Keep ants away naturally with this simple ‘how to’ guide. With over 12,000 species of ants in the world, only a small handful of them insist on invading our homes in search of something tasty from either the sweet foods or flesh and greasy foods. Ants commonly found indoors include the Argentine ant, the pharaoh ant, the thief or grease ant, the pavement ant and the odorous house ant. And if you’re really unlucky, you might have the carpenter ant, an ant insistent on destroying the wood that holds up your house, so get professional help fast in that case!
However, it would be unbalanced to see ants as bad on the whole. Most of the things ants do are good for us and the environment, including eating the larvae of fleas, spiders, bed bugs, flies, silverfish and clothes moths. From that point of view, aiming to control them and prevent them from accessing your food is a better approach than seeking to completely eliminate them and natural approaches are best for this purpose. For the ants you need to control, there are some very easy, natural and effective natural methods to either ward off or remove ants from your home areas.
Heed the scouts. The first signs of ants in your kitchen is a warning to you. These are the scout ants checking out your kitchen for signs of suitability to invade and their job will be to return back to the nest to inform the other ants that your kitchen is blooming with potential. Waste no time in getting to work cleaning your kitchen, sealing all food and removing all sources of sticky, sweet, greasy and flesh foods from their access. Don't have any dirty dishes left out. Wash all dishes as they're used or place them into the dishwasher and shut the door tight. Wipe down all of your cupboard and benchtop surfaces with vinegar; this cleans, disinfects and leaves a nasty smell as far as ants are concerned. Remove all sources of garbage and keep the kitchen bin shut tightly. Rinse all recyclable containers before putting them into storage. Sweep and vacuum the kitchen area daily. Rinse off any jar, container or bottle that has a sticky or leftover residue. In particular, check jam/jelly jars, sauce bottles, pickle bottles, cordial bottles and honey and syrup containers. Place your honey jar and any other very ant-attractive foods inside a bowl of water (see How to keep ants out of honey and How to keep ants away from cat food for more details. Seal every food item in containers. The containers need to be of the sort that ants cannot get into. Be relentless about this for 3-7 days. The ants, having nothing to eat, will go elsewhere. This works because the ants are following the chemical trails left by other ants, who did find food. You may also need to seal fragrant items such as cleaning powders, deodorants, and the like in case these attract the ants' initial attention. Just be alert to any congregations around non-food sources.
Seal off all entrance areas. As part of your big kitchen clean, do some of your own scouting work. Can you tell where the ants are entering the house? Follow the first ants to see where they're entering and leaving from. Seal all the entrance holes that you can find using silicone caulk, putty, glue or plaster. Temporary methods can include petroleum jelly or poster tack. If you use a temporary sealant (such as poster tack), only do so until you can purchase a more permanent solution, as it will deteriorate over time and open up the gap again.
Load the soapy water. Soapy water will both kill the ants it hits and it will destroy their chemical trail, preventing more ants from following in their tracks. This cheap and easy method consists simply of putting one teaspoon of liquid dish soap into a spray bottle and filling it with water. When you see ants, spritz them and that will be it! Additions to the water for added potency include mint oil or citrus peels or citrus rind oil. Adding soap to water barriers can make them even more effective than simply using the water.
Put up defensive barriers. There are a number of barrier methods that you can put into place to really terrify the ants and keep them at bay. Many of the products that form these natural barriers are probably already in your kitchen; they just need to be deployed properly. A barrier doesn't need to be wider than a quarter of an inch (6.35mm) but it must be an unbroken line. Be clear that barriers won't work on ants already in the kitchen (indeed, you'll be trapping them inside) but they will prevent any more ants from coming in. Some of the items with which to make barriers include: Powdered charcoal Turmeric Cinnamon Citrus oil Black or cayenne pepper (hotter is best); or try red chili pepper Chalk lines Vaseline (great for doors and windows) Baby powder Powdered cleanser White Vinegar and Water Desiccating dusts such as diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel.
Sprinkle around deterring odors. Ants dislike various scents such as peppermint and camphor. These can be used fresh or in oil form to disturb the ambiance of any area that ants have been making their way to. The great thing about these fragrant deterrents is that your own preferences for scent can be used to improve the household odors in general, all the while making your kitchen, pantry and other areas very ant-unfriendly. Here are some ideas: Crushed mint leaves; and grow mint near the entrance areas. Dried peppermint is also effective. Lavender oil; and grow lavender near the entrance areas. Oil of clove or crush cloves and sprinkle as a barrier. Camphor. Use laurel/bay leaves to keep the ants away from a specific food. Ants are especially attracted to sugar, paprika and flour. Put laurel/bay leaves in your sugar can, flour canister and paprika jar. You will be amazed!
Create your own ant baits. You can buy ant baits but they're chemical preparations that don't fit well with natural attempts to control ants in the home. It's straightforward to make your own ant baits and a particularly successful one is made using boric acid. A natural derivative of the mineral boron, boric acid is used in borax and some saline solutions. Boric acid is a stomach poison – when ants walk in it and then clean their feet or antennae, they ingest it. Bearing in mind that removing too many ants from your local environment can harm the good they're doing in keeping down pests for you, here is how to make a boric acid bait: Buy boric acid at the local drug store (it's about USD$2 a bottle). Pour about a tablespoon of real maple syrup (or anything you know ants love) on a flat plate or saucer. Sprinkle the boric acid around the syrup so that the ants must walk through it to get to the syrup, you may even use a q-tip to ensure a good distribution of the powder around the the syrup. Place wherever the ants are frequenting. Keep out of the reach of children or pets. Be patient as this method can take a week to take effect.
Use food against ants. There are several techniques that can get rid of ants through their inability to digest the food or through expansion and death. It's not very pretty to think about but these methods do work. As with all methods, put the bait food where the ants are appearing: Use corn meal. This method is especially great around pets or children, as corn meal by itself is not poisonous. The ants will carry it home and try to eat it, but they can't digest it properly. Be sure to put corn meal wherever you see that the ants like to frequent. Put out cream of wheat (farina). Don't cook it – use it raw. The ants eat it and it expands in their stomachs, killing them. Put the food somewhere you know there will be ants and just leave it. Ants are extremely susceptible to caffeine. Leave coffee grounds (used works) where the ants are and they will carry it home and eat it. This method takes a few weeks to see.
Deal with carpenter ants in as natural way as possible. An invasion of carpenter ants is serious as they can damage your house structure. Be alert for their invasion – piles of broken wings can be one sign and it is longer than most ants. You may also see their fecal pellets (these appear like sawdust) and they can sometimes be heard rustling in the walls. Some ways to deal with them include: Bait them. They like sugar, so you can turn this against them; use the boric acid method described earlier. Vacuum their nests out of the wall if possible. Have an exterminator drill holes in the wall and blow in diatomaceous earth, silica aerogel or boric acid. A professional exterminator specializing in natural pesticides can also use pyrethrin spray or boric acid baits of their own concoction.
Use a professional exterminator specializing in natural pesticides to deal with fire ants. Fire ants rarely enter the home but if they do, get immediate help as they're aggressive and their stings are painful and can trigger off an allergic reaction in susceptible people. If the ants need to be sprayed, insist on the use of a bait that has an insect growth regulator like abamectin in it. In terms of outside areas, you can do this yourself provided you wear clothing top to toe and boots to protect yourself. Sneak up to the nest on a cooler day (the ants and queen rise to get more warmth) and pour several gallons/liters of boiling water into the nest. If you want to use additives to the water, try vinegar, insecticidal soaps, citrus oil, pyrethrum insecticide, or ammonia. And then repeat every day or so until it seems that the ants have given up and moved. Coat your boots in something sticky to deter the ants from crawling on you as you perform this task.