An ant every now and then doesn’t bother me, but this year it’s been horrendous. Even keeping every surface spotless of crumbs hasn’t deterred a steady stream of ants this summer, I’d wake up to an army of ants marching along my kitchen bench. Destroying the nests outside with a jug of boiling water would do the trick for a few days, but inevitably a new nest would appear soon after. I thought I finally had it licked until I made a horror discovery last week. They were also living in one of my computer desk speakers… this meant war!
What natural pest control methods can you use to deter or kill ants? We’re going use three easy pest control methods to use around the house depending on whether you want to be gentle, or take no prisoners. Secondly we’ll discuss what to do if, like in my example above, they decide the warmth of your electronic equipment is a fine and dandy place to take up residence.
Step One: Clean Your House
It goes without saying but a clean house should always be your first deterrant against ants. Clean up crumbs and wash dishes as you dirty them to remove potential food sources for ants. If you have pets, clean out their food bowls or put leftovers in the fridge after feedings so you don’t wake up to an army of ants in the morning (I’ve been caught out there before!).
Step Two: Find the Entry Point
It may look like a haphazard scramble of ants on your counter, but they are actually travelling in very specific patterns based on scented trails that others follow. While you may feel like squishing all those ants in a rage, take a few minutes instead to follow them back to their nest. A tip? Follow the ants with food, particularly lone ants as they’re making new scent trails to tell others they found something delicious. By following the ants, you can find which doorway, window or crack in the wall they are entering from. Then we take action.
Step Three: Attack!
If you do a lot of cooking and make natural beauty and cleaning products already, then you probably have these three items in your house already – peppermint essential oil, cinnamon and borax. If not, they can generally be purchased from a health food store (for the first two) or a supermarket (for the last two). If you’re wondering, I currently buy my essential oils (and beauty raw materials) from here.
- Peppermint Essential Oil: While most of us love the spicy, uplifting scent of peppermint, ants hate it. They won’t cross any area you spray with peppermint, making it perfect for spraying on areas where ant trails are and all identified entryways. Fill a spray bottle with water and add 5-10 drops peppermint essential oil, or 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops spearmint. Spray onto organic cotton buds and stuff into wall cracks or cupboards as a deterrant. A bonus? Your house will smell fabulous!
- Cinnamon Powder: This is another scent that ants detest (as are cayenne pepper, cloves, black pepper and bay leaves). Sprinkle the powder near identified ant entryways as a barrier to force ants to go looking elsewhere for food. Similarly, keep a potted bay tree by the back door if like me, this is their preferred entrance location to repel them from entering the home.
- Borax: Up until now we’ve been aiming to repel the ants, now we’re playing hardball. Mix borax 1:1 with honey to make a paste, adding a little water to help it come together. Place mixture on small pieces of paper or carboard near active ant trails or entry points. Borax is a natural poison to ants, they take it back to the nest and infect others with it which destroys their digestive system. While you may initially see more ants when you put the baits out, they should significantly drop off after a few days. I prefer to use this method on my countertops, as to keep the borax away from pets who shouldn’t be allowed to ingest it.
Step Four: Why Do Ants Love Electrical Equipment?
I was horrified when I discovered where the ants that randomly appeared on my desk were coming from. A small bump of my left desk speaker caused a few to come out of a small hole and I went into a panic. With my thick, leather garden gloves on and a long handled screwdriver, I was holding my breath as I took apart the speaker to clean them all out. This was not my all-time, favourite DIY moment.
Ants have been known to live in all manner of electrical products (at our old house they were once living in the stand base for an electric kettle stand). They appear to be enticed by the warmth dissipated by the electrical stimulation vibrations of electrical equipment. Whatever the cause, when removing an active nest appliances, you need to make sure not to damage the electronics while removing the nest in it’s entirety. Ant faeces and nest building may severely damage electronics and cannot be ignored.
- Where possible (and only if you are very sure of what you’re doing), unscrew and open up the appliance. If unsure, bag the whole item securely and take to a technician.
- Lay the appliance on a spread out area of newspaper and spray away ants, eggs and debris with a can of compressed air (available from hardware stores). Use a soft paintbrush to brush away any remnants of nest or remaining ants and dispose of all debris. Place small cards of borax paste (see above) around appliance to draw out any remaining ants.
- Once you’re sure the ant infestation is clear, clean equipment once more with compressed air and screw back together. Use peppermint essential oil or cinnamon as barrier methods (around, not on equipment) to prevent ants starting a new nest in the equipment again.