Get Rid of Your Ants With a Sweet DIY Treat

6 Materials
$8-16
15 Minutes
Easy

I’ve been feeling a little bugged lately. Sounds familiar?
First, we got those pesky aphids all over the garden. Then, “something” ate the strawberries –whole berries evaporated in the night time. Now, I got ants!
Luckily, I have a secret weapon in my cleaning cabinet that will make them disappear in no time.
Success! Battlefield after Sweet Bait ambush
STEP 1: IDENTIFYING ANTS
Though the methods below should take care of your ant problem, it makes sense to try to identify ants first. For example, the sweet bait remedy may not work across the board.
Keep in mind that borax & boric acid can damage your soil and plants so another strategy is required.
So before we get to make this wonder, here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have indoor or outdoor ants? Indoor ants are usually more receptive to boric acid, borax, and baits.
- You may not be able to kill all of your outdoor ants, but you should be able to keep them out of your house and garden.
- A separate category are termites: They are dangerous! (Trust me. I know by experience.) If you suspect you have an infestation, call an exterminator ASAP. Scroll all the way down to see a pic.
Are you IN? Get your arsenal ready!
As far as indoor ants goes, some have a sweet tooth while others are more likely to seek out fats and grease. To test their preference, you can dissolve sugar in water, use jelly or honey—for ants that like it sweet—or use peanut butter or regular butter for those that are attracted to fat.
Before you settle on your recipe and want to experiment, mix 1/2-1 TEASPOON of boric acid with 1 CUP of a couple of different foods (sugary water or peanut butter) to find out which one draws the most ants.
TIP: Or to keep it easy, and just GO TO STEP 2 to make this easy DYI sweet bait! It should work for most indoor ants.
CAUTION: Boric Acid is an effective ant (and roach killer) but it’s more toxic that Borax. If you have pets or young kids you need to leave your baits out of their reach.
Let's make a sweet bait to treat your ants!
STEP 2: TREATING INDOOR ANTS
Turns out boric acid ant killers aren't effective against all species of ant. They work best against ants that are a nuisance in your home, such as the Argentine ant, the Pharoah ant and the Odorous House ant.
These ants are small and usually black or reddish-black, often called sugar ants. The two indoor ants you should be most concerned about are Odorous House Ants and Carpenter Ants. A little more on each below:
Odorous House Ants are medium-sized ants, approximately 1/8 inch long. They are uniform brown to black in color. They can be identified by the rotten coconut odor they release when crushed.
Carpenter Ants are large, ranging in size from 1/2 to 1 inch long. They range in color from yellow to black, although the most common species are dark.
Ok. So we know that most indoor ants like either sugar or grease.
Time to make this sweet treat!
Water, sugar, and borax is all you need!
STEP 3: MAKING A SWEET BAIT FOR INDOOR ANTS
INGREDIENTS:
- 1-2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons borax
- Cotton balls, paper towel, or empty jar lids
Grab your water, add 1/2 sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of borax.
TIP: You could use boric acid instead of borax, but I prefer Borax because is non toxic. (More on that at the end.)
Mix well.
Don’t forget to label!
STEP 4: LABELING YOUR CONCOCTION
Now that you've finished your handy concoction, it’s time to label it!
Grab a pen and tape, and write the ingredients and proportions.
TIP: Don’t forget to add the date and a name. Something descriptive is best, so everyone in the household knows its purpose.
Get your cotton balls or towels ready!
STEP 5: SETTING THE BAITS FOR INDOOR ANTS
Soak the cotton balls or paper towels and place them in shallow dishes near ant trails. You can also use empty jar lids to hold your sweet bait, or just the balls by themselves.
TIP: Resist the urge to kill all the ants you see! You want them to do the job for you by taking the bait to their nest.
A NOTE ON PREVENTION:
To protect your home from future infestations, replace damaged structural wood, repair water leaks and make sure ventilation is adequate to keep structural wood in your home dry and sound.
Keep your yard free of decaying wood and trim plants back at least 1 foot away from your home. Seal cracks and crevices in exterior walls to keep ants from entering your home.
Diatomaceous Earth to the Rescue!
STEP 6: A SIMPLE REMEDY FOR OUTDOOR ANTS
Ants that normally stay outdoors, such as harvester ants or fire ants, may not be as receptive to borax ant baits.
CAUTION: AVOID USING BORAX / BORIC ACID in the plants or soil. Excess boron --- and it takes very little to be an excess -- will permanently damage your soil and plants don't grow.
But, here’s something that will work: DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE)
DE is a naturally occurring soft, crumbly, porous siliceous sedimentary deposit formed from the fossil remains of diatoms. It is crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder.
It is non-toxic and safe in gardens and flowers.
And, not only does it work with ants, but also many other insects – both IN and OUT the home. (More on DE on an upcoming post.)
Diatomaceous earth works differently from other pesticides by using a mechanical reaction rather than a chemical one. It works by absorbing moisture from their exoskeletons so when ants come into contact with DE they begin to dehydrate.
This will not only kill insects, but help prevent future infestations as well.
There are many places where you can buy DE: from a swimming pool supplier (it’s also used as a filter aid), to your home garden center (Home Depot), to your health food store (if you’re looking for food grade) and of course online, including Amazon.
Let’s take care of your outdoor ants!
STEP 7: APPLYING DIATOMACEOUS EARTH
You can sprinkle it outdoors, in areas where you want ants gone. Use a flour sifter to lightly dust larger problem areas.
You can also put a pinch close to nest or ant trails, or around the house in areas you want to protect.
TIP: DE will ONLY work when it's dry. You’ll need to reapply after it rains or periodically, if the area gets wet.
TAKING CARE OF AN ANTS NEST:
I haven’t tried this method—luckily I never needed to! But I thought it was worth it to include here:
To target a nest, you need to open it and eliminate the queen. Use a shovel to open it and get to the tunnels as well. Then apply a good amount of DE to the area, including the area within 1-foot radius.
Making a barrier is easy!
STEP 8: USE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH or BORIC ACID AS BARRIERS
You can also use DE to make a “barrier” around the areas of your house you want to protect—like doors or windowsills—or areas you noticed ants coming in.
Put your gloves on to apply a little powder right there and in other susceptible areas or entrance points.
TIP: Boric Acid will also work but it is more toxic.
Diatomaceous earth is a safer way to prevent ants from coming in, or eliminate them if you already have them.
Wait! There’s more
STEP 9: Other OUTDOOR/INDOOR REMEDIES
Although I haven’t tried any of these, except for the borax or boric acid, I thought it would be interesting to add them to the list.
If you have any experience, please share.
Sprinkle powdered red chill pepper, paprika, dried peppermint, borax or boric acid where the ants are entering, to prevent them from doing so.
Apparently, ants can also controlled with boiling hot water to kill the queens. (See STEP 7 to learn how to use DE to target an ants nest.)
Finally, you can using citrus oils like orange oil, chopped garlic, canola oil, and liquid soap like Murphy Oil soap to create barriers.
Won the battle but the war is not over yet!
WANTED TO SHARE MY ANTS EXPERIENCE WITH YOU HERE.
Since—luckily—I couldn’t find any indoor ants to test the borax & sugar bait, I decided to take it out and give it a try.
After closely examining the storm door, I realized there were small red ants outside—the same kind that are common indoors—around the step. Sure enough, I could see a few small holes, the entrance to their nests.
First I made a barrier with DE. Next I applied boric acid around the holes. Finally I set up a few baits along their trails, both as cotton/paper balls and as a jar lid.
Ants gathered around the baits in no time, but didn’t care much about the lid—perhaps because it wasn’t as accessible?
NOTE TO SELF: Forget about the lids! Use cotton or paper baits next time.
The next morning there were a bunch of casualties so I changed the baits and added more to secure my positions ;-)
The war is not over yet!
I’ll continue to monitor results within coming days, but I’m glad to report my sweet arsenal is working.
Remember: Borax is safer than Boric Acid!
A WORD ON BORAX and BORIC ACID
BORAX is a naturally occurring mineral, soluble in water generally used as a cleaning agent and laundry detergent. It can deodorize, inhibit the growth of mildew and mold, boost the cleaning power of soap or detergent, remove stains, and can be used with attractants such as sugar to kill cockroaches and ants.
BORIC ACID is toxic, it is a pesticide, it is an insecticide, and it can cause serious illness to pets and children if they ingest it. It is a common active ingredient in many pesticide bait formulations and in some dust formulations. It is also used in cosmetics.
Both can cause irritation (sometimes severe) if direct contact with eyes and skin occurs. Among the two, boric acid is an insecticide and therefore more “toxic” than borax.
I’d say—used with caution—they’re much safer than most commercial pesticides out there, specially borax and, of course, diatomaceous earth.
IS IT A TERMITE or an ANT? HOW TO TELL 'EM APART
Yes, termites—specially the winged reproductive—can be confused with flying ants. They're not the same! Take a look at the graphic and notice the differences.
Termite soldiers have big heads and mandibles. (Guess what's that for!)
If you suspect you have an infestation, don’t try to “take care” of them by yourself. If you've seen the swarmers in your home around spring time, you likely have a nest. You’ll need professional help to get to the queen and eliminate the colony.
If swarmers are outdoors, passing by, they may be looking for a suitable nest.
In any case it's a good idea to keep your eyes open and check with an expert.

Suggested materials:

  • Borax  (Supermarket, Drugstore, Online)
  • Boric Acid  (Supermarket, Drugstore, Home Center)
  • Sugar  (Supermarket)
See all materials

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 9 questions
  • Sandra
    on May 21, 2018

    I live in Australia and we have what’s called ‘Midges or sand flies’ they are so tiny, one can’t even see them, they apparently look like a tiny fly and are disgusting little pests as they wee on you and they bite. The bite leaves a really bad itch which can last up to 3 weeks.

    I react badly to the bites so I’m hoping someone may have a suggestion to get rid of the stinky little pests????

    • Cesley
      on Jun 11, 2019

      I also use fresh, NOT used, dryer sheets for prevention and alcohol or pure undiluted witch hazel liquid (which I prefer), after if I do forget my dryer sheet. There's also an OTC itch stopper called AFTERBITE, it looks like a long thin chapstick tube and most grocery stores carry it, Amazon may even carry it. My son and I react so severely to most insect bites that we have Epi-pens but there will still be a bite so I've tried everything. The witch hazel and Afterbite work best for us when it's not swollen to the size of a baseball. Good luck with those pests!!!!

  • PamPam
    on Jun 3, 2019

    Any home remedy for getting rid of roaches in Florida?

    • Cesley
      on Jun 11, 2019

      Do you mean what people call PALMETTO BUGS that are truly just huge flying cockroaches that can carry off small children and dogs or actual german cockroaches? I use wasp and hornet spray on the " palmettos" because I only get 1 or 2 single bugs per year, THANKFULLY! But it works great because it has a far reaching stream so you can stand 6' away and get them trying to fly at you and it kills them great! Boric acid will work for the little German ones that actually invade your house.

  • Cesley
    on Jun 11, 2019

    I've used them separately but do you think it would work to mix the Borax recipe and Diatomaceous earth on my entrances for both the sugar and the tiny fire ants, to keep them BOTH out of my house? I live in south Florida and those tiny fire ants are horrible jerks with a tremendously powerful and painful bite that love my house too!

Join the conversation

2 of 53 comments
  • Deneen
    on Jun 10, 2019

    Yes it was really good information. I have also used grits where they travel or cormeal also depends on the size. Yet I know borax is natural to use anywhere pets and carpet..I wonder if you can dilute it in water to spray over furniture?

  • Eva Kisocama
    on Jun 11, 2019

    I like to use food grade diatomaceous earth. It's very fine & won't harm kids or pets.

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