Non-toxic ant killer

Summer sort of hit here with just a wave hello to Spring last week, and with it, the parade of ants through the kitchen and garden has started. I made these baits last year and they worked pretty well, so I thought Id re-post this here for anyone who might be experiencing the same difficulties as I am persuading the critters to go elsewhere…

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One of the not-so-awesome things about summer in the south is the never-ending parade of ants around the yard (and often the kitchen). I’m always really hesitant to use commercial pesticides, and have found quite a few ways to help keep the ants in check without them. For starters, Instant Grits. Sprinkle them around the mound (but not directly on it!) and the ants will eat the grits, be unable to digest them, and basically explode. Sorry ants, but this is MY house.
Also, any strongly smelling granulated substance, like cinnamon or fine coffee grounds will perform as a barrier and can be used around the corners of cabinets, etc. where pets won’t disturb it. If you can see where they’re coming in, caulk it, or if you can’t, try putting something like vaseline to interrupt their track. Of course try to keep your kitchen clean and counters wiped, a vinegar spray can erase the scent of their trails, making them less likely to return. Also, as pet food is a favorite attraction, try putting your pets food bowls inside a larger, shallow bowl of soapy water. That tip works great for outdoor feed bowls as well.

Despite all of that, last year the ants seemed to be gearing up for world domination. I’d manage to get rid of one pile, only to see another pop up a few feet away. I swear I could hear them snickering when I walked by.
So I did a little research and decided to try making my own ant baits out of ingredients I felt safe using in my yard. It took a little trial and error to get the proportions, and I made the first batch WAY too wet. The last batch was more like toothpaste, and that’s pretty much just right. Here’s how I did it, so you can make your own. It’s best to start early to avoid problems altogether.

First, you’ll need to assemble your supplies. You’ll need Borax, granulated sugar, water, some small containers with a removable lid (baby food jars are ideal for this. if you know a new mom, hit her up for a batch before she recycles them), a hammer and nail, and a spoon for measuring.

antbait1

For starters, fill each jar about 1/3 of the way full with the borax. Then add the granulated sugar to fill it up to just over half. You might need to adjust this mix depending on how much of a sweet tooth your ants have. You want enough sugar to mask the taste of the borax, but not so much that there isn’t enough borax to do the job.

antbaits2

Once you have your dry ingredients mixed together, it’s time to add enough water to make a paste. This photo was taken during my first attempt at these, and I made them too wet. You’re looking for something just slightly runnier than toothpaste.

antbaits3

Once you’re satisfied with the consistency of your mixture, it’s time to use that hammer and nail to make holes in the lids of the jars, then close them up and place them strategically around your yard (or home). If you have larger ants, be sure to make the holes big enough for them to get into.

antbaits4

The idea is that the ants will find the baits and carry the tasty, but poisonous mixture back to the nest and feed it to the Queen. Once the Queen dies, so does the colony. These have actually worked better for me than anything else I’ve tried. As far as I can tell, they don’t go bad, so you can leave them out for a couple of months. Put them near enough to existing ant trails or hills that the ants find them, but not directly in their path. You can also put them inside cupboards if you have trouble inside. Just make sure your pets or kids don’t think they are toys. Borax is fairly safe, but it wasn’t meant to be ingested.

For more tips on how to use Borax i n the home, check out this post on home-made cleaning supplies:

http://lorigami.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/missionpossible-2/

5 thoughts on “Non-toxic ant killer

  1. Perfect timing, I’ve been finding ants in our kitchen already! I try to grow organically and I never wear shoes outside in my yard in the summer. This last weekend after planting the last bits of everything I saw this sawdust stuff everywhere and it turns out my Dad, with the best of intentions, put super toxic bug killer EVERYWHERE. Now my feet itch and I can’t really say my garden is organic anymore because it’s been covered in pesticides. :( I’ll try your stuff in the house!

  2. I tried borax and sugar mixes and the ants kept coming. I tried various combos of sweet stuff and varying levels of borax with no luck.

    Cinnamon works as a barrier in the short term, but quickly loses power as it sits out and the essential oils oxidize.

    After fighting a losing battle all last year, the ants returned this year. I finally broke down and called a real exterminator, who was glad to put down a bunch of pet-safe ant killers in my house.

    I spent a lot of time googling for solutions. The most entertaining was the one where someone suggested talking to the ants and agreeing to live in harmony with them.

    • Ok, I’ll talk to my cat, but I draw the line at ants, bees and spiders. And roaches. lol. You’re right, you have to stay on top of all these solutions. The only pet-safe store-remedy I’ve found is some stuff made out of orange oil, but you have to actually spray the ants with it. It still gives me a headache though, even if it is safe for the pets.

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