Elena K, Hometalk Team
Elena K, Hometalk Team
  • Hometalker
  • Ozone Park, NY

Get Rid of Your Ants With a Sweet DIY Treat

6 Materials
15 Minutes

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
Success! Battlefield after Sweet Bait ambush
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!
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!
Let's make a sweet bait to treat your 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!
Water, sugar, and borax is all you need!
- 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!
Don’t forget to label!
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!
Get your cotton balls or towels ready!
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.
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!
Diatomaceous Earth to the Rescue!
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!
Let’s take care of your outdoor ants!
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.
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!
Making a barrier is easy!
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
Wait! There’s more
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!
Won the battle but the war is not over yet!
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!
Remember: Borax is safer than 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.
quick dyi sweet bait to treat and get rid of your ants, go green, how to, pest control
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

Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • NHn13846589
    on Jul 27, 2017

    How do I do to stop (I think) squirrels from digging up my just planted Avacado plants?

    • Alice Curless
      on Aug 1, 2017

      I placed a plastic owl with a moving head by plants and moved owl every two days. We live with woods all around and lots of squirrels. It works amazingly.
  • Lea1031
    on Jul 27, 2017

    besides calling a professional to treat termites, any home remedy to keep them away ?
  • 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????

    • Sharon Rodgers-Whitehead
      on Mar 13, 2019

      What everyone might be calling no see ums could also be something called gnats or better yet flying biting teeth. When I lived in Georgia I was told to use the Avon skin so soft and it would stop them from biting, I did find however that it did not work for me. The dryer sheet tip helped some by taking the dryer sheet and rubbing it on the exposed skin area. You may want to take and try the other ideas for the no see ums and see if they work for you.

Join the conversation

2 of 48 comments
  • Linda Adela De Hoyos
    on Nov 11, 2018

    Thanks Elena! Very informative information.

  • Ellis
    on Nov 12, 2018

    I learned (to my sorrow), that the reason we had an ant infestation, seeing ants traveling into the wall of the house, was that they were feasting on termites.

    Pest control company told me that when you have a consistent, stubborn ant problem, sometimes it's because they're coming after the termites!

    The moral of the story is to get a licensed inspector in if your ant problem doesn't go away with ordinary methods.

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