Ants are a common problem in homes and buildings across the country. They sneak in through tiny holes and invade with the force of a miniature army. Combating them can seem like a never-ending problem. Finding natural methods to repel ants may not keep your home ant-free, but it will lessen the chances of an ant invasion. Keep in mind that a variety of species of ants are known to enter homes and what works against one may not work against another. You may need to do some experimenting before finding a method that works.
Cleanliness and Blocking
Cleanliness is the one method that will work against all types of ants because it is eliminating any sources of food and water. This includes storing food and trash in secure containers, cleaning all kitchen surfaces and vacuuming daily. Place a barrier around plants, pet food bowls and other items that might attract ants. Barriers can be formed using sticky substances like double-sided tape or by placing a soapy water moat around the item. Use caulk to seal any cracks that might allow ants entry into your home. You should also fix any leaks and replace wet or rotten wood to eliminate sources of water for the ants.
A number of items are believed to prevent ants from entering your home when they are placed at or near the ants' entry point or where the ants are most active. Most of these substances are very aromatic and it is believed that they disrupt an ant's ability to smell and locate food. The list includes cinnamon sticks, garlic cloves, coffee grounds, mint tea bags, crushed mint leaves, cloves, black pepper, bitter cucumber slices, bay leaves, and cayenne pepper. When using garlic cloves, you will need to peel the cloves first and replace them after a day or two. Liquids like citrus oil, pine oil or lemon juice will also work when placed on a cotton ball. Ants will not cross lines of chalk on the ground.
A number of house plants work as natural ant repellents when grown. Like the natural barriers, these plants tend to be more aromatic which may be what keeps ants away from them. According to Nicole Faires, author of "Deliberate Life: The Ultimate Homesteading Guide," catnip, mint, tansy and pennyroyal will deter ants from an area. You can also try chilli peppers, lavender, basil, garlic, tansy and eucalyptus.
Ant Trail Disruptors
Some species of ants leave scent trails that help guide other ants in their colony to sources of food and water. Disrupting this trail will sometimes keep ants from returning to your home. Entomologists Jeffrey Hahn and Phillip Pellitteri recommend using a mild solution of vinegar and water to disrupt the ant trail. Unfortunately, according to Texas A&M entomologists Bastiaan M. Drees and Bil Summerlin, spraying ant trails can sometimes make the problem worse. When used against Pharaoh ants, for example, the colonies will divide and make the problem worse.
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- University of Minnesota Extension; What to Do About Household Ants; Jeffrey Hahn and Phillip Pellitteri
- Texas Agricultural Extension Service; House-Infesting Ants and Their Management; Bastiaan M. Drees and Bil Summerlin
- Eartheasy: Natural Insect Control
- Gomestic; Six Natural Ant Repellents; Josie Schmidt; August 2007
- Small Notebook for a Simple Home; 5 Simple, Natural Ant Control Remedies; April 2010
- "Deliberate Life: The Ultimate Homesteading Guide"; Nicole Faires; 1998