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Trouble with Ants?

Ever since we’ve lived at our current home (17 years), Bill and I always joked about the house being built on an ant hill.

We seem to always have a constant parade of ants in the kitchen and bathroom. Even in my office, which is a sunroom, I have a somewhat constant parade along the window sills and an occasional ant on the computer.

For 37 years I’ve had ants in the garden. They get to be a nuisance sometimes, but are usually not destructive so I just live with them; mainly because they’re part of the soil life that has a purpose whether we know what it is or not.

Several years ago when I put grow bags along the edge of the garden, I found out in a hurry the ants loved them! Any seedlings planted there couldn’t do much growing with the disruption caused by a colony of ants taking over. If you have framed raised beds you may have had the same problem. Ants love those enclosed areas.

I did a little research and found that Borax would get rid of the ants. (I used 20 Mule Team Borax.)

Is Borax Safe to use?

Borax is sodium tetraborate. That’s a mineral composed of boron and sodium that’s minded from the ground.

In spite of that, it can still be harmful.

I’ve read in various places that it’s not for use in organic gardens and I think that might possibly come from the fact that used improperly it can kill plants AND insects.

You might want to do some research yourself and determine whether or not you want to use it. A good article to start with is http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not. It’s written by someone who spent even more time than I did researching it. She certainly summed up my findings.

Here’s What I Did

Mixed a teaspoon of sugar (to get the attention of the ants) with a teaspoon of Borax (kills the ants) and a teaspoon of water. Then I soaked several cotton balls in that. I laid the soaked cotton balls on top of the soil in the bags and left them a couple of days. I never saw the ants on the cotton balls, but nonetheless they disappeared by the next day. I removed the cotton balls and trashed them. Never had any problem after that until the next season. Then I repeated the process.

I tried the cotton ball approach in my kitchen and it didn’t seem to work. After a bit more looking around the internet, I finally found another way to do it that was even easier.

Another Way

Mixed 1/4 cup of Borax and 1/4 cup of old crystalized honey I had in the cabinet (you can use sugar) with just enough boiling water (about a cup or so) to dissolve the Borax and honey and make it liquid.

Poured a little of the liquid into the plastic caps of jugs (any bottle or jug cap will do) and set two caps in my kitchen on the counters and one cap in the bathroom on the sink and one cap in my office on the window sill.  Ants flocked by the hundreds to the caps and drank. I was really surprised that by the next day I didn’t see any ants.

I think whether or not they flock to the cap right away might depend on the variety of ant. I’ve used it since then and had the ants seem to totally ignore the caps of liquid at least when I was around. But then two days later the ants were gone.

And by the way, in the house you really don’t need the caps.  You can just pour a drop or two anywhere and the ants will take it all away.

I put the liquid that remained (about 3/4 cup) in a glass jar with a screw on top and marked it Borax Ant Killer. It’s lasts indefinitely and I have it on hand when ants appear again. We’re usually ant free for 4 to 8 weeks.

This method is even easier than the cotton ball method. So now I use it in the grows bags as well. I place a cap full (contains about 1/4 or 1/2 tsp. of the liquid) on top of the soil in each grow bag. Works great. When I don’t see any more ants I remove the caps.

Be on the Safe Side

Be sure to mark the container you store it in and keep it out of the reach of kids and pets. In other words, the usual precautions. Always be on the safe side when it comes to kids and pets or even accidental misuse by adults.

Final Thoughts

This spring, quite by accident, I got rid of all the ants around our home.  It’s been 3 months and I haven’t seen one ant.  That’s a first in the 17 years at this house.

I’ll give you the details in the next post.

________

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10 comments to Trouble with Ants?

  • Beppy

    Brilliant! Sounds like a homemade version of Terro Ant killer.. Thanks

  • Sheri C

    I use baby powder for ants. Just store brand. Talc kills the ants & is non toxic to pets/people. Also ants won’t cross a line of talc. I have not used in the garden per se but have used in my house ( usually in spring), in the walkway, and last week near the door of my shed. When used in the house, I’ll leave it down ( a good ‘line of it’ on countertop/windowsill) for a week or so then vacume up.

  • Judeen

    I use the same formula for ants – fire ants where I live. Doesn’t totally eliminate – I don’t keep at it constantly – but definitely rids of many. I have pets and cover the bottle tops with small piece of chicken wire held down with the wire anchors that I bought with my bird netting for berries.

  • Amy

    Fascinating! Thank you.

  • Pat

    Theresa, I use borax inside the house to kill ants, and I agree that it is a very effective method. I also read that the borax solution can be placed inside a plastic lidded container (like a spreadable butter tub). Make holes along the bottom edge of it and cover with the lid, set it in the garden, and worry no more. Rain can’t get in to dilute it, but ants climb in through the holes!

    Some ants in the garden are beneficial, and I haven’t had to worry much about them yet!

    It has finally stopped raining here! I was beginning to despair!

    Cheers!
    pat

  • mike

    I use the Borax & Sugar in a small plastic spice container that has the large holes.
    I lay the container on its side. The mix won’t get wet and the pets can’t get access.

  • Kathy

    I’ve had an ant problem for a few years. Can’t wait to try your method.
    Also, Sherri posted she used talc and said it was nontoxic to humans. Not true. Talc causes ovarian cancer. Throw it out!!! Use corn starch based powder for you and your children.

  • Dev

    Ants in the garden are beneficial, in my book. Anything that provides free aeration should be lavished with praise. They do sometimes collude with aphids, however, which can be a bit of a drawback. They say they can actually guard the aphids and move them around like grazing cattle to clean up the honeydew afterwards. But I’ve never met an aphid the business end of a water hose couldn’t handle. If they get in my containers or raised beds, I just give them a strong dose of compost tea. The microbes kill their eggs and larvae, encouraging them to relocate to less hostile regions.

  • Abigail Stein

    There are two types of preferences in ant bait. Some ants like sugar; other types like protein (peanut butter etc.). If they won’t go for one type of bait try another.

  • Theresa

    Thanks to all of you for the great comments. They add so much to the post!
    Theresa

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