How to Get Rid of Ants

Dear Home Ec 101,

We bought our older house six years ago, and knew then that the backyard had a bit of an ant problem.  Fast forward to this year, when I’ve decided that I can’t stand it anymore!

What is a good, non-toxic way to get rid of a majority of ant hills?  So far, we’ve tried the boiling water bit (no good, it just lets them have a bit of a swim), that expanding foam Raid puts out (good, but in one spot, we’d need about ten cans.  Seriously, the ground is spongy from all the ant tunnels.), and pounding the crap out of the hills.  Borax around the foundation keeps them out of the house and I’ve heard that it works on the hills, but how would I keep our dogs and cats out of the borax?


Great Ant Alberta

Heather says:

Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant. .  .

I contacted the author of the question to ensure she was not dealing with fire ants which are an invasive species that cause a lot of problems in the Southeastern US.  If you are dealing with any sort of pest infestation one of the first key steps is identifying the problem.  In the US your county’s extension office is there to help with the problem.  Since our question comes from Canada, I would love to hear from some of our Canadian readers what resources are available to the general public.

Consider trying diatomaceous earth around the mounds.  You must use food or horticultural grade DE and not the grade sold for use with swimming pools.  The pool grade DE is not safe for mammals to inhale, so please check carefully when making your purchase.  In dry weather apply the DE around the mound, certain species of ants must be baited to the DE and it will depend on their general preference whether the bait should be greasy or sweet.

Additionally you can make your own spray that works on many species of ants.  It’s a simple solution made with water, rubbing alcohol, and dish soap.  Simply mix together the ingredients in a 40:40:20 ratio.  This also helps eliminate their chemical trails.

Finally when getting rid of insects be sure you are conscious of your actions and try not to take out too many of the beneficial varieties.  With pest control the standby a little is good so more must be better is rarely a good idea.

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  1. elliebiscuits on July 27, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Great recommendation by Heather to contact your local Extension office. And now Extension has gone virtual – with eXtension. Look for scientific, land grant university research-backed information on fire ants and related species at

    Love your blog!

  2. bridgett on July 12, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Putting talc on their entry points works (put it on their trails — they’ll avoid it because it cuts up their little legs), but also disrupting their scent trails with peppermint oil also works. I’m going to try the water/soap/alcohol mix and see what happens.

  3. Mom of three on July 12, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I had “ants” for several years and tried everything. Finally one day, we realized we had termites (I think some of our ants may have been termites). We paid $1400 to have the house termite proofed (We have concrete porches, your mileage would definitely vary). Haven’t seen an ant sense. Next time we will go the exterminator route. I tried every “safe” method on the planet, and dealt with those buggers for around 5 years. I won’t do it again. If I see an ant, I will be calling my exterminator. I know that may not be the popular earth friendly view, but I don’t care. Once you’d had ants in your bed, you lose all care for the environment outside the house. 🙂

  4. Angela on July 11, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I have had an ant problem in my house this week also…I used straight vingar on the floor…mopping and pouring it on the areas. It worked for a short time, but they came back. I went out and got Terro…I went to there site and the mixture is strong enough to kill the ants but will not hurt animals.

  5. Lesley on July 11, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks for this, but will this work on chiggers? They’re the blight of my yard. I have Sevin, but I don’t want to use it because I don’t want to kill bees (or anything else, really). I’d love something that killed only chiggers, if you know of something.

  6. CanadianCarrie on July 11, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I’m from Alberta too, so this should help me get rid of our ants. I absolutely hate it when I’m sitting on the couch watching tv or internetting and I feel the creepy crawly feeling of an ant on me, ick!

  7. Caanan on July 11, 2008 at 10:34 am

    We’ve had some problems with the ants coming inside and finally found a solution. Terro (a borax solution) comes in little reservoirs that ants can get into but pets cannot, unless they chew on it, I suppose. They’re plastic, so they might be okay to put outside, but I haven’t had to explore that option. I had to go to an actual hardware store to find the orange box. It’s so great not having to worry about ants anymore.

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