Though they are small, ants can be one of the most difficult pests because of the sheer numbers in which they arrive. One day, you find a few lone scout ants skittering across the floor. The next, you have a full-scale invasion on your hands, and you can scarcely move without stepping on at least four ants. Spill a small amount of sugar on the floor, and within an hour it seems like you are up to your chin in swarming, hungry ants. It seems like a harsh price to pay for such a small mistake, but it happens again and again. Ants invade whether you deserve them or not.
This can be especially problematic if they show up in an area like the kitchen, where you do not want to spray toxic chemicals and risk contaminating food. If this is you, or if you simply do not want to use pesticides in or around your home, here is a list of five ways to kill ants naturally.
1) Dish detergent mixed with water.
This combination seems relatively harmless, but if ants are your opponent, it makes an excellent weapon. First, fill a container (ideally a spray bottle) with two parts water and one part dish soap. Seal the bottle and shake until the contents have mixed thoroughly. If you see an ant trail, spray the soap and water mixture on top of them, soaking them. The ants will stop where they are and die of suffocation. Once all the ants are dead, wipe the area clean with a wet cloth. Using this mixture should kill the ants already in your home and also prevent more from following them. Hold onto the bottle once you have cleaned up the dead ants in case another wave finds their way into the home. This is an excellent method for killing the ants who have entered your home, but it will not kill the whole nest, so there is always a chance of more ants getting into your home. This combination works for many other insects, too.
2) Vinegar mixed with water.
Mixing vinegar with water is a great way to make another excellent natural insecticide that will not leave toxic residue on your counter or around your child. Using your spray bottle, mix together a solution made up of half water and half vinegar. Use this the same way you would use the dish soap and water solution, spraying it directly onto trails of ants to kill them. Ants absolutely hate vinegar, so it also makes a much better deterrent than dish soap and water. To help prevent more ants from entering your home, spray this solution around doors, windows, or anywhere else you see ants trying to get inside the home. Some have found that vinegar makes a wonderful household cleaner, and that ants will stay away from any surface that has been cleaned using vinegar. This is great because a vinegar solution is effective without being obtrusive– once vinegar dries, we can no longer smell it.
3) Try deterrents: build walls across entry points to deter ants from entering the home.
If you are more interested in preventing invasion than killing the ants who have already entered your home, you might find that the most effective route is building a barrier. There are several possible alternatives to vinegar (if you are one of the people who hates the smell) that are also perfectly natural. Just pour a trail of chili, black pepper, or even cinnamon across all doors, windows, or other entry points. This is why it is important to pay attention to the areas of your home in which ants are most commonly found– there is a space that they can access your home. Building the little ‘ant wall’ should close off that space, preventing ants from entering your home in the first place. You can also use coffee grounds or grind up citrus peels to make an excellent ant deterrent and use these in the same way. The most important thing about this method is to make sure that there are no spaces where the ants can enter around the line you have sprinkled. Every few days, lay fresh lines of your chosen deterrent to make sure that the wall has not been broken. Walls are only useful if there are no holes!
4) Set out traps to lure in and kill large numbers of ants.
If killing ants on sight becomes tedious, lay out traps that will do the work for you. For the trap to work, you need two ingredients: something that will draw ants, and something that will kill them. One of the easiest and most effective ant traps is a solution made of sugar and boric acid. Mix sugar, water, and boric acid to make a thick, sticky syrup. It is important to make sure the solution you use in your trap is not watery, so if it seems too thin, add more boric acid to thicken it up a bit. You can spread this pasty solution on thick pieces of cardboard, paper, or small dishes (if you don’t mind dead ants on your plates!) and lay them out in areas where you commonly see ants. Though this solution needs to be kept away from children, it is extremely effective. Ants will often take the sugar and boric acid solution back to their colony and kill the whole nest.
5) Destroy the entire nest.
If you have a recurring problem with ants, the only solution may be to kill the entire nest yourself. When you find a trail of ants, instead of killing them on sight, follow the trail backwards until they lead you to their nest. Nest location varies based on ant species, which means that it may be sitting out where you can see it, or it may be hidden under rocks or plants. Even if you can’t see the nest, you should be able to find the entrance to the nest. Once you find the nest, boil a pot of water or make a bowl full of dish soap and water solution. Pour this directly onto the nest to kill ants and destroy the structure they have built. If you see a few more ants in the next few days, repeat this process to kill the remaining ants.