Controlling Ants Without Chemicals

Let’s face it… Ants are pests, indoors and out. They can ruin a picnic, damage wood support beams and protect the pesky aphid in your garden. Fortunately, they’re easy to control, once you learn their habits, hiding places and favorite foods.

Before you start trying to eliminate ants, identify the type you’re dealing with. Ants are attracted to different foods (sugar, proteins, wood, etc.). Carpenter ants, the most destructive variety, live in wood and can destroy support beams much like termites. Most common, though, is the small, brown Argentine ant which nests outdoors and is drawn to sweets. The light yellow or reddish pharaoh ant nests inside of buildings and isn’t picky in its choice of foods. Other ant species include the reddish thief ant, attracted to meats and grease, and the brown or black pavement ant, which can nest in foundations.

Step 1: Prevent them from entering your home.

The easiest remedy for household infestations is prevention: deprive ants of entry to your home and access to any food or water in it. Seal food and sugar in airtight containers, wipe crumbs and sticky residues off counters, wash dishes immediately, keep your garbage and recycling bins tightly sealed and fix any leaking taps.

When you first notice a trail of ants in your house, follow it to its entry point and caulk all holes and cracks around it. In areas that can’t be sealed, leave a small, low wattage night light on for a few nights in the area of most ant activity. The change in light can disrupt and discourage their foraging patterns.

If the ant colonies are in your home, vacuum them up! Add some cornstarch to the vacuum bag to suffocate them, and make sure you are using a HEPA filter. Dispose of the bag immediately to prevent living ants from finding their way out.

Step 2: Make your own ant bait. Lots of ingredients already in your kitchen can act as natural ant deterrents. Set any of the following at an ant’s entry point in a small line that ants won’t cross: citrus oil (can be soaked into a piece of string), lemon juice, coffee grounds, cucumber peels, mint tea bags or dried mint leaves, cloves, cinnamon or cayenne pepper.

To kill and drive away ants that you see, mix a teaspoon of dish soap with water in a spray bottle; this will also clean up the scent trails they leave for others to follow. Citrus oil and water or plain white vinegar is equally effective.

DIY Ant Bait Recipes

• Mix a half teaspoon each of honey, borax and aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet, etc.), in small bottles. Place bottles on their sides, with lids off. Ants will carry the bait back to their colonies. Important: use indoors only; must be kept away from pets and children.

• For an easy ant hotel, mix one cup of borax with one cup of sugar. Place a loose wad of toilet paper in four different screw-top jars. Divide the sugar and borax mixture among the four jars, over the toilet paper. Fill each jar with water to one inch of the top. Screw the lids on the jars, and with a hammer and nail, make four to eight holes in the lid. Place the jars in areas where you have ants, but keep away from pets and children and label the jars “poison.”

Step 3: Use less-toxic pesticides. Boric acid is widely available and isn’t harmful unless eaten or directly inhaled. You can sprinkle it in bottle caps or lids then place those near ant sightings for an easy ant killer.  Ants will carry the poison back to their nests and contaminate their friends. It can take a few weeks to see results, though. When looking for a product, make sure it contains only boric acid or natural ingredients, such as Pic Boric Acid.

Another effective insecticide is diatomaceous earth (DE), a dust that robs insects of moisture and breaks apart their skin. Unless directly inhaled, it doesn’t pose a threat to humans, but do keep away from children and pets. Again, look for products that contain natural DE with no other chemical ingredients.

Drax Ant Bait is borax gel that comes in two flavors: sugar bait for ants attracted to sweet things (like honey) and a protein bait for ants attracted to grease and non-sugary.

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