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You know how it goes: First, you see one ant. One ant would not be a problem. Doesn’t eat much. Except for the fact that this little guy is a scout. The scout’s job is to explore and find new food. When they find something tasty, they alert the team, who then follow their scent trail in large numbers. The next thing you know, it’s a full-scale invasion.
Ants are one of the most successful lifeforms on planet Earth. They have colonized almost every part of the world, except Antarctica and a few small islands.
Most of what they do, we do not see. But there are way more of them than we generally realize: Ants make up an astonishing 15 to 25% of the biomass of land animals!! That’s crazy. If you weighed all the ants, and weighed all the humans…. ants would weigh heavier. Much heavier. A great part of their success is attributed to the high level of organization of the ant colony. They work tirelessly and are tremendous team players. We could learn a few things from them.
Just eating a few snacks would be one thing. But ants don’t wipe their paws. Some species of ants, such as the Pharaoh Ant, are blamed for spreading dangerous bacteria, including Staphylococcus.
One of the most popular methods of getting rid of ants involves using poisons – however in addition to the cruelty of this kind of chemical warfare, it can involve spreading highly toxic substances in your home. One of the common ingredients in ant poison is arsenic. If you use such products, you will be introducing small amounts of arsenic into your home and garden.
If you’re committed to the natural way, you will of course want some alternatives. Here’s what we’ve managed to uncover:
16 Natural ways to get rid of ants
1. Empty out the trash frequently.
2. Keep your place clean – especially pay attention to food debris (in particular anything sweet).
3. Don’t leave unwrapped food, partially consumed food, leftovers and bagged food (they can get in!) laying around. Keep food supplies in jars – my favorites are the “Fido” food jars with the seal and the metal clip on the lid. No plastic – and an investment in these will end up saving you money in the long run because of all the food that didn’t spoil.
4. Wipe down countertops regularly, using a natural cleaner such as a white vinegar solution. Clear up spills of anything sweet – honey, syrup, sugars etc thoroughly – and be sure to clean out food cupboards – a favorite place for ants to raid.
5. Fix broken screens, seal cracks and other places where the ants get in. Note this may not be totally effective – many doors simply don’t seal properly and will allow places for them to squeeze through.
6. If you see ants, see if you can figure out what they are eating. While you’re at it – follow the trail in both directions and find out where they are getting in. Removing the food source will force them to look somewhere else. They’re pretty good at finding stuff – but if you truly have nothing for them, they are more likely to move on.
7. Barricades. Numerous substances can be used to make lines that ants don’t like to cross. Here is a list of some that have been suggested: turmeric, cinnamon, chili / cayenne pepper (the hotter the better!), crushed cloves, cucumber slices (has anyone tried this one??), chalk, Vaseline, diatomaceous earth (use food-grade DE, not swimming pool), thin strips of sticky flypaper.
8. Essential oils. Essential oils such as lavender, camphor, peppermint, clove, bay laurel. Add to spray bottle of water, perhaps with a few drops of liquid soap as an emulsifying agent, shake and spray around areas where ants are known to get in. Cinnamon essential oil is another one that gets good feedback in this application. It’s also said that the ants will not cross a line drawn with a Q-tip dipped in pure cinnamon essential oil – so you can use this wherever an effective barrier is needed.
9. Plants. Try growing lavender, mint, Pennyroyal and citronella (either in the ground or in pots) in places where you want to deter the ants.
10. Lemon juice. Spray pure lemon juice around the areas they get in – the smell is said to scramble their tracking system.
C: Substances that are highly toxic to ants but low toxicity in the human environment
If the “good karma” methods aren’t cutting it, you’re just going to have to up the ante. (Pun intentional)
11. Boric acid. Add 2 tablespoons of boric acid (borax) and half a cup of sugar to a cup of warm water. Soak cotton balls in it or put it in small lids and place in areas frequented by ants. This one works pretty well. Or, mix boric acid with syrup and leave out for the ants.
12. Soapy water spray. Add some liquid soap to water and spray!
13. Raw cream of wheat powder. They will eat it but apparently it expands in their stomachs and finishes them off. How lovely.
14. Coffee grounds. According to some, they will take it home and eat it and the caffeine kills them. According to others, if the grounds are dumped on anthills, the rich, delicious aroma overpowers their scent trails and therefore breaks their communication system, forcing them to abandon ship.
15. Baking soda mixed with powdered sugar.
16. Cornmeal. Said to be a good one – and very safe for use around kids and pets.
Note – These solutions are for the “ordinary” little ants that get in cupboards and eat your snacks. If you have carpenter ants, termites or fire ants, you have a much more serious problem and may need a professional solution asap.
Can you think of any more? Let us know in the comments or on our facebook page!
Info Sources / further reading:
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