This amazing guest post was written by Jeriann Watkins Ireland, a writer, and wellness enthusiast. We encourage you to check out more from Jeriann at her website.
Every spring, I know when we’re officially at the point where the weather is only going to keep getting warmer. It happens the same week that ants start invading my kitchen. The window by my kitchen sink is poorly sealed ( a situation we’re remedying) and ants just love to crawl all over our dishes while they’re waiting to be washed.
Since I don’t want to spray poison in the room where my food is prepared, I have researched and tried many natural ant repellents and traps. Below is what I’ve found.
Why Ants Invade:
While it’s typical to think that ants come indoors for food, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Ants have plenty of sources of food outside. They only come indoors for food when the weather is unfavorable for them. A recent Stanford study revealed that ants were most likely to venture indoors during periods of high rainfall and periods of drought. So if it’s really wet or really dry, you’re more likely to find tiny visitors in your home.
Conventional Ant-Killing Methods
In most home and garden stores, you’ll find countless insecticides for dealing with ants. The problem with insecticides is these chemicals are not selective. They don’t act as strongly on humans because our systems are more robust than ants, but they can do harm to our cells, and increased exposure can have lasting effects, particularly on the lungs if breathed in. They can have even stronger effects on pets, who don’t have the benefit that humans do of knowing to stay away from the areas sprayed.
Do Natural Solutions Work?
So if you can’t spray insecticide, how can you get rid of ants? There are lots of suggested natural pest control solutions online, including cinnamon, vinegar, and baking soda. Here’s what I’ve found in my research and trying a few for myself.
Cinnamon: It’s true that ants don’t like cinnamon. If you sprinkle a circle of cinnamon around a group of ants, you can watch them try to avoid it. But it doesn’t kill them, and eventually, they will work their way through. Placing cinnamon near known ant entryways can help reduce the number of ants you get, but it’s unlikely to eliminate them completely, and will have to be replenished every few days.
Vinegar: If you’re looking for natural solutions online, vinegar is recommended for almost everything, particularly apple cider vinegar. Some sources say vinegar kills ants, but most suggest it as a repellent. I’ve found that sometimes spraying ants directly with vinegar sometimes kills them, but often it simply stuns them and gives me a chance to wipe them up. The presence of vinegar already on a surface doesn’t kill ants, so it’s not something you can use to reliably keep them away.
What vinegar does do, however, is eliminate pheromone trails. Ants leave their scent behind to find their way back to their colony. Other ants will follow these pheromone trails. Vinegar cleans these trails away, potentially reducing the number of ants in your home. Vinegar is a useful tool in managing an ant problem, but it is not a permanent solution. The Stanford study mentioned above showed that natural solutions like vinegar did nothing to keep ants from traversing inside when the weather dictated, though it did reduce the overall numbers of surviving invaders.
To up the power of my vinegar spray, during ant season I clean my counters with a solution of vinegar and water, with lemon and peppermint essential oils thrown in. Ants don’t like peppermint or citrus, so not only does this clean away their trails, but it replaces them with things they actively avoid. It also leaves my counters clean and smelling fresh!
Baking Soda: One solution I’ve found online attempts to address the root cause of the ant problem, the colony. This involves mixing baking soda with sugar and placing it where ants enter your home. The theory is that the ants will be attracted by the sugar and take the mixture back to their colony. Their bodies cannot process baking soda, so they will die. Since they take the food home, you kill more ants, and potentially even the queen, killing the colony altogether.
Science seems to be relatively quiet on this theory. Scientific American shows that baking soda does help to repel ants, and sugar does help attract them, but there are no studies on whether baking soda kills ants, let alone “make them explode” as some online sources claim.
Diatomaceous Earth: Diatomaceous Earth is a powdery substance made of fossilized plankton remains. It has many uses, one of which is overwhelming the systems of small insects by drawing the moisture out of their bodies and causing them to shut down. You can buy food grade diatomaceous earth that is safe for the home. You still do not want to breathe in diatomaceous earth, as it does irritate the lungs. So this is not a good option if you can’t keep your pets out of an area for a few days. Diatomaceous earth works physically, not chemically, meaning that ants cannot become immune to it. If you don’t have pets or can keep them away from where it is spread, you can apply diatomaceous earth to your floor and vacuum it up after a few days.
Keeping Ants Away
As you can see, most natural methods are better at minimizing the ant problem, not completely solving it. The best way to deal with an ant problem is to prevent it altogether. Continual pest control takes effort but can be done. Preventing ant invasions includes the following steps:
Sealing cracks and holes in your walls where ants enter. Sometimes caulk will be enough, while other times, this may require replacing windows, doors, and other points of entry.
Keep your kitchen clean and free of food debris, particularly sugary substances
Wash surfaces often with vinegar to eliminate trails of any ants that made their way in
Surround your home with plants and scents that ants don’t like, including mint, citrus, and lemongrass.
Have you had any luck eradicating ants from your home? Share your experiences in the comments!