How do you get rid of ants?
by Matt Voss
I know of a secret weapon; it’s a shock and awe campaign and it leaves no survivors. It’s cheap and a relatively natural way to get rid of ants, but the ants would rather die than have the secret get out. This intel will change the course of this war.
How did I come to such knowledge? It’s a grisly story, but I’ll tell you, reader…
Every year I wage a brutal war on the ants that besiege my kitchen. Violence wasn’t always my go-to, but diplomacy and strong language never gained me an inch with this enemy; they just don’t respect me. They’re animals.
Having spent some time in the trenches, I’ve picked up a few tricks. Some are less genocidal than others, and some are more effective than others. If you’ve read this far, you’re ready to take back your kitchen, and I’ve got the key to the armory.
Non-lethal methods of getting rid of ants
In war, it’s imperative to disrupt the enemies’ lines of communication where possible. Ants communicate with sound, touch, and smelly chemicals called pheromones; it’s a little like how teen-aged human boys communicate, but the messages are more diverse. It can’t be mere coincidence that half of “adolescent” is “scent.”
When an ant colony sends a scout out to find food, the lonely ant leaves itself a trail of smelly “bread crumbs” so it can find its way home. If it should happen upon a little maple syrupy goodness running down the side of the bottle, it will grab what it can carry and high-tail it back to the nest to tell his buddies.
Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” you’ve got a thick line of ants marching single-file all the way to the syrup and back. They’re following the pheromone trail of the lucky scout. The ants’ reliance on smell leaves them vulnerable to meddling by anything with a stronger smell than the pheromones.
You could use a little dish soap to wash away their path, but burying the pheromones under a new strong scent will cause a sort of blindness that will prevent them from forming a new pheromone trail. To make your kitchen less appealing to ants, use cinnamon and/or vinegar liberally.
Erasing the pheromone trail has an added comedic benefit as well; I imagine the poor ants’ bewilderment would be akin to that of the kids on the cover of Shel Silverstein’s book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Not to worry about the ants though; life always find a way.
Safely get rid of ants with vinegar or cinnamon
Take a spray bottle of vinegar to anywhere where the ants seem to be coming into the house. Vinegar is also great for cleaning green. It’s a ton safer to use than any chemical-based cleaner you’ll see lining the store shelves, it’s significantly cheaper, and regularly cleaning with vinegar will help keep ants away.
You can also use the strong smell of things like garlic, cloves, and cinnamon to help get rid of ants. Who doesn’t like garlic and cinnamon? Life without garlic bread or cinnamon rolls? No wonder they’re so uppity. Garlic isn’t always ideal to leave sprinkled about the house, but if you can hide it from view, cinnamon will make the house smell delightful; unless you’re an ant, that is.
How to keep ants out of the kitchen
Ants don’t hang around because they enjoy your stunning floral wallpaper; they’re just there for the eats. After kicking them out, the best way to keep them out is to keep a clean kitchen. Clean up with your trusty spray bottle of vinegar after preparing meals and take out the trash if you’ve recently tossed any ant-bait.
I learned the hard way ants like the leftovers deposited on the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I awoke one morning to find a thick line of the little buggers marching to and from the dishwasher where they were mining morsels like it was gold.
Rinsing the dishes before loading them and not letting them sit in there for days should help both your pest problem and your marriage.
A sure way to get rid of ants for good
There may come a day where you’re weary from wave after wave of ants and you’re ready to decisively end the war, no matter the body count. What follows is the fully-lethal, scorched-earth, Trojan Horse method for getting rid of ants for good.
You could go to the store and pick up some of those “ant motel” baited ant traps, but in my experience, they just don’t work very well. The ants have gotten wise and stopped “checking in” to those dumps.
What to do to take out the entire ant colony.
A recipe for destruction.
What you’ll need:
- 1 teaspoon borax (Target has it near the laundry detergent or online here)
- 1 teaspoons sugar (Mary Poppins knew her stuff)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 5-6 cotton balls
- 5-6 bottle caps (optional, but makes for easier cleanup)
What to do:
- Mix the sugar in the water and stir until dissolved
- Mix the borax in and stir until dissolved
- Plop in the cotton balls to soak up most of the liquid
- Deploy poisoned fluff balls of death where ants will find them
What the ants will do:
- Find a “jackpot” of sugary goodness
- Tell all their friends about it
- Take the deceptively sweet borax back to their nest
- Have a celebratory nest-wide feast
I’ll say again that I’m all for the live-and-let-live approach, and I do clean my house with vinegar. I should clarify that by “I” I mean that I married a woman with tremendous gifts in the cleaning department (and, good golly, other departments too), and she cleans with vinegar. Unfortunately, sometimes the non-lethal hints just aren’t enough.
My dad always taught me that when we’re out in nature, that’s their house and that we should leave bugs alone when we can. If the ants are in our house, though, we do what we can to remove them. Life is good and so respect for life is good; a diplomatic and peaceful relocation is always preferable to a massacre.
Obviously, the rules don’t apply to harbingers of disease and bloodsuckers like mosquitoes, lawyers, and ticks- no offense to mosquitoes and ticks.
Have you got some tips and tricks to get rid of ants? Share them in the comments and let’s talk about that.