Despite your best efforts cleaning up sugary spills around the house, those little black bugs continue to haunt you. You are now left with the same old dilemma: How do you get rid of these insects in a way that’s safe for both your kids and your pets? You’ve tried the “natural” over-the-counter stuff with middling results, and this time you’re looking for something effective. You’ve heard stories of household items like baking soda and cornmeal killing ants. Well, can baking soda kill ants? From what you’ve heard, this common household product doesn’t just kill ants—it causes them to explode!
Baking soda is a leavening agent. That means it produces air bubbles and air pockets. So, the theory is that if an ant eats the granules, carbon dioxide bubbles will form, and eventually these bubbles will cause the ant to explode from the inside out. Gross, but also very effective if you are desperate for an ant-killer. Unfortunately, there is zero scientific evidence to support this claim.
Another hypothesis is that baking soda will kill ants by altering their pH balance, but evidence for that is also unclear. Moreover, even if either of these methods do work, they seem like they would take out individual ants rather than the whole colony.
Hearing that baking soda has not been found to be effective in controlling ants may lead you to another question: Do other household remedies for ants work, and if they don’t, what does?
Does Cornmeal Kill Ants?
Ants like cornmeal. As a matter of fact, to them, it’s a delicacy.
One popular myth about cornmeal and ant control alleges that ants can’t digest the stuff. According to this misconception, ants feed on the cornmeal, then it progressively builds up within the ant’s digestive tract until it obstructs it and eventually kills the ant. While we wish this powdery substance did the trick, the truth is that it belongs on the same list as baking soda—another ineffective DIY ant control treatment.
Stanford researchers who studied Argentine ant home invasions found that ants enter a home most often after excessive rain events and during droughts. Study participants tried different types of ant control treatment methods, and natural products were found to be the least effective in reducing ant populations. Ants that came in to avoid excessive heat and damp conditions were undeterred by hot pepper, chili oil, vinegar or lemon.
Does Cornstarch Kill Ants?
Just like cornmeal, cornstarch doesn’t actually kill ants.
However, it can function as a physical trap for the ants. To create such a trap, you’ll want to:
- Pour enough cornstarch to cover all the ants that you find in an ant-infested area. The cornstarch attracts the ants to the impacted location.
- Once the ants arrive, simply vacuum them up. If you have a vacuum bag, place it in an outside trash can immediately. If you empty your canister into the trash, instead place the ant-cornstarch mixture into a closeable bag so the ants can’t escape.
You should then wipe off any scented trail that the ants might use to get back to the spot you just vacuumed. To do this:
- Mix a few squirts of dishwashing detergent with water in a bucket.
- Use the soapy mixture to wash that area, including the trail the ants used.
Another option: if the ants are outdoors and on the ground, cover them with cornstarch, then wet it with a bit of water. This will create a cement-like solution that traps the ants.
Does Bleach Kill Ants?
Various studies, including one conducted by researchers at Stanford University, have shown that bleach can indeed be used against ants. While bleach might be effective, toxic ingredients like bleach, particularly in high concentrations, are dangerous for kids and pets, and the runoff can contaminate water. Most homeowners prefer alternatives to harsh chemicals for most home invasions.
While we are talking about the chemical nature of some pest control products, we should also point out that some homeowners use boric acid as a lower-impact treatment method for a variety of pests. We do not recommend the use of boric acid and its sodium salts for do-it-yourself pest control. While boric acid occurs naturally and has a low level of toxicity, the EPA points out that borax can cause eye and skin irritation in humans and blood and metabolism issues in dogs, among other health risks.
So, what should you do? What works?
How To Keep Ants Away
When ants become a nuisance, you’ll want to first determine what species is inside your home to decide upon the best course of treatment. Then, you’ll want to learn how about the nesting habits of that species to establish how to best eliminate the colony. Then, of course, you’ll want to know how to make your home less hospitable for ants going forward.
The two primary reasons ants invade homes is to start a new colony or to find food and water. Some species may form a new colony during swarming season, when new queen ants form new colonies. If you spot winged ants inside, you probably already have a colony inside. Keep in mind that termites and ants look very similar. While winged ants have shorter hind wings, winged termites have wings that are the same shape and size. Ant swarmers have bent antennae, while termite reproductives have hair-like antennae. Another distinguishing feature is that winged termites have a “waist”, while termites have a more tubular shape. Ant colonies are highly mobile, so your home can become infested if a colony moves nesting sites, which can happen if weather is wet, hot or dry, or if there isn’t enough food or water outside.
Worker ants may come inside to bring back food to the colony, which could be located outside. Other ants could then follow, using the first ant’s chemical trail to pinpoint where food and water are available.
The species most likely to invade our homes include the:
- Pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharanonis), also known as “piss ants” or “sugar ants”
- Carpenter ant (Camponotus sp.)
- Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)
- Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis)
- Odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile)
- Rover ant (Brachymyrmex sp.)
Identifying which ant is in your home can be a challenge for the untrained eye. Your best bet for determining what ants have invaded your home is to call in an experienced pest professional to conduct an inspection. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to collect a sample and mail it in an alcohol-filled vial to your local Extension agent.
Whether you have house ants, carpenter ants or another species, you’ll want to remove food sources, close up entry points and destroy the nest to prevent future infestations. Let’s review each of these steps in more detail.
Get Rid Of Ant-Tempting Foods
Remember, the primary reason why ants come to your house is to look for food. Moreover, these insects are drawn to certain foods—especially sugary and fatty foods. The preferred food may vary slightly between species. While the pharoah ant is happy to eat meats, sweets and grease, house ants may also be attracted to dairy products. Carpenter ants eat almost anything, while acrobat ants show a slight preference for meats and sweets.
To make your home less tantalizing for these pests, you’ll want to:
- Keep sugars, syrups, fruits and any other ant-tempting foods in airtight food containers. You can also store many of these foods in the fridge.
- Clean any food spills as soon as they occur.
- Maintain a tidy kitchen, paying extra attention to crumbs, standing water and leaky plumbing, as well as any other possible sources of food and water for the ants.
- Create set “meal times” for your pet and remove the food when the meal is done. Your dog or cat will get used to it eventually and learn to eat everything in one go. Alternatively, create a moat of water with a few drops of dish detergent around pet food bowls to prevent ants from getting to the food.
- Clean outside pet food bowls regularly and put them away from the house.
Once you’ve taken steps to remove food and water sources from inside your home, you’ll want to make sure they can’t get inside in the first place.
Prevent Ant Entry Into Your House
Insects such as ants leave behind a chemical trail that other ants can follow when looking for food and water. That means if you see an ant in your house, it has left a trail telling others how to get in too.
Because of this, you need to destroy this trail and close up any openings that served as a way for these pests to come inside. You can do this by:
- Regularly cleaning the floors and other surfaces in your home.
- Wiping away any trails with soap and water that you come across.
- Sealing off any gaps and entry points that are letting ants into your house and apply treatment products to weep holes.
Once you have taken steps to make it easier for ants to come inside and make it harder for them to find sustenance, you’ll need to remove the source of the infestation: the colony.
Destroy the Nest
The ultimate solution to getting rid of ants is destroying the nest and killing off the entire colony. You are likely to find dozens (or even hundreds) of suggestions, but most don’t really work or are only partially effective. You either kill off a whole colony or watch as it comes back.
Even those that can be effective often still require luck or absolute perfection in the way you apply them. For example, pouring hot water into a nest can technically work, but many anthills are so deep and wide that the hot water doesn’t get through it all. This results in the remaining ants simply moving elsewhere and rebuilding.
Scientifically proven insecticides are often more slow-acting, but long-lasting, because they rely on foraging ants bringing the bait back to other ants in the colony.
ABC Can Resolve Your Ant Problem
Ant problems can be very frustrating, and usually take more time and expertise than the average homeowner has. ABC Home & Commercial Services has been helping Texans just like you for generations, whether the issue is tiny ants in Florida, house ants in Oklahoma or fire ants in Texas. Our experienced pest control professionals can pinpoint the source of your ant problem and identify which species are in your home so that the most effective approach can be implemented. Better yet, we can help you make your property less vulnerable to future infestations.