Ants can be nice as pets when they stay in their farm, but when they take over your living space it’s time to seek a remedy that will rid your home of them. This instructable describes the solution my dorm-mates and I successfully used against an ant invasion in our hall. It’s low-mess, takes up very little space, and will get rid of most kinds of ants, even when you don't know where they're coming from, including Carpenter, Black, Red, and Fire.
It’s also quick, easy, cheap, and safe to use across the board. (Don’t underestimate safety. There are many harsh commercial solutions out there including pastes, jelly caps, and ant boxes, but these can be dangerous for children or pets.) One of the ingredients we used, Borax, is commonly used as a natural washing detergent. Because it’s basically just soap, you don’t have to worry about damaging carpets or furniture.
Unfortunately there is a bit of post-mortem clean-up. But believe me, you won’t think of this as biological warfare when the ants come after your foodstuffs and start crawling into your bed!
Despite what you may have seen in the movies, being bitten by an ant will not give you the superpowers of Antman! Really, it’s best to get rid of them before you’re even entertaining that possibility.
Step 1: What you will need
Here is your ant invasion shopping list:
- A container of borax (you should be able to find this in the laundry detergent aisle)
- Some jelly or jam (if you already have some use that, as you don't need too much; if you need to buy some get a small, cheap jar - ant's aren't picky - or something you'd want to eat with your toast)
- Container lid(s) (soda caps work great, as would any other small, low and shallow container)
- Mixing bowl or cup (I recommend something disposable, because you probably don't want to use it again for eating/drinking)
- A spoon (again, something disposable is good, so...plastic)
Step 2: Preparing the Poison
Take your cup or bowl, your spoon, and the borax and jelly. You'll want the solution to consist of no more than 5% borax. So the easiest way is to take ten spoonfuls of jelly and put them in the cup/bowl. Then, you'll want half a spoonful of borax. This recipe can be extended to twenty spoonfuls jelly and one of borax, if you need that much.
Now mix it in really well! You have to be deceitful - it's poison, after all!
Step 3: Laying out the Mines (i.e. soda caps)
Now that everything is mixed, you'll want to spoon the jelly into soda caps (like I said before, other shallow lids should work as well, but soda caps are small and easy to put out of the way so that's what we used).
You don't need to use too many - my hallmates and I just used one or two caps per room with ant problems. Don't spread them out all over the floor - you'll just step on them.
When you're done filling up the number of caps you need, place them somewhere on the floor but out of the way (obviously in a room with ants). WE put ours in the corners of rooms, behind table legs, etc.
Step 4: The Waiting Game
Now you wait.
After a day or so you may start to notice ants swarming around the caps.
The goal is to have them take the delicious poison back to their home and feed it to all their buddies. If you see a lot of ants dying around the bottle caps you might want to mix up a second batch with slightly less borax in it so it won't be an instant kill.
A few dead ants around the cap is probably to be expected, but not piles of them.
Step 5: Observe the Results + Cleanup + Warning
After a couple days to a week you should stop seeing ants, minus a few dead ones near or in the jelly caps. With any luck the ants will have brought jelly back to their colony and have either killed them off or convinced them that your house/room is NOT a four-star restaurant.
You can now throw away the cap of jelly (eating it is not a reasonable means of disposal), sweep up the remaining dead ants, and get back to enjoying your life.
You may want to keep pets and children away from the jelly-borax caps, so that they don't accidentally consume any of it.
Step 6: Oh snap! The ants came back!
Sometimes this happens.
Our whole dorm hall used this remedy and only one room has had a reoccurring ant problem (it is also the messiest room so cleaning, as much as it sucks, will probably aid in your war against ants). That one room has continued to use borax and jelly to take care of the ants because, while it hasn't been a permanent solution for them, it keeps the ants away for long periods of time (a month or two between invasions). But, like I said, most of us have not had ant problems again.
So, what to do if they come back?
You can remake the jelly-borax solution (if you didn't have many ants dying near the soda cap last time, try upping the borax content slightly).
You can also try some of these things that have been suggested to me (though I haven't tried them myself):
- Mop your floors with a half cup to one whole cup of borax or baking soda per gallon of hot water. Again, keep young children and pets away from this floor (this probably isn't a good solution if you have young children or wandering pets at all, because it is difficult to close off an entire floor space. But if you are sans those varmints, this could be worth a try!).
- You can draw a line/circle of white chalk or petroleum jelly (not the jelly we used previously) around a source of food for the ants or just anything that you don't want ants on. Apparently they don't like to cross the stuff. I have also heard that they don't like crossing powders in general, but I don't know...
- As should be obvious; clean your room(s), remove open food products (including dirty dishes), and take out the trash.
Here is a link to a site with more nontoxic ant solutions. I have not tried them all, but what could it hurt?
Step 7: Good Advice from Other Members:
(it's useful to not have to sort through the comments)
Dec 10, 2007. PMflactemnad says:
Borax works great for a long term kill, but when you just need the bugs to drop dead now try some of those orange oil cleaners. I dilute mine to 10% strength or less, and it drops bugs dead instantly! If you leave some of the sprayed residue on the surface ants usually avoid that too.
Dec 6, 2007. bleachworthy says:
"nicely done, i have found that a simple scented bar of soap will kill off ants quite easily. they are attracted by the scent, and the lard content, and are quickly killed off by the lye in the soap. if you lack a scented bar of soap, soak the bar of soap, and sprinkle sugar on it, then allow it to dry before use."
Dec 6, 2007. zer0vector says:
"There is a product on the market called Terro which is basically a borax/sugar syrup mix, similar to the bait built here in case you don't have the time to make your own. They claim it's safe for pets:
Pets occasionally find the Terro and eat it. Our advice when this happens
is to do nothing at all. The product is not toxic enough to cause a problem and the pet will be just fine.
Anyhow, it works well, check your hardware store if you want to find some."
Dec 5, 2007. scoleman says:
"I'm sure this will work in the short run. To make a long term solution you need to look for and remove their source of water. Almost all infestations are because there is a water source to sustain the colony within the house/dorm itself. Occasional ants will come indoors, and if they find water, they move in. Check you roof, siding, window frames for leakage as well as any old plumbing that may be leaking down to the foundation. It doesn't take much water to make a whole colony happy. Thanks for the tutorial on making our own ant bait!"
Dec 5, 2007. thomasedisonjr reminds us that due to the caustic nature of borax, to look for other solutions if there is the possibility of a pet or small child eating this borax-jelly mixture.