I have been getting a lot of calls about ants coming into homes. We will discuss some treatment methods that don’t involve spraying pesticides. There are several things you can do to prevent ants from entering your home. The first step is exclusion. Go around the outside of your home and inspect it very carefully from an ant's point of view. Ants can sense cool air and aromatic odors emanating from your home and will try to gain access. Check around the house at ground level and look for cracks in the foundation, voids around pipes, areas under stucco, peepholes in bricks and similar areas that ants can use to gain entrance. All these areas need to be sealed, caulked, screened or otherwise altered to prevent ants from using them to get into your home. Check around your windows and doors to make sure they close tightly. If the doors aren't tight, you may have to install door sweeps on them. Check your bushes, shrubs and trees to make sure you don't have any branches touching the roof. Don't stack firewood, bricks or anything else next to your house or ants and other insects may find it a good place to nest. If you have bushes or shrubs next to your house, periodically inspect them for aphids, scales and similar bugs as ants are attracted to the honeydew they produce. The ants will get on the plants and eventually find their way into your home. Don't put flagstone or flat boards on the ground too close to your home or some species of ants will nest under them. On the other hand, mound-making ants will generally stay outside. They rarely leave their complicated and efficient homelike in the mound to enter homes. If you don't want the ants making mounds in your yard, you can flood the nests with club soda or with white vinegar or food-grade DE. If you use the DE, mix 4 tablespoons per gallon of water. You can also use 1 gallon of orange juice diluted with 2 gallons of water and a dash of soap. If you prefer, you can also spread dry instant grits on the mound. The ants will eat it and not be able to digest it and die.
You can repel ants with a wide variety of products, including cinnamon, baking soda, Comet Cleanser, cedar oil, medicated baby powder, Tide, talcum powder, chalk, coffee grounds, borax, garlic, broken egg shells, bone meal, black or red pepper, peppermint, paprika, chili powder and mint leaves. If you have ants going into your hummingbird feeder, you can put duct tape, sticky side out, on the wire holding the feeder, to deter them.
The best way to control them when they get in your home is with baits. Different species have different food preferences. Some species will take a wide variety of baits, while others are more particular. Here is a recipe for effective, homemade ant baits that use borax. It attracts ants looking for either moisture or food. You will need: 3 c. water, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. borax or 2 tsp. food-grade DE, 6 small screw-top jars with lids, such as jelly jars covered with masking tape, which will enable the ants to climb up the side. Mix the sugar, water and borax (or food-grade DE) in a bowl. Loosely half-fill the jars with cotton balls or pieces of sponge or wadded paper towels. Pour up to ½ cup of the sugary mixture over the cotton balls, saturating them. Make several small holes in the lid. Screw the lids on the jars tightly.
If you smoke, always wear plastic gloves when making ant baits or they will sense the tobacco smoke on the baits and not go to it. Ants do not like cigarette or cigar smoke.
A very good commercial bait is Terro Bait, which is made from boric acid and is sold in some stores. Many common household ants will love it. Just place the bait stations where you see the ants foraging.
With any bait you use, homemade or commercial, always put them in areas where children and pets can’t disturb them.
If you have large carpenter ants, you can use Advanced Carpenter Ant Bait, which is available online. Again, no pesticides need to be sprayed inside or outside. If you have any ants that aren’t taking the bait for some reason, you can contact me and I will help you identify them and recommend a treatment. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-385-2820. There is also a lot of non-toxic pest information on my website at www.askthebugman.com.