Every so often, my kitchen gets a trail of ants in it. No matter how much I try to keep it clean, they seem to reappear, especially when it rains. During dry times, I don’t see them much. We had a big rain storm this week, so now I have the task of getting rid of these pests.
I have read on the internet, and particularly on Pinterest, about all sorts of Home made ant killer recipes. Some say to use honey, some sugar, some confectioner’s sugar and some peanut butter. Some say to water them down, some don’t. Most say to use Borax.
And of course, I have tried the gel that you can buy at Home Improvement stores which is pricey to say the least. Finally, I decided to see what works for me and what doesn’t.
Do you have a problem with ants? If you do, I’m sure the first thing you think is to call the exterminator or see what is available for poisons to get rid of them. But wait! Before you do that, save yourself some time and trouble, and the chemicals by reading my experiences.
Store bought Terro Ant Killer Liquid
My first course of treatment was the conventional Terro ant gel sold at hardware stores and at Amazon.com. (affiliate link) I tried a different variety of it in Australia and it worked beautifully.
But every brand that I have tried here in the US gave me so so results at best. Terro was the one most mentioned as effective so I tried it. Surprisingly, Terro has borax as a main ingredient too. Terro was pretty good for attracting the ants but needed replacing daily so it is most expensive.
At this point I decided to try home made ant killer remedies. Reading about all the remedies on the internet showed me one thing clearly. The main ingredient for all the home made versions of the ant killer is Borax, as in 20 Mule Team Borax which can be found in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets, or if you cannot find it, you can Buy Borax on Amazon here. (affiliate link) Although Borax was used in each remedy, it was used differently in each idea.
Borax and Honey Mixture
The first home made recipe I tried was a combination of borax, honey, and water. A friend with a wonderful gardening blog, called Tending My Garden, swears by the recipe. It was made with 1/2 cup of honey, 1/4 cup of Borax and 2 tbsp of boiling water. It made a gel which reminded me of my Australian concoction and I thought Eureka!
To be honest, I’m not sure I gave it long enough, but there were literally HUNDREDS of ants nearby and other than one or two ants they ignored it totally. (several hours of testing – at least 5 or more) I decided that I had too much Borax in the mix and have read that they will not eat it if it is too strong, so I added more honey but they still had no interest in it. I saved the mixture to test it against the other remedies in a longer test.
At this point I was totally frustrated with the whole idea and my waste of a day and had the heebie jeebies from all the ants on my counters. But I remembered reading that white vinegar is good for cleaning up after ants. “At least I will get the kitchen clean for a while” I thought. (patience is not a virtue of mine as you can see.) I had no white vinegar but did have a big jar of apple cider vinegar. I made a mix of 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water, put it in a spray bottle, and went to work.
I scrubbed all the counters, the sink, appliances – even my spice jars. There is not an ant in sight right now but cleaning just removes the ant trail. They’ll be back. Of that I have no doubt. Oh…and my kitchen smells like a salad now, which is not so bad, I guess. (and I have a nice big jar of apple cider vinegar which I have discovered makes a great, and inexpensive, cleaner.)
Sugar and Borax Dry
Next on my list was a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and Borax in dry form. I just mixed equal parts of it and place it in a condiment lid to try out tonight in my test. First results showed the ants ignoring the bait completely but this is a strong mixture of borax, so that could be why.
Sugar and Borax Wet
My next attempt was a version of the honey mix. This time I tried granulated sugar, with borax and boiling water. I boiled it for 3 minutes and let it cool. This time it was a weak mix: 1 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp of Borax and 1/2 cup of boiling water. This test gave reasonable results (see below) compared to the Terro and is MUCH cheaper.
Peanut Butter and Borax
Next on my list of remedies was a concoction of equal parts peanut butter and borax mixed into a paste. Now the cook in my hopes this one works, since peanut butter is considered part of the food pyramid to me and I hope the ants will think so too. It is also the easiest remedy to make. I used low fat Jif peanut butter. I just want to kill the ants, not make them fat! This test had so so results but did not need rebaiting as often.
Home made Ant killer test
My test now is to place my four home made mixtures, and the Terro Brand, down on my clean counters near the site of the earlier ant trail side by side. I was also a bit skeptical about the height of the condiment lids (only 1/4″ but the Terro was always put on a flat piece of cardboard.) So I also place five pieces of card with the mixtures on them too. This will give me a chance to see four things:
- Do the ants reappear after the apple cider vinegar cleaning and
- Which of the four home made remedies works best at attracting the ants.
- Does the retail Terro brand work better/worse than the home made baits.
- Does the container make any difference.
I left these dishes down for 48 hours to give them a good test.
One of the most interesting things about this test was the apple cider vinegar results. I got two completely ant free days after wiping down the counters with it. (there were hundreds of ants before I did this.) I knew they would be back but was impressed with the length of time. Just wiping the counters with the spray might be enough to deter ants in general.
But on to the actual results. After 48 hours, the ants returned. Because it had been a full two days, I replace the liquid baits since they had a “skin” over them and I wanted the test to be fair. (The peanut butter and dry baits were fine.) I also added some Terro to see how the home made baits compared to the retail brand. At this stage there were only a few ants, so all five baits are waiting to see which one the ants prefer.
The results of the Test:
The results are in. This is the way my dishes looked after three days and the thorough vinegar cleaning.
- None of the home made remedies were as effective as the Terro Ant Bait
- Remedies in order of effectiveness in attracting the ants were
- Sugar Water and Borax (close second)
- Peanut Butter and Borax
- Honey and Borax
- Confectioner’s Sugar and Borox (dry) – an abysmal failure! It did not attract the ants at all!
- All of the liquid baits (honey, sugar water and Terro) formed a film on the top which required rebaiting each day
- Only the peanut butter and borax in the raised cups had any effect at attracting the ants. All of the flat traps performed better.
- The peanut butter required less replacing of the bait since it did not form a film
- Wiping down the counters with Apple Cider Vinegar and water repelled the ants for about 3 days before they reappeared.
- NOTE: The honey and powdered sugar traps had a larger concentration of borax in the mix than the others. Obviously, the ants are not as attracted to it if there is too much borax.
Winners of the Test:
The winners of the test by a mile were #1 Terro and #2 (close second) Sugar water and Borax. Because of the difference in cost, my choice for the future will be the Sugar water and Borax. Even though it is a bit less effective, it costs so much less and that makes it worth it to me.
None of the baits, including the Terro had fantastic results. After 5 days of testing the baits, the Terro (best at attracting the ants) still had ants feeding on it:
Be prepared – for any of these tests – once the ants find the solutions, more of them will probably show up. However, within a day or so, there will definitely see less ants. Over the course of just a several days, the majority of the ants will be gone (although as stated above, not completely in my exerpience.) Also, your results may vary depending on the type of ant that you have a problem with. For me, it was the tiny black sugar ants.
Ant Killer Outdoor Spray
Now that I have the ants under some reasonable sort of control inside, I am making this mixture that I got from an Australian YouTube video. I plan to spray outside where I see the ant trails on the windows, etc. I hope that it will keep the majority of the ants OUT of the house. For this mixture, I used the following which is a combination of two of the remedies above but more diluted:
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp borax
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 cup of boiling water
Combine the sugar, honey and borax in a cup. Fill the cup with boiling water and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool and add to an old spray bottle.
Use the spray outside where you see the trails to keep ants from coming into the house in the first place.
Why does Borax work to Kill Ants?
The theory is that once eaten by the ants, the borax causes them to have gas build up in their systems. This is not something that an ant can get rid of like a human does. They die from the gas because they cannot expel it. Additionally, and this is the main thing, the borax doesn’t work right away. The ants will take the bait back to their nest and it will be eaten by the other ants as well. Whichever method you use, make sure that you put the bait directly in their path.
Have you tried any of these methods? What was your experience with the ant killer remedies Perhaps you have another, better remedy that works for you. Please leave your comments below.
Thanks to one of our readers, Lou. Here is a YouTube video showing how to make borax/sugar bait traps for use outdoors. This ration is 6:1 (sugar/Borax)
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."