What can be done about ants in the house?


There are various insecticides that will eliminate ants. Chlorpyrifos is probably the most effective and is available in a number of commercial versions containing 0.5% of the active ingredient. This is also commonly used by professional exterminators who may have to drill holes in walls and spray in a mixture of chlorpyrifos and boric acid. Diazinon also works well in sprays at a concentration of around 12.5%. If the infestation is localized, ant traps with 0.125% chlordecone will work. If an anthill is found, hot vinegar can be poured over it.

There are various “home remedies” for ants as well. A mixture of borax and sugar placed around baseboards works. Some people claim that powdered Crayola chalk (calcium carbonate and water washed clay) can be put down and ants will not cross the line. Ant traps can be made by mixing a quarter cup of sugar, a quarter cup of baking yeast and a half cup of molasses and smearing this goop in a thin layer on index cards. The cards are then placed syrup side up where ants travel.

To keep the ants from showing up in the first place you can boil 2 tablespoons of sassafras leaves and 2 cups of water for five minutes and strain the mixture. Then paint where you have seen ants enter. Moldy lemons also repel ants as do bay leaves. But perhaps the best repellent is cloves. If all of this fails, just sit back and watch the ants. They are amazing little creatures and really don’t do anybody any harm. They admittedly do like to scurry around everywhere, but that’s understandable. As Ogden Nash said: “Would you be calm and placid, if you were filled with formic acid?”

Joe Schwarcz

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