Turns out that spilled sugar and a sticky molasses jar attract ants like…well, like spilled sugar and a sticky puddle of molasses!
The microwave cabinet where I keep my sweeteners (since I don’t use a microwave anymore) was taken over by ants, the little kind that don’t even feel gross when you smash them with a fingertip.
That was my first line of defense: kill any visible intruders on sight. My poor kids had to wait 10 minutes for their breakfast because I was a focused maniac: “Paul, go by the sliding glass door and see if there are any more ants coming in the house. You see one? Kill it! Get him with your hands! It’s okay, we’ll wash hands before breakfast…”
Even the 2-year-old got in on the fiesta and has a kill shot to her name.
Before we could eat, I also sprayed down the entire unit and all along the baseboards of the kitchen, especially in front of the slider (where I know the ants get in the house) with my homemade natural insecticidal spray.
Homemade Natural Method to Kill Ants in the House
I’m not going to put out poison in my kitchen (unless the ants and earwigs take over completely). My mom copied this recipe down out of something she was reading once at my house, and I am sure glad I was able to find it last week when the ants first came marching in. Imagine my glee when not only ants but earwigs, too, my most hated nemesis that hide in every washcloth and towel in our house, died within 60 seconds of being squirted.
Added bonus: this home remedy is so simple to mix up, my husband could do it:
1 tsp. dishwashing soap (not detergent)
1 tsp. cooking oil (we used virgin olive)
1 qt. water
Mix in a spray bottle. Spray on any soft-bodied insect that invades your house or garden: ants, earwigs, aphids, whiteflies, mealy bugs, etc.
Also spray a barricade line where ants might be entering your house. The only drawback is that it doesn’t work once it’s dried, so if you really want prevention, you have to spray often throughout the day or use other strategies below. This is a good first wave of terror on the bug world, though.
See below for more long-term solutions to getting rid of ALL the ants in your house…
Other Natural Home Pest Control Methods
A few years ago I was visiting a friend and we decided to wage war on the ants in her house, naturally. A quick Google search netted us many home remedy options for natural pest control for the ants:
- Make a line ants can’t cross with:
- chili powder
salt(use your yucky white stuff, not the real salt) UPDATE 2012: I have watched tiny ants crawl right over my thick salt line. Don’t bother with this one – but they will NOT go near the cinnamon, so even if your daughter says, “Mom, you’re wasting food!” just do it. Make a cinnamon line so they can’t get on your counter.
- cayenne pepper
- chalk (reader in the comments says this doesn’t work)
- baby powder
- black pepper
- UPDATE 2012: try food grade diatomaceous earth, found on Amazon, sprinkled around the exterior of the house or even inside as a line ants can’t cross.
- Squirt the ants with undiluted vinegar.
- UPDATE 2013: A reader tells me lavender and mint sachets in closets, drawers, pantry, etc. repel ants (add bay leaves to take care of moths and other insects). I think that’s so cool! (and simple!)
With my friend, we attacked those we could see with straight vinegar with mixed results, and we decided to cordon off the pantry with a thick line of cinnamon. When the kids got up in the morning and discovered the strange line of brown powder in the kitchen, they and their active imaginations decided there were ghosts in the house. If you try it, make sure to leave a note for others!
For me, the homemade insecticidal soap is the most effective thing I’ve ever seen to kill ants on contact.
Getting Rid of Ants Long-Term: Natural Ant Poison
If an initial on-contact kill with the spray doesn’t get rid of all your ants, you need to give them something poisonous to take home to their friends.
Make a homemade natural ant poison trap that will kill the ants but not be toxic to your family. (You still don’t want your kids to eat it on purpose, but it’s not like toxic chemicals.)
- Cut an index card in half.
- Mix about a 1:1 ratio of corn syrup (or any sticky sweetener) and borax (one major reason I won’t use a homemade dishwasher detergent made of borax).
- I just use a spoon or my finger and do it right on the card; then I don’t have any ant poison dishes to wash.
- Put the index card where you know they’ll find it, even on carpet (see above).
You can also add a layer of protection with a line of cinnamon, like this:
This line of cinnamon held them back for about 12 hours…and then they somehow made a hallway through it. I kid you not. Crafty little buggers, these sugar ants.
These pictures are from an unfortunate night at work on my computer – I looked down to see about 200 tiny ants under my desk! Gah!
I started with the vinegar spray, but it just wasn’t enough. If you have ants on the carpet, I highly recommend the vacuum technique. Vacuum them up, plus some cinnamon to drive them nuts. Then be SURE to remove the vacuum to a garage or outside on a porch in case of rain, or they’ll come trekking right back out.
After getting rid of most of the ants with the vacuum, I contained the rest with the cinnamon. It vacuums up just fine without leaving a mark after a few days IF you are very careful not to get any of your spraying on it as well. That’s real trouble. Don’t do it.
The combo of the cinnamon line and the homemade natural ant poison gets rid of all the ants in about three days. You have to really exercise your self control and DON’T kill the ants as they’re feasting. You need them to take the poison back to their nest and die properly.
Note: the sweetener will dry out in a day or two, so when the ants stop feasting, replenish with new sweet poison to make sure they are really gone.
If you happen to have a bees’ nest (or more likely, a wasps’ nest), check out our 2013 method for getting rid of a wasp nest.
Fruit Flies, Too?
Aren’t I lucky? Along with our friends the little black ants and the terrifyingly pervasive earwigs, we also have been bombarded with fruit flies in the past 24 hours. I absolutely understand how primitive (and not so primitive) peoples in history assumed the fruits like melons were actually full of fruit flies. It’s incredible how quickly they appeared en masse after I cut a cantaloupe!
If you’re as lucky as me, you might want to read last year’s post on How to Naturally Get Rid of Fruit Flies in your House.
And if you need a snack after all that insect fighting, check out the 30+ recipes in Healthy Snacks to Go.
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Photo from dbgg1979
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Herbal Nurturing and will earn commission if you purchase – so thank you!
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