Ants make me crazy. I hate them. I hate them most in my house. I hate the thought of them walking around my house or through my cupboards. I put up with them outside, but I prefer them in small quantities.
It used to be that when ants got into my house we’d buy poison traps and put them where we thought the kids and cats could not get at them. Then we learned about chemicals and the bigger picture problems with using chemicals beyond just keeping our children safe from them. We learned about chemicals in landfills and getting into water ways. We do not want to encourage companies to make and sell more chemicals. I realized there must be a natural answer.
And there is. Or I should say, there are. There are many natural answers to dealing with and controlling ants. Many websites talk about different ways of handling ants depending on what kind of ants you have. I’ve found that over the course of the year different types of ants wander in and out of my house and I don’t really want any of them around, so I’ve looked for general, keep them all out, solutions.
General Ant Prevention
Using Mint Plants to Keep the Ants Out
Plant mint around your house. Ants hate mint. Mint grows like a crazy weed, and most people like the smell. I moved some mint sprigs to near my back door and near where I’d seen lots of ants. Mint is a weed and will grow in any teeny-tiny little patch of space, so you don’t really need a yard, just a little bit of dirt. If you do have yard, consider planting it in the borders near the house. Jon just mows ours down when he mows the grass and it makes the yard smell nice. It’s hard to kill, so don’t worry about having a green thumb. And the best part? Fresh mint!
Corn Meal to Reduce Ant Population
If you know where the ants are coming from, or you want to keep a population down outside, sprinkle the area liberally with corn meal. They eat it and it swells in their stomach and they die. I’ve used this to keep ants down in the yard and garden. I don’t think it’s right to wipe them out completely outside, like all living things they serve a purpose. However, I do try to keep the population down where the children play and where we’re trying to grow food.
Clean with Vinegar
Vinegar erases the ant trails. Ants usually send out a scout who leaves a trail and then the hoards follow him in. If you wipe the counters down with vinegar, you can thwart any scout ants who are trying to bring their hoards in.
Clean with Mint Infused Vinegar
I put fresh mint (see above, plant mint around your house) into jars of vinegar and let them steep. Then periodically I fill a spray bottle with the mixture. Vinegar wipes out the trails (and disinfects while you’re at it) and mint dissuades the ants from coming.
Once I found ants in the cupboard. The only thing to do was to take *everything* out, wipe everything down with vinegar, the packaging, the walls and shelves. If you can figure out how they are getting into the cupboard, wipe the paths down with vinegar as well.
Dealing With An Infestation
Sometimes the prevention isn’t enough and groups of ants show up inside. At this point I feel the only thing you can do is poison. I use a mixture of borax and sugar. I mix it up in a small bowl, then put little piles of it around where I see the ants congregating and drip a few drops of water on it. The amounts don’t need to be specific, the borax is the poison and the sugar is to attract the ants. I tend to do about 50-50, but I don’t measure. I find that the water seems to attract the ants to powder. At this point, you can’t kill the ants, because they have to take the mixture back to their ant hill and share it with the family. This should kill off the entire colony in a few days. I find when I put the mix out, with 2-3 days the ants seem to be pretty much gone. Sometimes new scout ants show up again, so I often leave it in the back corners of my counter for most of the summer, refreshing as necessary.
Be sure to put the mix where children and animals cannot get into it. Borax is natural (occurring in nature) and isn’t an artificially created chemical, but it is still poisonous to children and animals. Because Borax is poisonous, I prefer to use it as a last resort. However, I am much more comfortable with using Borax than with manufactured chemicals.
Dealing With Specialty Ants
Note that if you have carpenter ants you must speak with an expert because they can cause significant structural damage to a building. There are exterminators who specialize in “Integrated Pest Management” who make ever effort to deal with pest problems without using chemicals that will otherwise harm the environment. Sometimes, in order or preserve our health and buildings we must use poisons, but by following these suggestions, and when necessary working with someone who practices integrated pest management, we can be as kind to the environment as possible.
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