Safely kill ants without putting kids and pets at risk

Safe Ant Control

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Safe Ant Control

Ants are taking over my house and the backyard. I have two cats, so that's the problem with using poisons. Nothing has worked so far. Please help!
Lily Y.

Use Cinnamon

You can pick it up on the cheap during the holiday season. Just sprinkle where the paths are. Leave it out for a few days and then clean it up. Repeat as needed. It should not bother the cats.

Serve Them a Side of Grits

Try sprinkling grits around baseboards and in the yard. The ants eat it, and it swells up in them and kills them. The cats won't touch it.

Render Them Infertile

Want to get rid of ants economically and without endangering your pets and children? Try an equal mix of sugar and borax. While borax has some toxicity and shouldn't be ingested, it is less toxic than commercial ant killer, and you don't spray it around the house. The sugar is to attract the ants to the borax, so you put the mixture in a container with a tight fitting lid and secure it. Place holes around the sides towards the base that are large enough for the ants to go in.

This method doesn't kill the ants, and it takes a little bit of time to work. The borax renders the ants infertile. I have found that it is more long lasting than the sprays and powders. In the beginning, you may need to reapply every year or two. It only takes a small amount of borax, so you will have lots of borax left over to use as a laundry booster.

Remove the Temptation

First, you need to remove whatever is attracting them. I have to relocate the jar of honey and bottle of agave syrup every spring. Wipe up any spills when they happen. Even fruit will attract ants. Then erase their scent trails with vinegar, bleach, lemon juice, or peppermint oil.

I, too, have cats and have been successful with using instant grits to get rid of ants. Just put about a half of a teaspoon in the path of the ants, so they find it. They will take the treasure back to the colony.

Borax mixed with some sugar works as well, but borax is dangerous to cats and dogs. If the ants are on an elevated surface where pets can't reach, then you can use the borax/sugar. This year I mixed up some powdered sugar with borax and instant grits. Two ants munched on it for a few days and then I cleaned up the mess. They haven't come back since. You will see ants coming and going. Leave them alone and don't squish them. If they're dead, they can't deliver the goods.

Try Cucumber Peelings

Scatter them along windowsills and near doors that open to the outside. When the peels start curling up, discard them and lay down new peels. The ants will not cross cucumber peelings.

Make It Lethal

Try diatomaceous earth. It's safe for kids and pets, but lethal to insects. It's cheap, available at hardware stores, and won't lose its efficacy over time. You have to replenish it from time to time as it gets scattered and vacuumed up. It has also worked great on our centipede problem.

It's Time for Them to Move On

I have had good luck safely controlling ants with boiling water. The trick is get to the queen, so you have to keep at those ant holes with the boiling water until you are lucky enough to kill the queen. In the meantime, the boiling water will significantly reduce the ant population. One newspaper writer said that ants prefer certain habitats, but if you keep at them with the boiling water, they will eventually get the message that this isn't a good place to build a home.

Disrupt Their Scent Trails

If they're not the monster ants that ate Chicago, spray vinegar around doors, windows, and any cracks in the wood floor to invite ants to stay out. If the ants are already inside, spray it along their trails. Ants communicate using hormones (pheromones). They'll follow a trail of pheromones left by other ants to find food or water. Vinegar disrupts their scent trails, which annoys them so much that they leave and stay away.

If vinegar doesn't work, try putting small piles of cornmeal where you see the ants. It may take a week, but they take it to the mound and share it. Since they can't digest it, it kills them.

If cornmeal is too slow, try spraying the ants with orange oil. The ladies don't like it either. (Your cats will avoid orange oil like the plaque. They hate the smell of citrus.)

These methods may take a while to work since they're natural and green, but the result is almost always (you'll pardon my pun) good riddance.

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