Thursday, May 29, 2008

Help! Ants! - and a bit of this and that

Ever since my husband and I moved into the little house where we currently live, we've been having a problem with ants. They are simply everwhere - in our kitchen sink; in our bathroom; even in our dirty laundry (edit: I just found one in my keyboard)!

We've tried various chemical solutions to keep them away, but nothing has been particularly helpful. So I thought maybe one of you had to deal with ants once, and can suggest some natural remedy.

Any ideas?


Thank you so much for the sweet and kind comments you have left for me in the past few days. And thanks to all the dear ones who sent me emails - I've received a number of emails asking me questions, and I'm trying to keep up - I apologize if it takes some time until I can get to them all.

To those who expressed their wish to read more detailed recipes I use, and pictures of my kitchen in action - I would like to clarify that (to my deepest regret) cooking had to be kept to a minimum lately around here. With us being away from home for days at a time during the last month, and me not being exactly at the top of my well-being and energy level, we have been eating very simple meals (such as for example bread, eggs and salad of fresh vegetables). Cooking for Shabbat has been very simple as well - so I simply don't have much to show for now.

I do hope to cook more, and try new recipes, and in general be able to do more around here soon - and share with you. Thankfully I'm blessed to be the wife of a wonderful, understanding man, who doesn't raise an eyebrow when he sees some things aren't done on schedule (it's almost 6 P.M. around here, and I still have dishes from yesterday waiting in the sink) - simply because he knows it's not laziness or unwillingness to take care of our home - and who only cares about how I'm feeling and whether I get proper rest.

Tomorrow, I hope to start puttering around early, to have everything ready for Shabbat on time. I wish you all the most wonderful weekend, and hope you are all enjoying the beginning of summer (or winter - whichever part of the earth you are in).

Your friend,

Mrs. T

PS: On Friday, while cooking for Shabbat, I accidentally spilled some powdered turmeric in my kitchen sink. Haven't seen a single ant around that area since. Food for thought!


Anonymous said...

We have ants in the dishwasher (yuck!), but running it on empty with 1/2 a gallon of vinegar seems to get rid of them... so far, at least. Good luck!

Naomi O'Donovan said...

Lavendar Oil keeps alway spiders, ants and other biting insects very effectively.

Jennifer said...

We just experienced something similar and I have 2 possible solutions for you.

First, you could spread a thick line of talcum powder to prevent a barrier that the ants can't pass through. This could go along your baseboards or around your entryways.

Second, you can also spray the baseboards and entries with plain white vinegar. It might make the house smell unpleasant for a while, but it works wonderfully.

I have a 9 month old crawler and can't do the powder any more, so just the vinegar for us now. I haven't seen an ant since I sprayed it on Monday!

Good luck!

lady jane said...

I've heard that cornmeal is effective in ridding ants but I haven't tried it. We use the little 'ant stakes' with great success. The stakes are put in strategic places where the ants make their entrance. The trick is allowing them to all come in and sup from the nectar-pot then bring it home to the queen. That's oh so difficult because I want them gone *now*. My husband has taught me patience in this process though. :o)

Your dear husband is wise and loving in ensuring you have proper rest. Dishes can wait.

Bless you.

Ways of Zion said...

black pepper works too!

Kelly said...

Hi Anna - I've read that dry corn grits (they may go by another name in your part of the world) can take care of ant problems. Apparently the ants eat the granules, cannot digest them and subsequently die. You may want to google it for more information. I do know that it has been touted as a frugal and healthy way to get rid of ants. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Has several great natural solutions for getting rid of ants. Good luck getting rid of them.

Kathryn said...

I've had ant issues before and had different solutions work. The first time, all of the ants were coming in one small hole around the baseboard.
Closing up the hole proved fairly effective.

The second time, ants were coming in a rather long crack around a bay window-much too large for me to fill the same way as before. I sprinkled a long line of cinnamon around the crack and they stopped (It was probably about 1cm thick). Although cinnamon can be expensive and on white carpet may not be an ideal solution, it is totally natural, didn't smell bad and was very effective.

In both cases the ants were coming in to get out of the rain and didn't seem to be moving towards any specific food source, but I was extra careful to keep things clean because once they find food they are much harder to deter.


Lara said...

When my husband was in Iraq, he used Borax powder (which is non-toxic) to keep the sand fleas away. I'm pretty sure it works on ants, too. He made a small barrier around his tent with it, and around his bunk, poor guy! :)

Julia said...

We having biting fire ants in my area. I've heard the corn grit solution and it doesn't work on our ants unfortunately.

Are you still getting over being sick before? Is that why you need so much rest? I hope you're feeling better soon.

Anonymous said...

We learned (when we lived in Texas, very hot climate) that baits work far better than sprays. The idea is that they take the poisoned food back to the colony, so eventually you will have no more. It, however, isn't an instant solution, but far more effective. Also, we had to be meticulous about not leaving crumbs, dishes in the sink, etc. everything under "lock and key' (using tupperware, ziploc bags, etc.) Hope this helps!

Rosie said...

Diatomaceous earth (not sure if I spelled that right) works well. It's a pesticide, but it's made from diatom shells so it won't damage the water or anything that doesn't have an exoskelton.

Margaret said...

We had a horrible ant problem. An exterminator could not spray our home because of our baby so he recommended this product.

It really worked! After spraying the entry point and surrounding area for about 4 days - they were gone. We have not had a recurrence for over 2 1/2 years now!

If you are unable to order it online from their site perhaps there is a similar product there. We found it at our local health food store.

Survivalwoman said...

Not quite natural but quite effective
is DI et Soda or Nutrasweet I have heard and tried to use many remedies when i lived in Texas (the state of notorious fire and cow ants) , and Diet Soda Worked the best , the sweet taste and no calories kills them at the source.

Alexandra said...

We have had the same problem! We use borax which seems to get rid of them. They come back every year, but the borax works in a few days. Ours come in through the front door somehow. The door is newish and very tight, but they find a way. I just sprinkle the stuff in a line across the entrance on the outside. I'd do it on the inside as well, but I've got a two year old.

If you can treat all the edges of your outside foundation, that may help as well. Find out where their nest is, or at least the general area, then you can treat that area too.

We used to have them come through near the fire place, but when we had the wall repaired, this fixed the ant issue. They were coming through an opening where the air conditioner hose comes into the wall.

Cindi said...

Remember to find the source. All the solutions in the world will not work unless you stop them at the source. When we first moved in here we had them and found the mulch around the base of the house was filled with them. We got rid of the mulch and treated the areas and I haven't ever had them again.

Jan Hatchett said...

One year during a really bad drought, we had loads of ants. They probably came in to try and locate water.

I mopped my floors in vinegar water every 2-3 days or so. They didn't want to cross the residual vinegar. I also drizzled white vinegar across thresholds and window sills. It seemed to help.

My mother does the same with borax around doors and windows, but I have children, so I try and make sure it's nothing that can go in mouths. But, borax could safely used as a barrier if sprinkled around the perimeter of the house. Just do it again if it rains. My experience is that kids don't usually notice it if it is against the foundation. My kids were always too busy trying to get out into the yard!

my blog:

Kimberly said...

Dear Anna,
I grew up in a house with TONS of ants, and the best solution we ever found was borax. Here's what we did in one day that got rid of nearly all of them in two days-

Liberally sprinkled (by that I mean made a fence out of it) borax ALL around the foundation of the house, doorways, porch, etc.

Liberally sprinkled borax on the corners of the kitchen countertops

When we were feeling really fiesty, we went ahead and poured borax right into the ant houses.

I hope this helps!

Kimberly said...

Also, be very careful of Diatomaceous Earth. It is a wonderful product, but because of it's fine powder properties, it can be inhaled by people (particularly infants) and cause lung damage by cutting up the delicate lung tissue and causing internal bleeding. It should not be used without a breathing mask, which naturally makes it unsuitable for indoor use.

It might be a really great option for treating the outside of the house, but do be careful when using it.

ie- read up on it.

Beverly said...

Hullo :) love your blog, as always. :) -- To address the ant issue: I spilled coffee grounds by accident one day in my kitchen - incidentally, around the time I also was battling ants... WELL due to other circumstances I was unable to sweep up ALL of the coffee grounds - some were left in the cracks in the lineoleum and under the counters - and I realized that after a day or so THE ANTS WERE GONE! So my first and best suggestion is, sprinkle coffee grounds around your floorboards. The ants will stay away. :) To deal with them while they're marching around, I've found a spray bottle with a drop or two of soap works great - spray them down and them wipe them off. :)

Good luck, those buggers are annoying.

C said...

Plant mint around the exterior of the doors and put a pot or two indoors as well. Works every time. :) And mint is hard to kill. :)

Rachele said...

I too had kitchen ants last year. I would kill them while they were marching by spraying them with bleach solution. A friend of mine also recommended soaking cotton balls in equal parts borax, sugar, and water and leaving the cotton balls on a saucer in strategic locations.

Margaret said...

peppermint oil works a treat, I've read. I haven't tried it myself (we don't have ants) but mint and peppermint deter most irritating insects. Another plus to using peppermint is that rats hate it as well.

Celestial Freak said...

Wow! So quickly you have so many responses.

I know personally I still have quite a bit of an ant problem myself. I'm learning I need to make sure to wipe the sinks dry because any drops of water are something that they scout for.

I currently don't have any Borax soap right now, but my dad has sworn by that before.

I've also read that using corn meal in little piles where you know they are scouting can help cut down on the scouts (which end up being the real problem. The scouts look for sources and before you know it there is a trail of ants.)

Apparently (and I haven't seen loads of help from this, so I don't know, but I live out in the country so I'll always have home invading bugs) the ants that pick up the cornmeal and try to eat it, can't digest it, so it reduces the population of ants. But they still go for the cornmeal because it seems sweet and grainy to them.

I hope one of the suggestions work well for you, I'm going to try to do the vinegar option. I know my ant problem in the dishwasher wasn't as bad when I was using pure vinegar for the rinse cycle. Recently I started using one of those commercial rinse cycle options, and the ants are all over my dishwasher. So, the vinegar thing makes sense to me.

Anyway, I hope the best for you with this. If something works exceptionally well I hope to hear it.

chicory cottage said...

you could also try some boric acid mixed in a bit of sugar placed in a small lid near where the ants are coming in...also, cucumber peelings left near their trails will kill them as well (the theory behind this is that the ants eat the cucumber peels and explode due to increased water trapped inside their inflexible exoskeletons)...

Coffee Catholic said...

Ants in your laundry? YACK! What nerve these wee bugs have! Maybe a mixture of vinegar and lavender oil? The vinegar smell goes away soon enough and the lavender would remain behind! The only other thing I can think of is teaching them that there's no food available. I don't know... if they are used to your house they might use it as a highway rather then for food hahahaha!

Marste said...

My mom used to mix boric acid (is that the same as Borax?) and either sugar or butter (depending on whether they were ants that ate primarily sugar or fat) and leave it out. They would take the mixture back to the anthill, and in a couple of days there were no more ants!

The other thing that works really well topically is orange oil. You can even use orange cleaner, as long as orange oil is the first ingredient. It kills them on contact by dissolving their exoskeletons, and they don't like the scent, so other ants don't tend to come around much after that.

But for long-term ant-ridding, the sugar and boric acid is best. Just keep it away from animals and little kids, and be prepared to live with a LOT of ants for a few days (while they cart all the mixture home) until they all die off.

The Quiet Life said...

I noticed that someone else already mentioned lavender essensial oil. It works wonderfully! I have used this for several years, when I have had problems. Added bonus is that it smells great too.

Sammybunny said...

I have heard that cinnamon can work wonders for ants. Probably any strong smelling oil like lavender too. Hope that your energy returns and you feel roaring to go, soon!

Chelsea said...

My family always had ant issues at our old house. My mom would place bottle lids with a peanut butter boric acid mixture, or icing sugar and boric acid (though I'm not sure if you'd consider boric acid 'natural'). Also, if you figure out where they're coming from, (eg, a crack in the wall), if you spread some dish soap in the area it tends to deter them.
Good luck!

Suzanne said...

I know this has been mentioned, but vinegar works well for me for killing ants. Leave a little cup of it out where the ants are. I had an incident with ants in my car (while I was driving!) and I grabbed a bottle of Windex that I had just bought and sprayed them with it. It worked! It's not really natural, but it did work.

Beverly said...

OK this didn't seem to post earlier but maybe it's still in the moderation queue and you haven't been able to get to it.... :) In case you DIDN'T get it: I wanted to let you know, coffee grounds have worked very well for me at keeping them away, and to GET them gone spray them down with water mixed with a few drops of dish soap - then you can just wipe them up with a rag. :)

TheRetroHousewife said...

Ive heard that they wont cross over red pepper, Ive never tried it though.

Elisabeth said...

You could set an ant trap using a simple dish, or jar laid on it's side, with some honey in it. The ants will swarm to the honey and then you can empty the dish outside. It may not get rid of them completely, but it should keep them reduced.

Asia said...

sorry about the ants, i use to get ants in my dorm room, i think it was the honey so I got rid of them. and next thing i know they were gone. it might not be your sisution. well i just wanted to tell you that i am very happy for you and will email (if you dont mind) becuase i have a question.

Anonymous said...

We had ants for a short period of time this spring. We got rid of them by in two steps. First, we found the nests outside and poured bucketfulls of boiling water over them - that killed most of the nests. Then, we set bait in the house where we found them most often. It took about three days and the ants were gone.
If you have a stethoscope, or can borrow one, you can use it to see if ants live in your house walls as well - you will be able to hear a rustling noise in the walls. If you rent, you will need to contact your landlord asap; otherwise, contact an exterminator yourself.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Lots of good suggestions here, Anna. I'm hoping you find that at least one will work for you!! I, too, like to try the natural solutions first....I resort to chemicals if other methods fail.

And I'm sorry you're not feeling so well lately. It sounds as though you need to take things slow for a bit. Your husband is a good man, I'm sure. What a blessing to you that he steps in where necessary to bridge some of the gaps in your homemaking right now.

thinking of you,

SpejoryMama said...

Cayenne pepper pushed into the cracks where they get in.

Persuaded said...

sorry, i have no advice on your ant issues... but i wanted to comment on the very sweetness of hearing/reading you say "my husband":)
warmest thoughts to you, my dear,

Jeannie said...

we used something we bought at the hardware store. When I got it home and researched it, it was just Borax disolved in a syrup-y solution. I found out you can make it yourself, Borax with corn syrup disolved in it. It worked for us. We had been fighting the ants for well over a year. They got worse for aprox. 3 days before they got better. A month or so later, I saw scouts come in again. They got bad for a day then disappeared completely. I haven't seen anymore since. They take the solution back to their colony and feed it to the babies, it eventually kills their whole colony. It takes a few meals (for them) to kill the adults but only one for the babies.

best wishes

Krystyna said...

No help on the ants issue (but you've got so many ideas to try that you probably won't manage to try them all out :). But I hope you are feeling better soon and get your energy back. There's a state when one is not quite ill but feels absolutely unable to do anything, which is absolutely awful. So I wish you a restful Shabbat!

Rosie said...

Ooh! I don't know what sort of landscaping freedom you have, but several types of birds and lizards will eat ants. You could try planting things that attract them. That's probably more of a long-term solution but more wildlife is always a good thing.

And yes, don't breathe the diatomaceous earth, or put it where kids/pets can breathe it. However, my DH and I use it regularly outside and it works really well. We can't use pesticides because we keep reptiles as pets.

Jennifer said...

Cinnamon- it repels them but it doesn't kill them. Spread some around where they are coming in and you might get rid of them.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

When we once had a bit of an ant issue, I sprinkled cinnamon all around the perimeter of the room where the ants were and noticed them running far, far away, never to return after doing so. I also placed a little dish of honey just a little ways from the house, in an ant-friendly place and then was sure to clean the kitchen to locate any crumbs or whatnot that might be attracting the icky little buggers.

Then, afterwards, I made up some non-toxic little ant traps, just to be sure that no uninvited guests would be returning. These are really easy to make, possibly with items you already have around your home, and are safe for use around pets & small children, so very safe. Do let me know if you might be interested in the "recipe" and I would be happy to share, Anna.

To avoid any "guests" of any sort in the future, hanging some dried bayleaves or cottonballs soaked in an essential oil to be placed in a pantry area or anywhere else that stores food items can be an excellent and safe repellent--for not just ants but all sorts of creepy crawlies as well.

Anonymous said...

Remember everything ants do is organised by scent trails. If an ant finds something it likes, it will leave a positive message trail on its way back to the nest after foraging. This tells the others where it's best to look for more food. Try using Boric Acid Powder in lines around all ant entrypoints you can find and at the bases of cabinets, cupboards, shelves and tables used for food. Mint is supposed to repel ants, so it may help to plant it around the foundations outside if you're allowed. If essential oil of mint is cheap in your area (it's not in mine!) you might try experimenting with that too. Using a solvent like alcohol or vinegar to break the scent trails should help disorganise them. Some people say ants also get thrown off by ballpoint pen ink, but I've tested this and it's not a sure thing. Ants are a real nuisance, Good Luck!

Lavender Blue said...

I did leave a comment but maybe it didn't make it through moderation.

I agree with non-toxic means to get rid of the ants before trying any toxic means.

Also, I've noticed you mention different times about getting your rest. Why are you so tired? I hope you are well and just working hard to keep a nice home to come home to for your hubby. Other than that, the only reason I was so tired at that age was because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy....

Anonymous said...

I had an ant problem in two different states here in the US. Not wanting to have anything potentially dangerous around my children, I opted to use boiling water poured directly onto the various ant hills. I would do this for a number of days and they would move away!

I love your blog and am greatly encouraged by your posts.
~Evelyn Mae