Thursday, April 8, 2010

Flippin' Ants

Cross posted on

Happy Spring, all.
It's time for birds and bees and flowers and trees, and sadly, a lot of pests too. Nothing says spring quite like looking down the loooong aisle of pesticides at the hardware store, sigh.

But, if you stick with me, I will do my best to get you through the spring insect onslaught without having to resort to toxic and expensive pesticide products! Drop me a line in the comments, or on our website, to request a toxic free tip about your favorite pest.

Which brings me to today's main dish: ANTS.
Flippin' ants. They come in all different sizes, shapes, and levels of annoyingness.

For ants that wander indoors, I've heard lots of natural remedies involving cinnamon or cayenne pepper, but can't vouch for those myself. I have a feeling, though, that no remedy natural or otherwise is going to get rid of ants unless you remove their food source. Like any other pest, ants wander inside to eat something you've got there - often something sweet and delicious in your trash or your cabinet. So, cleaning up and putting foods into ant-proof containers is key. By ant-proof, I mean airtight plastic and glass containers - plastic bags or boxes won't hold against a determined ant!

So, Billie's indoor ant management program goes something like this:

Step one: kill ants.....with soapy water. Let's say there's a train of ants moving through your kitchen. The quickest and most satisfying way to quell the insurgency is to squirt them with soapy water, then wipe them up with a sponge or rag and send them down the drain. They will drown, and what's more, you will clean up the pheromone trails they leave for each other. The "scout" ants leave a trail for the rest of the gang to follow and find your sweet treats, so wiping that up slows them down. *Note: don't wipe up the whole trail before you figure out where it starts, i.e., where they're coming in from, because that is useful information!

Step two: block the way the ants came in. If there's an obvious crack or hole they're using to come in, block it off. A permanent fix is ideal - like caulk or a screen - but anything will do for a temporary solution....even duct tape.

Step three, get rid of all your crumbs and sticky bits. Everyone's kitchen has some. Find them and clean them up! With soap! Then, it's time for the ant-proof containers, as per above. Another quick fix if you don't have enough ant-proof jars/bins/etc: your fridge is a giant ant-proof container, so you can temporarily keep boxes and bags of ant-prone foods like cereal, sugar, or dried fruit in the fridge.

Step four, if all that wasn't enough to foil your ant friends, it's time for some borax ant bait you can mix up yourself. Borax isn't non-toxic, but it's a heck of a lot closer than the bug sprays you can buy at the store, it doesn't off-gas, and it's wicked cheap. You should still handle it with care, and be sure that your borax ant baits are labeled, and kept well out of the way of kids and pets. To make the bait, dissolve 1 cup of sugar and 4 teaspoons of borax in 3 cups of water. Divide the mixture between several small containers that you don't mind ruining - old jelly or baby food jars, little plastic containers, or whatever. Loosely pack the containers halfway with cotton balls or other cotton stuffing. Put the lids on, then poke a few holes in the top of each for the ants to get in. Then, put the bait containers near places where ants are getting in, or near where they've been visiting a lot. It may sound weird, but these baits really work!

For more advice on getting rid of ants, check out these articles from Toxic Free NC: Getting Rid of Ants Without Toxic Chemicals, and The ABCs of Coping with Fire Ants.

1 comment:

Fawn said...

Be sure to put your ant baits safely out of reach of children and pets. Thanks for the ant tips, Billie!