Ants are found in nearly every backyard garden in the country. Although you can control ants by buying commercially prepared insecticides, first try whipping up your own homemade insecticide. Boric acid, a naturally occurring element found in soil and rocks, is one of the oldest ingredients used to kill ants. Best of all, compared to other insecticides, it poses the least toxic risk to you and your children. To be truly effective against ants, you must mix the boric acid properly and place it strategically in your backyard.
1. Ant Species Testing
Boric acid must get mixed with a bait substance to attract the ants. Dozens of species of ants exist, and the ones you find crawling in your garden or in your lawn may have unique eating habits. Thankfully, you can place most ant species into two categories: ants that like fatty proteins and ants that like sweet sugars. To quickly test what type of ants you have, dab a little honey or maple syrup on a postcard-sized piece of paper. Then, dab peanut butter on another piece of paper. Place the two sheets of paper in your garden where you notice ant activity and wait for a couple of hours. Revisit the area and note which sheet of paper attracted the most ants.
2. Sugar Ant Mixture
If the sheet of paper with honey or maple syrup attracted the most ants, you're dealing with a species that loves simple sugars. To mix a successful boric acid solution to your ant problem, combine 3 ounces of a thick, sugary substance, such as honey or maple syrup, with 3/4 teaspoon of boric acid. Mix the two ingredients thoroughly until the boric acid powder has dissolved into the sugary substance.
3. Protein Ant Mixture
If you found the most ants on the piece of paper that had peanut butter, the ants you're battling are protein lovers. Combine 3/4 teaspoon of boric acid with 2 ounces of any thick nut butter, such as peanut butter or almond butter. Stir the ingredients together until the boric acid powder has been mixed evenly throughout the nut butter. For the best results, use a smooth-textured nut butter. If you choose a chunky peanut butter filled with nut fragments, mixing the nut butter with the boric acid may pose difficult.
4. Bait Container Construction
If you simply place your boric acid mixture out in the open in your landscape, rain or plant irrigation may wash away your ant insecticide. Even worse, the bait may attract innocent wildlife or a curious child. Instead, smear your boric acid ant bait inside a closed container, such as a rinsed-out yogurt container that has a cover. Punch a few holes in the container's lid to give ants access to the bait inside. This protects the boric acid mixture from the elements, and also shields it from inquisitive children or animals.
5. Boric Acid Mixture Placement
Once you've placed your boric acid mixture in a bait container, lay the container on its side anywhere you see ant activity. For example, put your bait right next to an ant hill without disturbing the actual hill, or place it near an ant trail that you notice running between your plants. The ants will enter the container, gather the bait and carry it back to the ant nest where the boric acid will kill the ants. To obtain the best results, keep the container out of direct sunlight, as the heat can build up inside the container and deter ants from entering.
6. Toxicity Warning
While boric acid is low in toxicity compared to traditional ant control methods, it's still toxic. For children, lethal doses of boric acid ranges from 3 to 6 grams, and 5 to 20 grams for adults, warns the National Pesticide Information Center. Wear gloves when handling boric acid, and keep it out of the reach of pets and children. If you think you or your family has ingested boric acid, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you have questions about boric acid or other common ant insecticides, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378.
- Colorado State University Extension: Ants in the Home
- National Pesticide Information Center: Boric Acid Technical Fact Sheet
- Montana State University Integrated Pest Management Program: Ants in the Yard and Garden
- University of Nebraska Extension: Ant Baits - A Least Toxic Control
- North Carolina State University Department of Entomology: Tips for Effective Ant Baiting
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