3 cotton balls into each jar.
Make the solution:
3 T sugar, granulated
1 T Borax (laundry booster- I used 20 Mule Team Borax)
1/2 cup boiling water
In a glass jar, mix the sugar and borax with a popsicle stick or plastic spoon. Heat 1/2 cup water to boiling (I used the microwave about 2 minutes in a pyrex measuring cup.) Slowly pour the boiling water into the jar and mix until the solids are dissolved.
When cool enough to handle, pour a bit of liquid into each jar over the cotton balls. Screw the lids back on. Any leftovers can be saved in the bigger jar marked poison.
Place the jars behind trash cans, in the flower bed, on the window sill, behind the refrigerator, in the back of the pantry, or wherever you see a lot of ants. Again, don't leave out where small children can get them.
Update: I had to make the holes in the lids a little larger so that the ants would enter. Also, I had to keep adding a little water so that the cotton stayed moist. Then they worked as well as the Terro liquid bait stations.
How to Make Liquid Ant BaitClick thumbnail to view full-size
EcoSmart Ant & Roach Sprays
These contain organic plant oils that kill ants on contact and is a deterrent. It is safe around children & pets; non-toxic, and won't harm the environment.
Canned Spray active ingredients: Peppermint Oil, Rosemary Oil. Comment: I have used this and it kills the ants and keeps them away for quite awhile. It is a mixture of oils, so take care around fabrics or carpet. It also has a strong peppermint smell, so I use it sparingly inside the house, since my husband doesn't like the smell, but I was thrilled to find a non toxic spray. I used it around our outdoor brick BBQ and under the ledge, and it kept the ants off for an outdoor party. No worrying about pesticides around the food!
EcoSmart Organic Home Pest Control 1/2 gal. size with a spray nozzle attached by a coiled plastic tube. Kills bugs fast with natural plant oils. For indoor and outdoor use; kills and repels over 100 home invading pests; environmentally safe.
The active ingredients of 1/2 gallon spray: 2-Phenethyl Propionate (a derivative of peanut oil), Clove Oil, Rosemary Oil, Peppermint Oil, and Thyme Oil. Comment: I was so overwhelmed with ants a few days ago, that I finally got this large size and sprayed around the entire foundation of our house. I also sprayed directly on some anthills, and their track lines. For three days they have been gone! I will use this in addition to some bait stations.
Cornmeal or Grits?
I have read several reports that this just feeds the ants! It used to be an old remedy when mixed with a pesticide. Supposedly it is a myth that the ants will eat it and then it will swell up and they will explode! Comments: I have never tried this. Has anyone had it work?
Have you had any success with any of the methods mentioned? Have you had success with any other “natural” or “safer” way of getting rid of ants?