Spring has sprung and many of nature’s creatures will be emerging from their long winter’s nap. As the days become longer and warmer, it may seem as if you have critters crawling out of the woodwork — and some of them are.
Ants are one of the unwanted guests you might find in your home as they return from their seasonal hiatus and start searching for food and water. It’s an invasion unlike that of some household pests such as mice, which bring with them serious health risks as they carry diseases that are transmittable to humans — think bubonic plague — and can chew through electrical wires, which, in turn, can lead to fires. Ants, on the other hand, pose no issues other than being a nuisance.
When it comes to deterring them from invading your personal (or work) space, there are a number of ways you can fight nature with nature.
Borax/boric acid: Contrary to common belief, Borax and boric acid are not equals. They are made up of different chemical compounds, but are equally effective at eliminating ants. Both are hazardous, so it’s important to keep bait using these items away from children and pets. It’s also recommended to wear gloves when handling either to prevent skin irritation. Borax can be used as a solid or liquid bait. Mix half a cup of sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Borax and a cup-and-a-half of warm water, stir until dissolved. Place in a small dish or container near where you see ant trails. You can also dip cotton balls into the solution and place them along the trail. Boric acid is proven to kill worker ants and queens within three weeks and can be dispersed in the same manner as Borax. To use it, mix half a teaspoon of boric acid with 8 teaspoons of sugar and a cup of warm water.
Citrus: Ants are turned off by lemony-fresh fragrances. Lemon peels left around points of entry, or even straight-up lemon juice dabbed around the area, can deter ants from entering. Cucumber peels have also been known to be effective.
Coffee: Sprinkle brewed coffee grounds on a piece of cardboard and place on windowsills or areas where you see ants traveling. The grounds lose potency as they dry out, so it’s important to replace them frequently.
Diatomaceous earth: It’s worth noting that while other methods listed here can possibly deter these pests, they’re not guaranteed. If you want to ensure success, get yourself a bag of food/horticultural-grade diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it outside around the foundation of your house. Although it’s harmless to people and warm-blooded animals like birds, pets, and even earthworms, you should wear a mask when applying to prevent any dust from entering your lungs.
Essential oils: Potent fragrances like peppermint, tea tree, and lemon eucalyptus oils may be soothing to the human senses, but for ants, the scents are believed to be overpowering and thus can act as a natural deterrent. Using an empty spray bottle, mix 10 to 20 drops of peppermint oil with 2 cups of water. Spray around noted entry points such as windows. You can also make a similar mixture with tea tree oil by adding 5 to 10 drops to 2 cups of water. Soaking cotton balls in the tea tree solution and placing them where you see the ants come in and out may work as well. Another use for cotton balls moistened with lemon eucalyptus oil, which contains citronella, is to deter pesky mosquitos. A word of caution: Essential oils can be highly toxic if ingested and should not be used in areas where they can be accessed by pets and children.