Natural Ant Control

by heather

antIf you live anywhere outside of Antarctica, then you’ve probably had an ant problem at some point or another.

And while many people’s first option is to reach for a can of RAID to blast them with, there are plenty of organic, natural ways to get rid of ants.

Ants Are Good

Now before I jump into how to get rid of ants, let me first speak up in defense of these little guys. Ants, like all bugs, play an important role in our world.

First, ants help keep down pests. Also, their tunneling helps aerate the soil, which helps our plants grow better.

And you want to know something really cool? According to Wikepedia:

In some parts of the world (mainly Africa and South America), large ants, especially army ants, are used as surgical sutures. The wound is pressed together and ants are applied along it. The ant seizes the edges of the wound in its mandibles and locks in place. The body is then cut off and the head and mandibles remain in place to close the wound.

I love learning amazing stuff like that. And that Wikepedia article on ants is really, really cool.

For instance, did you know that foraging for food is the most “high risk” activity an ant can do? So, the colony only sends out its older, more experienced workers that are due to die soon anyway.

This means that all the ants scurrying through your house and across your picnic blanket are the senior citizens of the ant world.

Organic Ant Control

Now, you may pity the ants that are sent out on the kamikaze mission of foraging. But, this probably doesn’t mean you want these poor old ants in your house.

The good news is that there are plenty of natural ways to get rid of ants.

Remedy #1: Orange Oil Cleaner

According to 1GreenGeneration, the first thing you have to do is find the ant’s trail. Simply killing ants isn’t going to do much, because other ants are going to pick up the trail and find their way into your house in no time.

So, you have to find where the ants are getting in.

Once you find the crack or crevice, spray it liberally with orange oil cleaner (which you can find at most health food stores). Melinda at 1GreenGeneration says we shouldn’t wipe it up right away; just leave the orange oil there for a few minutes, and then wipe it up. Go outside and do the same thing where they’re coming in.

If you don’t have orange oil, you can also use vinegar.  Melinda says the vinegar isn’t as effective, but it’ll do in a pinch. One of her readers also suggested putting a bit of tea tree oil in with the vinegar as well.

Remedy #2: Mint

Are you growing mint this year? Then start drying it! Ants don’t like mint, so sprinkling crushed, dried mint around the places they’re most active will keep them from coming in.

You can also use mint tea bags as well.

Remedy #3: Borax

If you’re already using borax to wash your clothes, then you can also use it to naturally get rid of ants.

Mix a bit of sugar in with a bit of borax, and leave it out so the ants can find it. The ants will take it back to the nest and feed it to the queen.

Supposedly, the borax is supposed to make the queen sterile, so she won’t lay any more eggs. Which means the end of the colony.

Remedy #4: Baby Powder

Apparently, ants don’t like baby powder. The Frugal Life recommends sprinkling the ant scouts with baby powder when they’re in your house. They’ll go back to the nest, and won’t be back.

Remedy #5: Black Pepper and Cinnamon

Ants don’t like black pepper or cinnamon, so sprinkling them where the ants are coming in is a great way to keep them out of your house

Last Word…

Have any of you used these remedies? If so, do they work?

Do any of you have more natural ant control remedies you’d like to share?

If so, send ’em in!  I’d love to add them to the list there for other readers.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Joelle July 16, 2009 at 9:58 am

Do you know how to get rid of gnats??? I have a gnat problem at my office and am not sure how to get rid of them. I’m starring this post in my feed reader so that next time I have an ant problem I will be able to use one of these ideas… thanks!

Molly July 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I’ve also used ground cloves, just like the cinnamon/black pepper idea. It worked for me!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper July 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I think the borax remedy is supposed to work on cockroaches also.

Jennifer July 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of borax. We had a serious ant problem until a few weeks ago–two days after putting out little cardboard squares with a (store-bought) sugar/borax solution, the ants were gone and haven’t come back. Borax is poisonous, so I don’t necessarily want to leave it out in the kitchen, but vinegar was only a short-term solution (they came back in a few hours), and orange oil actually seemed to attract them IMO.

heather July 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm

@Joelle- I have no idea about gnats, but I did find this great post online: http://www.naturemoms.com/blog/2006/07/05/getting-rid-of-gnats-naturally/

Readers seemed to like her recipe, so you might want to give it a shot!

@Molly, thanks for the cloves idea!

And another thanks to @Erin for the cockroach tip. I’m pretty laid back about bugs, but me and cockroaches don’t get along. I’ll definitely keep that tip in mind!

@Jennifer, thanks for letting us know that borax really works against the ants. And that’s funny about the orange oil! It’s good to know it might not be foolproof.

Kristin July 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I had no idea that ants could be used as sutures… that’s kind of gross and cool at the same time! I’ve only recently heard of the borax/sugar mix. I wish I would have known about it two months ago. I pulled out a cardboard box from my shed to donate all the jiffy pots in it and they were swarming through all of them… scared the crap out of me. I ignorantly used an old store-bought trap that I had. Thanks for the info – I don’t like using chemicals especially around our animals.

heidi July 16, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I’ve heard some wintering RV folks swear by chalk lines – they draw or sprinkle a circle of chalk on the concrete around each tire of the RV and call it a day. For hoses and other such cables, it’s a bit more complex. Various “ant baths” seem to work for bird feeders – http://www.bird-house-bath.com/d/Ant-Baffle-Red.html – you’d have to get a 2 L soda bottle, cut off the top, turn it upside down, feed the hose through it and seal it off to ensure that it holds water… not sure how it’d work for other residential applications, but it’s worth a shot.

Now, about that borax, I’ve sent the hubby to assassinate quite a few roaches now that outside temps are 105+ and they’ve migrated inside. Time for a different approach!

Jenn July 16, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Like the orange cleaner, I sprayed a mixture of water and lavender essence soap around the area the ants had invaded – I haven’t seen them back since! I think they don’t like the strong smell.

karen July 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Baby powder works great to create a natural barrier that the ants won’t cross (apparently the fine powder messes with their tentacles so they don’t like to go near.

Several years ago, I lived in a basement of a four-plex and in the first (and only!) spring there, my roommate and I discovered thousands of ants invading our entire apartment. Her Grandma told us about using baby powder so we tried it, drawing barriers across doorways and around our beds, along the kitchen cabinets/stove/fridge , etc. It didn’t kill the ants already present but it sure kept them away from areas we didn’t want them. When my roommate went away for a week, we put everything in her room up high, leaving only her bed and dresser touching the floor, and generously sprinkled her entire room with the powder to keep ants out for the week. I checked her room every day and found no ants in there the entire time.

To prove the baby powder was helping keep the ants away, we wound draw (sprinkle) powder circle around a small group of ants and watch them try to escape. They couldn’t. and if they got powder on themselves, they’d crawl around all drunk-like for a few moments and then stop moving completely – the powder messed with their senses, for sure. 🙂

Bobby July 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Pouring boiling water or grease from bacon on the ant mound works wonders.

heidi July 21, 2009 at 9:53 am

I seem to recall that talc and other calcium type powders get into the exoskeleton joints and because they’re hard and crunchy (the powder as well as the joints), the joints get damaged.

Justin July 28, 2009 at 12:02 am

These are great ideas for ant control. Almost all of them were new to me. Thanks for sharing the info.

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