Recently a reader was having difficulty getting rid of fire ants and wanted to know if I had a solution. He said he had tried Diatomaceous Earth red and white, hot water, salt water, and straight vinegar. Nothing seemed to work, and now the fire ants were nesting in their orchard! To hopefully give him an answer, I have researched and have come up with 15 ways to get rid of ants.
So whether you want to get rid of ants in general or fire ants in particular, I have listed 15 ways it can be done.
NOTE: Before you do anything to get rid of ants or fire ants, here’s a note of caution. Be sure to caulk openings in and around your house, especially near the soil level. Protect your home by applying a thick 2 to 3 inch band of diatomaceous earth around your foundation. When you apply this dust, you may want to wear a dust mask and goggles. You wouldn’t want to get this earth in your eyes or in your lungs.
Here are 15 methods one can use to get rid of ants:
Homemade Fruit Tree Spray
In light of what has already been tried, I think the first thing is to save your orchard by spraying your orchard trees with the Homemade Fruit Tree Spray. This spray contains garlic which is supposed to deter insects. Since fruit trees must be sprayed anyway, you can accomplish two if not three tasks when using this spray:
A. first of all, this Homemade Fruit Tree Spray will feed your tree through the leaves. I realize that molasses is included in the recipe and you may be afraid that the molasses would attract the ants, so let me put your mind at ease.
When a tree is sprayed, it absorbs the molasses totally and completely, so there is no molasses residue on the tree.
B. Secondly, spraying your orchard with this homemade fruit tree spray will control smaller flying insects who will get confused by the different smells on the tree. If you can change the smell on the trunk and leaves of the tree, small insects will pass on by.
(For example, flies that attack apples on apple trees are looking for the smell of apples to guide them to the tree. But rather than the apple smell, with this spray your tree smells somewhat garlicky, so the insects usually do not bother with it. They will smell the garlic, but you won’t)
C. Thirdly, if this spray ends up on the fire ant mound, and the fire ants do not like the smell of garlic, then perhaps they will move out on their own. (Just be sure they do not move closer to the house or even in the house. See NOTE above to keep them out of the house). Just be careful when you do this spraying, though. Cover yourself well so that the ants can’t hurt you.
Insect Knockout Salsa
Another good spray is the one used by a Santa Barbara gardener and author Kathleen Yeomans who has a favorite spray called the Insect Knockout Salsa She finds it most helpful for getting rid of ants or any insects bothering her plants.
She said that this homemade salsa which is just a little stronger than the salsa you eat can paralyze any pesky little insects ranging from ants to black widow spiders by knocking them out and/or even killing them.
Another method for getting rid of ants is to use those ant traps which can be bought in hardware stores. These traps contain poison that worker ants can carry back to the queen ant. (I would not suggest this one if you have a dog or a young child.)
Cream Of Wheat
In addition, you can get rid of ants by spreading raw cream of wheat where ants can be found. The rationale is that ants eat the cream of wheat which bloats them and they die.
E. The diatomaceous earth should also work when you want to get rid of ants. However, you have to keep replacing it after rain as it soaks in the ground. You say you have tried Diatomaceous earth…have you applied a 2 to 3 inch band around each nest?
DE is a natural material made from fossilized remains of diatoms. When insects come in contact with DE, it damages and dries the insect’s waxy outer skeleton and it dies of dehydration. (If you use this method to get rid of ants, please reread the note at the beginning of this article.)
Another possibility is to use sticky traps to stop the ants from going up your tree and chewing on your leaves. You don’t exactly get rid of ants with these sticky traps but you do slow them down. You can paint the main stems of your plants/trees with sticky goo such as Stickem or Tangle Trap. The fire ants will either get stuck or won’t even try to cross the barrier.
Using this goo, you would be wise to make a band of at least 2 to 3 inches wide so that the ants cannot find their way around the barrier. Also, be sure to monitor this goo as it can melt and you need to replenish it.
Do you have frogs or toads around your place? I found the best remedy in a garden was a bunch of toads or frogs. They will quickly get rid of ants, for they eat everything from ants to aphids to small insects but don’t bother your garden. The only thing they ask in return is for you to provide them with clean water in a shallow can be hidden in the vegetation somewhere and a place to hide (such as an overturned broken flower pot).
Toads or frogs do not like to be in the open. They work best at night. Now I realize that our ants are not fire ants; however, you can still find out if certain toads which live in your area will do the work of getting rid of fire ants.
Here’s another product you can use to get rid of ants if you don’t need to worry about children or pets. This recipe was given to me by a co-worker whose father was a chemist in a pharmacy during the days when chemists were still around.
This girl hated any insects that crawled, so when our office was suddenly invaded by a whole bunch of earwigs and ants, she just had to get rid of these insects…especially get rid of the ants. So she quickly drove down to a pharmacy and bought a container of borax powder and a can of carnation milk. She then made a paste with a little of the concentrated carnation milk and the borax and spread a thin line of that mixture along the bottom of the four walls. I never saw an earwig or an ant for the rest of the summer.
She said that one could also make a small ball with the mixture and use it under shrubs in the garden. However, if there were dogs or children around, they would quickly grab those balls and possibly put them in their mouths. That would be fatal for both child and dog since borax is extremely acidic.
Another way to use this borax is to mix it with sugar or icing sugar. You must have more sugar than borax. Since the two are mixed, the ants end up picking up both the borax with the sugar and bringing it to the nest thus helping us get rid of ants. It’s easy to make but dangerous for pets and children if they should decide to try eating the sugar too.
A gardener I know used this mixture to get rid of ants who had taken over one of his flower beds. There are no more ants around that flower bed.
Sprinkling black pepper wherever ants are giving you problems may help you get rid of ants because pepper repels ants.
Chili powder around garden beds helps stop ant invasions. The ants can’t stand the potent powder.
Sprinkle ground cinnamon wherever you want to get rid of ants. Ants will not cross a line of cinnamon. (Here’s a solution that smells great too.)
To prevent ants from being able to climb up the trees and reach the fruit, wrap strips of scotch packaging tape inside out around the bottom of the trunk of fruit trees. This method needs monitoring since the tape must be changed when it is dirty with ants or other debris. I have used such a taping method to get rid of ants who wanted to climb up the legs of patio chairs or table.
Another strategy to get rid of ants is to sprinkle baby powder or flour wherever you see them. (I would think that this method would have to be carried out in an out-of-the-way place where no people or animals walk or run through) Ants will not walk through either one.
If you have peppermint soap, mix one tablespoon of this soap with two cups of water in a sixteen ounce trigger-spray bottle and spray on plants to both kill and get rid of ants. (I wonder if real peppermints disintegrated in the water would work?) The biodegradable soap kills ants on contact, and the peppermint drives away future ants.
For those who are not familiar with the hot water treatment used to get rid of fire ants, here’s how you do it.
NOTE: Do not use this method if the mound made by the fire ants is close to a plant as you will burn the roots of the plant
For the job, you will need a large pot that can hold 1 to 2 gallons of water and set it on the stove. If this amount of water is too heavy for you, use a smaller pot with less water.
Then heat that water to 160 to 170 degrees (it does not have to be hotter than 170 degrees.)
Once the water is hot, carefully use pot holders to hold your pot handles so as not to burn yourself, carry the water quietly to the side of the fire ant hill, and set it down as near as possible to the ant hill without raising the alarm.
Then quickly douse the mound with this 1 to 2 gallons of hot water. Be careful not to burn yourself. Since your objective is to kill the queen, DO NOT disturb the colony before pouring the water. Also, avoid doing this job between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm when the queen is most likely to be active.
The next day, when you visit the ant mound, you will notice that the surviving ants have begun building a new home. This means that you must repeat the procedure to get rid of ants in this new home. More than likely you will need to repeat this procedure 3 days in a row. If you don’t see any ant hill near the original spot after one or two applications, look around for a new hidden spot.
Build A Pyramid
For those of you who are creative, you may want to try this method. I understand that if a person puts a pyramid (made of glass, crystal, or cardboard) on top of an ant hill, the ants cannot stand the positive vibrations coming down from the pyramid so they move out of the area. I understand that all smaller crawling insects and even spiders do not like the vibration emanating from a pyramid so stay away from it.