Ants are useful insects outside the house as they perform an important
clean-up task at a small scale. They can however get into the house
and become a real problem. North American houses have hollow
walls. If the ants get somehow into the wall through a crack then
they get suddenly access to almost any room in the house.
Ants are really not much interested in our houses. It's too dry
there and if you have an air conditioning then they find it as well a bit too
cold. However ants are constantly looking for food.
The floor under the dinner table or the kitchen
can be a paradise for them especially when you have small children leaving
small amounts of food on the floor.
Ants that come into the house and build nest under the roof are
usually an indication that you have somewhere wet wood. This could
be a small leak in the roof or condensation under the roof. Thus do not
only focus on the ants but investigate the root cause. Ants
don't really like the dry climate in our houses. There is something
wrong with the house if they decide to build a nest there.
Hot summers can give ants a real boost and ants that have nests
very close to the house are likely to pay regular visits to your house. It can
therefore help to kill ants nesting in the direct vicinity (a few feet) of your
home especially near doors. You can easily build your own ant poison
out of food they like and borax powder (sodium tetraborate). Borax is
available in drug stores and pharmacies.
To make such ant poison you just mix some jam, peanut butter or cat food with borax (add 1 table spoon of borax to a cup of food for the bait).
The ants will bring this to into their nest and it will kill the whole
colony within a couple of days (be patient).
Be careful to not poison any other animals, pets or even children!
A good way to build such an ant bait is to use a metal can. Fill it with
a spoon full of the mixture and then squeeze the opening of the can such
that only a small gap remains open.
The can allows ants to walk in and out but bigger animals can not get
to the bait.
Damaged insulation poorly installed insulation or a crack in
the foundation can be enough to provide ants an easy access
to your house. Outside doors with damaged seals under the door
may allow the ants to walk straight in.
It is probably impossible to seal your home completely but
it helps when ants don't use your home as part of the territory
that the scan on a regular basis. To make it more troublesome
for them to get in helps a lot. Therefore seal the gaps and cracks.
Most ant sprays contain Pyrethrins. Those are naturally occurring
toxins from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrins are neurotoxins that attack the nervous systems of all insects.
Pyrethrins kill ants immediately and they avoid areas where you sprayed
pyrethrin on the floor
for several days.
Pyrethrins have no immediate effect on humans
but they are known to damage the nervous system of humans and
animals in the long run.
Another common ant deterrent is Diatomaceous Earth Powder. This is
a powder of fine silicon dioxide that injures insects mechanically
when they get in touch with this powder. Pure food grade Diatomaceous Earth
is supposed to be safe for humans and mammals however the problem are
impurities. It may contain crystalline silica and that may injure your lungs
over time similar to asbestos. What most of those powders do
not say is that any crystalline silica impurities. can cause lung cancer in humans when you breath-in
small amounts of the dust.
79.5% Diatomaceous Earth Powder. It does not say what the rest is.
Even just a few percent of crystalline silica impurities could be a problem.
I am not saying that this particular product contains crystalline silica. I am just saying that this stuff contains over 20% unspecified ingredients and just a few percent of crystalline silica or other mineral impurities would be enough to cause lung damange over time.
Save and natural ant deterrents
There are some good ant deterrents and
they will not damage your nervous system or cause lung cancer.
They are however not as dangerous for insects either. Ants will
try to avoid those substances unless there is some kind of food
on the floor or elsewhere in your house that they have discovered and
they really like that food.
Thus clean cake and bread crumbs from under your children's chairs after
every meal and don't leave candy bags open. I find that ants like especially
some juicy jelly candy. So finish the bag of candy after you have opened it.
If you have a relatively clean house then you can use some of the following
natural deterrents under your patio door to deter ants from "scanning" your
Peppermit oil -- Peppermint essential oil is toxic to ants. If you draw a line with peppermint oil on the floor then they will not cross it. The only problem is that essential oils evaporate and the barrier will disappear after a while.
Peppermint tea -- Ants avoid areas with peppermint tea powder. Just open a peppermint tea bag and distribute the powder near areas where they might come into
the house. The only problem is that peppermint tea is not toxic to ants. They don't like it but they can still walk over it.
Cayenne pepper -- Ants avoid cayenne pepper but it's not toxic for them.
Salt -- Ants will not cross a line of salt on the floor.
Cinnamon powder -- Ants avoid cinnamon powder but it's not toxic for them.
Vinegar -- You can add vinegar to water when moping the floor. Ants don't like the small of vinegar.