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!
My Homemade Water "Moat"
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
Some products have a place for water to make a "moat" to keep the ants out! Others are raised on a pedestal to discourage them. From my experience, sometimes the ants figure out how to climb the slimmer part if it is a raised bowl.
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 with Hose Attachment
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.
Raid Ant Gel Liquid Bait
Raid Ant Gel
This is a favorite of my sister in Washington state. She usually puts the gel bait in a recycled plastic bottle cap and sets it out in a corner near where the ants are (for example, on the windowsill or behind the trash can, wherever you find ants), out of the reach of children. After the ants find the bait, they swarm over it, eat the bait for a day or two, 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. One idea is to put the bait out in the evening and then the ants will often be gone by morning! 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 Bait
EcoSmart is the Brand that I Tried
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?
I would love your comments!
TanoCalvenoa on September 10, 2013:
@SharpLee: Santa Ana Zoo in Orange County, CA has them, give them a call!
SharpLee (author) on August 20, 2013:
@TanoCalvenoa: Ha, wish I had one!
TanoCalvenoa on August 14, 2013:
@TanoCalvenoa: Although when there's 100 trillion ants in the yard and trying to come in the house, maybe it would be best to call the zoo and inquire about renting their anteater.
TanoCalvenoa on April 09, 2013:
I was skeptical about your idea that chalk will deter them and figured they'd walk right over it, although this really works!
SharpLee (author) on March 08, 2013:
@Carashops: Oh, I'm glad the ants here don't fly!
Cara on March 02, 2013:
When we were traveling we encountered flying ants in more than one home. They freaked me out for some reason. Maybe because I hated the thought of them on the floors when the baby was starting to crawl/walk.
SharpLee (author) on December 27, 2012:
@TanoCalvenoa: Ha, yes, it does!
TanoCalvenoa on December 26, 2012:
Stepping on them also works.
SharpLee (author) on September 07, 2012:
@JJNW: Spraying the EcoSmart non-toxic pesticide around the foundation kept the ants away for 2 weeks. The homemade ant bait works as long as it is kept moist, and I had to make the hole bigger so the ants could get in easier. Less ants, but they are still around!
JJNW from USA on September 03, 2012:
@JJNW: Are you seeing less ants these days? What worked best? : )
JJNW from USA on August 22, 2012:
A big giant line of salt seemed to make mine go elsewhere...hopefully for a long time! You have great ideas. ***Blessed by a SquidAngel***
pawpaw911 on August 09, 2012:
Useful information. Thanks.
eridqua on July 19, 2012:
Wow, what a great lens! These ideas for getting rid of ants are so helpful! I like the boiling water idea the best. Quick, easy, and no chemicals or mess. Thanks for the tips!
SharpLee (author) on July 19, 2012:
@howdoyouspellst: Oh, good! Thanks for the tip on salt!
howdoyouspellst on July 18, 2012:
A line of salt on the windowsill where they were coming in worked for us! Apparently our ants weren't too persistent! Thank goodness.
Great lens!! Thanks for the awesome tips!!