How to Get Rid of Ants (or) How to Kill an Ant Invasion

Picture of How to Get Rid of Ants (or) How to Kill an Ant Invasion

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.

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Step 1: What you will need

Picture of 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)

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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.

thanks guys!

Step 8: Success!

Picture of Success!

Hopefully all of this has helped and you wont be living in the trenches of the human-ant battlegrounds any more.

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jurneemoon22 days ago

I mixed this up a long time ago, I used boric acid (pharmacy grade) and grape jelly. I rinsed 20 oz plastic pepsi bottles, drilled holes in the lids, after putting the poison jelly inside the bottle (not much) I glued the lids on with super glue. I have critters everywhere around here including but not limited to, cats,raccoons, squirrels, dogs, opossum, and flying squirrels. those are the critters I have seen in my yard so gluing the lids on was a must in my world. The darned ants still come back every year so I keep making the poison every year. it works

This one time I swear I had an empire of super ants in my garden. I think it was because they took over five bags of firtilizer. They were relentless:

Day 1.
Destroyed their bag with machette and sprayed with high power hose.

Day 2.
Day 1 had no effect. More hosing

Day 3.
Flooded with ant poison, ant traps all around.

Day 6.
Poison had no effect what-so-ever. Tried several more brands, had no effect.

Day 7.
Blowtorched the bag and all ants defending, piles of scorched bodies. I got bitten too :(

Day 8.
All the bodies are gone. More torching.

Day 9.
I come up to the place and witness an ant war. Two rival colonies clashing in an epic battle. It reminded me of Lord of the Rings defending Ministerith (The white city/castle). It was awsome.

Day 10.
Flooded the entire thing with a hose and torched the ants that were comming out. Hundreds of thousands of wet, scorched corpses around the battle ground. I continued untill no more came out.

(BTW I didn't just set the bag on fire because it is in my garden)

Day 11.
They were still there!
Gave up, there was nothing more I could do.

These ants were probably like the Romans. They had a massive empire. They were also, I swear, mutated in some way that they were immune to all poisons.

Thanks for the guide. I am always nervous to use borax in my home because of children and small pets. I developed a natural solution after reading a study about getting rid of ants in a science journal. It has worked great for me over the past few years inside and outside of my home. I made a video about it if anyone is interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptLQezauJkM

Try Spilling Gasoline into their mount, and make sure it gets absorbed really well, Then Light it!
gasoline on fertilizer is a bad idea it adds up to anfo - ammonium nitrate fuel oil. remember the oklahoma city bombing
Its motor oil, not gasoline. And you still need a blasting cap to set it off.
Sometimes, a #8 cap wont work. You need a primer charge to set it off like a quarter stick of TNT.
Which is what they do when they blow off the side of a mountain for mining. Good point.
RoboBro Pazzerz3 months ago

this is getting intense!!!


i loved your comment with all the really extreme measures you went to! Also LotR it AWESOME! If you like it you should try lotro.com(Lord of The Rings Online - Its a browser based game)!

next try...radioactivity...uranium!
I am not sure that would work. I heard of a beehive on a nuclear reactor, and that cockroaches don't seem to be affected by radioactivity. Insects may be immune from all but the most intense radioactivity.
shortw thepelton4 months ago

A roach kept in an zip lock bag and put into an running microwave oven will not be harmed.

scorpions are immune to radioativity aswell
Oh well...:P
No, they did that on Mythbusters. The radioactivity can kill them!
At like 100,000 Radioactivity whatever-s ...
Do you mean rads?
Yes! That's what it was...100,000 rads!
I thought the term was Roentgens.
Roentgens has been 'replaced' with RADs. More 'scientifically' accurate...maybe...
Oh well... 8>P kind of expensive and dangerous.
Yeah! Like glowing blue cobalt! It'll kill anything!
Including you :-P
Yeah, lol
Im jealous, my ants dont fight eachother, just me!!!
First of all, it depends on where you live. This greatly affects the ant species you are up against and how they react to the various methods you have already tried (ex: your flooding method). What I tried at my house (in NY, which, for some reason, it seems like its getting hit hard by ants this year) is simply using raid ant spray which comes strait out of a can. it kills them very fast and they normally don't come back. the only problem with this, much like stated above by using to much borax, is that they don't take the poison back to the nest killing the rest of the ants. However, like my ant problem, the ants were nesting in my tarps and plastic waterproof items, so i was able to take out all the ants in one fell swoop. So i recommend this method for outside because it doesn't involve jelly that can be washed away but if they do come back inside, this method looks like a very nice way to take care of the problem, and props to the author because this is very cheap compared to buying tons of ant traps, and most people have this around the house too, definitely trying this (yes, I have a small problem inside as well)!
Where's Johnny!
RoboBro3 months ago

I read this through and will try your suggestions as well as the ones in step 7.

" Dec 5, 2007. scoleman says: I'm sure this will work in the short run... "

I do have a source of water nearby they come from right around the sink. Sadly we can't get to this area to get them so we might try the Terro or Borax/Jelly solution!

shortw4 months ago

I usually use 2-3 parts of borax and 8-7 parts of strawberry jam. It always worked so far. The house we bought is sitting on top of ant hill. And so far every year the ant problem is getting smaller and smaller.

Also we collecting used old cooking oil and when we have enough we heat it up to very high temperatures and pour it over an ant hill slow or into an ant hole slow, so it will penetrate into to ant hill. Cooking oil will not harm the ground and is bio degradable.

Hot water will cool of very fast in the ground and we did not have very good results.

eyebot1175 years ago
I'm not sure anyone has thought of this one, but a quick spray of Clorox cleaning agent kills them on contact. It seems like they die instantly... The drawback being, that this doesn't get rid of all of them-but of course, if the stuff kills them on contact, God only knows what it'd do if they ate it.

Equal parts white vinegar and water sprayed on them will kill them straight up. Ants hate vinegar.You can also squeeze fresh lemon..they HATE it. If you can't locate the nest, sprinkle baby powder around a piece of bait. The powder sticks to the bottom of their tiny little feet and leave a track of white all the way to their nest. Sounds cutesy, but it's a fact. :D Here's a cool link for ridding your home naturally of ants.... http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Ants-Naturally

Javin0076 years ago
A note on step 6, and the 5% number you use.

Professional products use slightly more than a 5% mixture (1 part borax to 19 parts bait) but wouldn't make much money if they got rid of the ants permanently.

Too many dead ants near the bait, you actually need to REDUCE the ratio. You shouldn't see but a dozen dead ants with the most severe infestation (assuming they didn't die by getting stuck in the bait).

To reiterate what I said in another "ant how-to post":

The reason for this is you risk what is called "budding." Generally, the in-house ants are the very tiny ones also referred to as "sugar" ants. Sugar ants do not have a "queen" in the nest, but rather each female in the hive takes part in the egg laying (and all of the ants you see outside of the hive are female).

When the hive starts to have a large number of them suddenly dying off, they will "split" into smaller hives, infesting different parts of the house, allowing the hive to survive. This "budding" can actually cause a bigger ant problem, or later re-infestation. To make sure you kill the entire colony, you need to find a balance (from 5% to 10% has always worked for me. I only have to use it one time whenever I move) that kills them very, very slowly. Too little, and they will be able to metabolize it, or reproduce faster than it can kill them (causing budding.) Too much, it'll kill them too quickly and they'll again, panic, and bud off.

For an example of a commercial product, look for "Terro Liquid Ant Baits" and take a look at the ingredients. I can tell you, this works, too. *never* spend your money on pest control for ants when you can do it for pennies as this instructable shows. I moved into my newest apartment ten months ago. It had a severe infestation upon moving in. 5 days after using the borax solution, not an ant has been seen for nearly a year now.

Pssst...all "colonies" have a queen. For the lay person here..."Budding" occurs when there has been a significant disruption in the colony...ie. the boiling water poured down into the nest. These ants that take off and start the budding process are known as Pharoah ants (sugar ants - because of their attraction to sweets. However, they also thrive on grease). Pharaoh
ants are highly polygynous and have a relatively low worker to queen
ratio of 12.86. Budding has not been recorded to occur when there is a minor disruption to a nest. The colony simply moves forward. This is why ants are not seen for a time and then return. They are either budding and building their new nest (they WILL find their way back to your food source if it is still there) or they are fixing their nest (again, the WILL find their way back....).

It's been over a year since this last post, and we saw 5 ants a month ago. We put the solution down for ONE DAY and again, no more ants. LOVE this stuff.
mumof43 years ago
i av ants every where!!! sik n tired of em, iv started usin 'cilit bang' spray on em n kills em on contact!!! gona try this borax 4 the ants in my bak garden!! im wonderin is it available in the uk??
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