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Natural Remedies for Ants


When it comes to ants, the infamous association connected to their existence generates images of these hearty workers carrying off the food laid out for a picnic in the woods. Ants are common household pests and carry about many fascinating characteristics. The legs of the ant are so strong, they are able to lift 20 times their own body weight and dash rather quickly away with the goods. In order to fit into the order of their community, they possess about 250,000 brain cells. As you look for natural remedies for ants, just be lucky you don’t have to deal with the more than 10, 000 different kinds of ants in the world.

What are Ants?

Belonging to the family Formicidae, ants are considered “eusocial insects,” meaning the species produces sterile members of their community, which are designated specialized duties that aid reproductive members [1]. It is the highly organized colonies and nests of ants that truly reflect this way of insect life. Some colonies consist of millions of ants, which all fit in line with their specific responsibilities. A basic ant colony accommodates female ants (called “workers”), fertile males (known as “drones”), and fertile females (referred to as “queens”). While some colonies focus on one “queen,” other species thrive with two or more.

The job of the queen is to lay eggs that the worker ants keep an eye on. The worker ants are sterile and wear many different hats within the colony, including looking for food and defending the nest from enemies and intruders. The structure of an ant colony is so tidy that there are some workers specially designated to remove waste from the nest to a pile located outside of the colony.

The typical construction of an ant body is comprised of a slender waist with a head showcasing a pair of large, powerful jaws. Antennae are found on the head, which serves as the ant’s sense of touch and smell. The outside of the body is covered in a durable armor-like exoskeleton. Ants possess six legs, each powered by three joints. This enables the ant to reach very high speeds. If a man could run just as fast for his size like the ant, he would be able to reach speeds topping that of a racehorse [2].

Ants are found all over the world with more than 12,000 known species with a higher concentration and variety residing in tropical climates. Almost every location on Earth possesses some sort of ant with the exception of Greenland, Iceland, Antarctica, and the Hawaiian Islands, where no native species are found [3]. Overall, the global ant populations are responsible for a significant amount of individual contributions to eco-systems and natural productivity.

Different Types of Ants

When seeking natural remedies for ants, you’re probably wondering what to expect from the common household ant. The odorous house ant is dark brown to shiny black in color. When not in your home, the ant creates shallow nests in soil under debris, wood, and stones. They are also found in wooded regions, beaches, and even around water pipes and heaters. The typical colony is rather large – with up to 10,000 workers catering many different queens.

The odorous house ant prefers dead and living insects, aphids, and honeydew, and while in the home – will search for something sweet to eat [4]. The ants usually trail along tree branches, sidewalks, baseboards, and the edges of carpets. When you discover a trail and disturb their action, they become quite erratic and scatter about with their abdomens raised in the air. If you crush one, a distinctly strong odor hits the air. Other types of ants that may or may not infiltrate your home include:

a) Carpenter Ant:

A variety of sizes are seen with the household pest known as the carpenter ant, including ¼ to ½ inches long. The ant appears as a black or bi-colored red and black specimen, who seeks out residence in wood, including tree stumps, firewood piles, dead trees, and fence posts. When they attack homes, they search for doorframes, hollow doors, and windows frames, where they then locate sweets to eat. The ants are known to travel in loose trails and typically forage mostly during the late hours of the day or night. When they bore into wood to create their nests, they often cause serious structural damage.

b) Leaf-Cutter Ant:

In the ant world, leaf-cutter ants display an impressive ability in the farming and gardening department. The worker ants possess strong, scissor-shaped jaws that cut away leaves and flowers, which are taken back to the nest. Additional workers chop up the leaf fragments; turn into pulp; and include additives, which later blossom into a fungus that is later used for food. This particular ant is found in the New World tropics.

c) Argentine Ant:

These small pests usually measure about 1/8-inch long and display a dull brown color. The typical diet of an Argentine ant consists of fresh fruit, sweets, and some plant buds. In the household, they will seek out oils and sweets. The colonies form distinct trails that decorate the sidewalk, sides of buildings, tree branches, baseboards, and under the edges of carpets. Some colonies are comprised of millions of ants with multiple queens and numerous sub-colonies. If you crush this particular ant, a musty odor is released.

Signs of an Ant Infestation

While one of the most obvious signs of an ant infestation is viewing a dozen or so parading on your kitchen countertop, there are additional alerts that signify the presence of ants in the home. Since ants are known to travel great distances in search of food, it is suggested to look for other signs before panicking, as you may have noticed a few workers traveling off the beaten path. A few telling signs of an ant infestation include:

a) Sawdust:

Outside of the nest openings of ants, discarded waste is deposited, which often accumulates on the windowsills of homes. While the material looks much like sawdust, it is actually a combination of soil, wood shavings, dead ants, and other insect parts. This substance is known as “frass.”

b) Winged Ant Sightings:

The sight of large ants with wings entering your home from the walls, ceiling, and crawl spaces is a sign of a heavy ant infestation.

c) Swarming Ants:

During the spring, the winged reproductives of the ant community (known as “swarmers”) are often seen in the air or gathering in groups in a yard. To pinpoint an ant infestation, you will notice these kinds of ants trapped in spider webs, settled on window ledges, or clustering about light fixtures.

d) Strange Sounds:

In the walls and woodwork of a home, ants may cause a faint, rustling noise that surfaces when an active ant infestation is present. In regards to the carpenter ant, a clicking sound is heard when they become disturbed. If you suspect a nest behind a wooden part of your home, try tapping on the outside and use a stethoscope to locate any “clicking” noises.

e) Wood Damage:

Some ant species seek out wooden locations to create their colonies. Wooden door frames, windowsills, and baseboards may highlight the presence of ants.

Natural Remedies for Ants

To treat an ant problem, individuals may consider a wide-range of natural formulas and methods over the usual commercial chemical remedies. A few approaches to consider include:

a) Natural Ant Traps:

To create a natural ant trap, combine 1/3 cup of molasses, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and 6 tablespoons of active dry yeast. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until they become smooth in consistency. Using a plastic lid – spread the mixture and place it close to the mouth of an ant hill. In the kitchen, coat a strip of cardboard with the mixture and place along the floor or about the crevices where ants appear most. This is an effective remedy to combat ants of medium to large sizes. In this natural recipe, honey may replace the molasses.

b) Cinnamon:

To keep ants out of the house and/or garden, try sprinkling a bit of ground cinnamon about the base of the house. The remedy is also good for the treatment of ant beds.

c) Concentrated Lemon Juice:

To keep ants away from a garden, sprinkle concentrate lemon juice about the entire space, which is good for repelling ants and other insects around your fruits and vegetables.

d) Powders and Sharp Crystals:

It is a known fact that most ants shy away from lines of powder or sharp crystals. Creating obstacles made of talcum powder, bone meal, chalk, cayenne pepper, and boric acid helps disturb ant trails [5].

e) Boric Acid and Honey:

Combine 1/8 teaspoon of boric acid powder with 1/2 teaspoon of honey to combat sugar ants. Place the mixture in a bottle cap or other small container. It is important to situate this remedy in a location out of the way of children and pets.

f) Boric Acid with Fish Oil or Grease:

To combat grease ants, you should mix ½ teaspoon of fish oil and grease with 1/8 teaspoon of boric acid powder. This remedy should be placed in a soda bottle cap or other small container. After ants are fed, toss away the container.

g) Herbal Plants:

Ants dislike herbal selections, such as spearmint, tansy and pennyroyal. Planting these options by the house helps keep ants away.

h) Sweet Fern:

To combat the appearance of red ants, try planting sweet fern about the home.

i) Herbal Liquid Soap Mixtures:

To produce a simple recipe that repels ants, try adding 8 ounces of mild liquid soap to one ounce each of citronella, cinnamon, rose, pennyroyal, peppermint, and tea oil. Combine all ingredients and add three tablespoons to two cups of water to the mixture. Wherever ants enter the house, spray the concoction. This remedy also makes a great formula to use when washing down kitchen countertops (1/2 tablespoon to two cups of water is suggested).

j) Plant Leaves:

The leaves of pennyroyal, tansy and mint leaves also serve as an effective remedy when scattered on the surfaces that ants frequent. Broken bay leaves are also helpful.

k) Hot Sauce:

Some individuals use hot-flavored item to repel ants. An effective recipe includes 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, 1/4 cup of liquid soap, and 1 teaspoon of spearmint or peppermint flavoring. Combine all ingredients and mix the contents in a spray bottle, paying attention to spraying the places where ants enter into the home.

l) Powdered Cloves or Red Pepper:

Sprinkle powdered cloves or red pepper on the surface where ants are located as an effective repellant. Ants do not like getting these hot items on their feet and antennae, which they rely upon for their sense of touch and smell.

m) Broken Egg Shells:

Placing broken egg shells in pantry shelves helps keep ants away.

Resources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant
[2] http://www.lingolex.com/ants.htm
[3] http://www.hear.org/ants/
[4] http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/ANTKEY/odorous.html
[5] http://www.in-iwla.org/waltonian/summer2002-4.htm

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