Okay, I managed to solve this almost as soon as it happened at our place, but I think the solution will be of interest to many.
I had just come home from the hospital, and was horrified to realize that the milk so nutrition filled for my baby attracted ants, and the infant always smelled of milk, even if I wiped him. And honestly, I rarely found the energy to wash his face and wipe him after night feedings, which initially were like three times every night. While we didn’t have ants in the bedroom, we did have them in the living room and kitchen.
Every time Nisarga cried, I would think the ants are biting the baby. I would strip him to check if there was an ant on him. While I never found a bite on him, I did find an ant or two quite a few times. I became so obsessed with this, that I would wake up several times in the night to check before he cried, and all the day and surround his bed with the insect stick lines to keep them out.
With a mother in law obsessed with religious ritual, which meant much of the food related part of the kitchen was out of reach for us, and with her poor eyesight and even lesser energy for waging the war it would take, our house was a virtual ant sanctuary. Often, her picking him up would give him an ant or two, since she was always in the kitchen. There was no way I could sensitively say don’t pick up your grandchild, and there was no way to expect her to find every ant on her body, when she couldn’t really see them. I found myself reluctant to take the baby out of the bedroom at all.
Initially, I called up PCI and got them to do the house. The man admitted then and there that while these ants would die, they are persistent and would return in other ways later and that we would have to keep calling them to get rid of them each time.
Unacceptable. With that crucial relief from ants, even if it was temporary, I set off in search of a better solution. I didn’t want to go for chemical solutions with a baby in the house, who would soon begin crawling and putting stuff in his mouth.
I didn’t want to wait for ants to build to critical limits before doing something for them, and it didn’t make sense to keep spraying all the time. Now what. I searched online and found information about boric acid bait and tried it. It took a lot of experimenting, but it worked.
I didn’t even bother with repelling ants, since it was quite clear that they would simply find another way to get in. So if you want the mumbo jumbo advice like cinnamon, pepper, vinegar and what not, this may not be so useful. Though vinegar (or soap water and other similar stuff) can help in the setting limits stage of preparations.
Here are steps you can easily follow:
The Preparation Stage
- Cleanliness: You think its clean, but its not. Really, look at parts of your cooking stove you don’t normally look, near the fridge, that time you ate chips on the sofa…… CLEAN!!!
- Set limits: Use simple insect chalk – laxman rekha variety everywhere food is accessible. On the shelf around the base of your sugar tin, around the base of the utensils of the lunch you have prepared and kept ready or left over food, store food stuff in airtight containers or plastic sip lock bags. What you are doing is ensuring that ants will not find food in your home. Spraying vinegar on areas with food you don’t want ants accessing works well too, but you really have to do it often.
- Block invitations: If you can find the places the ants are entering your home, treat them. Fill holes and cracks, spray vinegar….
- Feed ’em: Now that you have removed food sources, put out delicious bait for them. Instructions below
Effective boric acid ant bait
An inexpensive, non-toxic (the quantities we use it in) and very effective ant bait is boric acid (yep, that carom board powder) mixed with something that attracts the ants. The idea is for the ants to really feast on it, pack it home, and feed everybody there. These are the guys that regular pest control doesn’t touch, and they keep on mass producing the disposable workers that we see who get killed in the pest control. Boric powder is a slow acting poison, so the ants live to take it back to feed everyone, and as they get on a diet of this bait, the whole colony dies.
The trick is in what will attract them. Here are some tips from my experimenting:
- Sugar water is widely recommended. It works, but usually, the solution we create is not concentrated enough. Think water being only half the volume of sugar and you’ve got it right. Dissolving happens faster if you simply cook the whole thing.
- Milk works well too. Just mix with enough boric acid to make a paste.
- Eggs are superb if you are okay with them in your house. Just scramble them really watery and they are an ant magnet. The ants will finish every bit of the egg you put out for them.
- Peanut butter
- Bread soaked in milk, sugar water or honey laced with plenty of boric powder.
The list can be endless. My most favourite were the eggs and sugar water (once I learned to make it right). Basically, you can use absolutely anything that the ants are eating. In fact, a good way is if you find ants infesting anything, not to destroy them, but contaminate it with the powder, and let the feast continue.
Where to bait
Three kinds of places, really, but they can keep changing:
- Next to any entry point you find. Ants in the home rarely have accessible nests, but you can see them coming out of a crack or hole, etc. Plug that hole, and put bait next to it. Returning ants will find it, and get home through an alternate route. In the meanwhile, you have blocked one entry. This will work even if you don’t plug the hole, and they can carry it straight home.
- Next to an ant line. Ants travel in lines once they find a food source. Place your bait next to it, and they will swarm all over it in seconds. If you can find the food they are getting to and destroy that source, even better.
- On surfaces where there are scouts. This may even mean your kitchen table or cooking platform. The boric acid bait is relatively harmless for non-insects like you and me and the kitchen surfaces are always hot spots for scouts. Finish cooking/eating, clean up the surface and place your bait on it and scouts will find it. Scouts are single ants travelling seemingly meaninglessly. They are searching for food sources. We offer them our bait as one. Check out their behaviour. They will travel randomly, find food and head straight home most of the time. Then, you will see ants heading for your bait and within minutes, you will have a full fledged ant-line leading to your bait and hogging and packing it away.
How much Boric Acid to use
This depends on the quantity of food material you are putting out. I’d say a teaspoon of boric powder to a tablespoon of bait works. If you find ants feasting for over a day with no seeming change in numbers, increase the amount of powder. If you find the area littered with dead ants, decrease the powder, because then they are dying without getting home. Some people say too much boric powder can repel them. I haven’t experienced this, but if it happens, use egg for baiting. I haven’t seen an ant that will not eat egg bait and egg has enough of a “delicious” smell of its own to mask any boric acid odor (it doesn’t really have a smell) and tempt the most suspicious ant.
- No ants are coming to my bait: You go to them, don’t feel shy! Read above “Where to place your ant bait”. If you can’t find the ants to do that, your ants may have perished. We shall mourn their sad demise. This is rather fun.
- My ants aren’t eating my bait: Switch baits. If you are using sugar water, make sure it is concentrated enough. Look at what type of food the ants are eating (sugary, protein, oily, starchy…) and use that. Better still, use the food the ants already attacked. You were going to throw it anyway, right? If its already infested, you can simply sprinkle the powder liberally on it without disturbing the ants. Get around to mixing it when they slow or if they avoid.
- My ants are thriving: Increase the ratio of boric acid to food stuff in your bait.
- My ant bait is not working and if I put any more boric acid, they die right there. I’m sorry to say, its likely that you are killing the ones you have and getting reinfected. Has never happened to me, but I’ve heard it can happen if the area around your home has large ant populations. Its extremely unlikely in cities and appartments, though if you are on the ground floor, it still might happen. Go right back to the preparation stage and block entry points for ants into your home. Draw insect chalk lines on the outside of doors and windows and even better, spray the outside walls of your home with insect poison.
We are overjoyed to announce that our ant sanctuary has closed down and ants are now an endangered species in our home.
You don’t have to do the obsessive preparation stage all the time. They are a boost for quick results if you have a lot of ants, or are a panicked mother like I was. General cleanliness should mostly be enough along with using insect chalk to prevent if you do spot ants getting to food.
Also, quick results will not be like a pesticide spray – instant. It can take up to a week for the ants to go away. Longer if your house is badly infected. If your house is really badly infectd , it might be a good idea to use vinegar spray first to get some breathing space while you use your bait in non-sprayed areas. Obviously bait will not work if you’ve got vinegar sprayed around it and the ants can’t get to it.
Gross as it may sound to one reading it, it is quite exciting when you get around to doing it. I have spent hours fascinated watching the behaviour of the ants while I did this. They really are quite intelligent, and I quite respect how efficient they are. However, I had this motherly joy in me as I saw them systematically destroyed.
So, what about you? How did you deal with your ants? Did you use any of these ideas? How did it work for you? Is there a problem you encountered that just will not get solved? Tell me, I would just like to hear all about it.
No one messes with my baby, not even an army of ants!