Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dealing With an Ant Problem

For some reason we have an ant problem in the house this year. We have had ants before, but never this bad. We tried several natural deterrents, in hopes that we could keep them out of the house without resorting to anything that would actually harm them. All of the deterrents that we tried, however, either failed or were only successful short term.

Peppermint oil was the most successful of the deterrents, but we found that it needed to be reapplied daily, preferably twice daily, to be very successful at all. We were applying an undiluted peppermint oil using a qtip. I suspect that using a diluted solution in a spray bottle would have been much faster, but perhaps not quite as effective due to the dilution.

Another deterrent that we tried was chalk. I read that ants will not cross chalk, so we used it to block off their paths. They were clearly not happy about the chalk, and would avoid it whenever possible. When there was no other option, though, they would eventually cross the chalk line and continue their march. It was not an effective solution for us.

I also read that both vinegar and citrus were good deterrents. We keep a jar of vinegar and lemon peels on the counter to use as a cleaner, so thought it would work great. It seemed to have no impact as a deterrent, though. If we sprayed the ants themselves they would scatter and avoid the area for a while, but would soon return as if nothing had changed. We concluded that either vinegar or citrus were useful deterrents in our situation.

As we became more desperate to find a solution we decided that we needed to try something to actually get rid of the ants rather than just try to deter them. I had some previous experience with using Borax as an ant killer, so did some additional research and decided to give it a shot.

I mixed 1 part Borax with 3 parts powdered sugar and scattered it in the areas where the ants were most common. After a few days there was a definite decrease in ant traffic. It has been nearly a week since we started using the Borax mix and it seems that we are getting the ants under control. We aren't to the point that we can stop using it yet, but I think we'll get there fairly soon.

For those of you not familiar with the use of Borax as an ant killer I'll give a brief summary of what I learned. Borax kills ants, but not immediately. They have time to make it back to the nest where they share the food with others. This is important because it impacts the entire nest, and not just the foraging ants. The use of powdered sugar is important because it attracts the ants. They will avoid Borax if not mixed with sugar or some similarly attractive ingredient. I have read that mixing equal parts Borax and powdered sugar isn't effective, presumably because the concentration of Borax is high enough that the ants avoid it completely. I also read suggestions of mixing with water to form a paste, or mixing with peanut butter, etc. The dry powdered sugar is working great for us, though and is easy to work with.

I am not happy to have resorted to killing the ants. I would have much preferred to find a deterrent that would keep them out without doing any harm. Since we were unable to find anything, though, we made the hard decision to use an ant killer.  I am not suggesting that anyone else do the same. However, if you have decided to use an ant killer I do recommend the Borax and powdered sugar mixture. I would certainly recommend it before using any chemical sprays. Even though Borax is natural, please keep it away from pets and children as it can be toxic.

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