My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The next verse to the song is harrah, hurray, only not in this house.  I hate ants.  Nothing like sitting down to have an Almond Poppy Seed Muffin and realize those little spots are moving and they aren't poppy seeds at all, but ants that have gotten into your muffin container.  YECH!

A facebook friend asked me today what we do about ants here in our frugal household.  My first reaction was to give her to the link for my ant control blog post of the past.  Only guess what, there wasn't one!  I found one on making fly and wasp traps, and another on controlling fleas and ticks in your pets and treating the resulting hot spots.  But nothing on ants.  How did I not have a post on that already? So here it is,

Everyone has a remedy that someone in their family has used at one time or another. I know my granny, the one that inspired this entire blog, used a thin line of what she called "Red Oil" on the window sills where they came into the house.  "Red Oil" was actually Old English Oil Furniture Polish, the red one.

An aunt would spread a line of salt at doors, window sills and such.  By the way on the subject of salt, it's good on your carpet and furniture to kill fleas and scorpions, it will also kill slugs, but don't salt your garden soil too heavily.

Want a citrus smell in your home, spread finely chopped lemon zest along the ant trails.  However, if you have house cats I would steer away from this one as citrus oil can be harmful to cats. A friend who had no house pets used this one on a regular basis.

An uncle many, many years ago would pour kerosene on ant hills and set it a fire.  Do not do this!!!! It not only is very dangerous, but it is very bad for the ground around it too.

Ants are drawn to a food and water source, so eliminating those will help greatly.  Put leftovers up quickly in air tight containers to deter most " ants, but not all containers seal as tightly as needed to keep the little stinkers out.

I wash my cabinets down with Dr. Bonner's Eucalyptus scented soap mixed in a 1 soap to 10 water ratio.  I keep it in a spray bottle for cleaning daily.  This not only helps control ants, but fruit flies as well.

Not a fan of eucalyptus?  Citrus, (again the warning on cats), lavender, tea tree, or peppermint.  No Dr. Bonners, but you have these scents as an essential oil then mix that roughly 1 tablespoon with a spray bottle full of oil. Witch Hazel mixed in the same ratio is also does well, as will a similar ratio of dish soap and water in a spray bottle.

Fans of vinegar will tell you to use it either straight, or 50/50 with water in either white or apple cider form. Mom did this one.

Food items in your kitchen such as mint, cinnamon, pepper (both black or red), sage, whole cloves (Oranges pierced with the whole cloves is a very good scent and good to deter ants), whole bay leaves and strangely enough cucumber peels all deter ants entering.

Planting in your garden and near you home mints, sage, tansy, and lavender helps keep the pesky things from even trying to enter.

You know how people tell you to make certain all your windows are well caulked to help conserve energy, well it also helps keep out ants, which will help you conserve your personal energy on getting rid of them.

These "remedies" will help keep them out of the house, however if you want to destroy the nests you may want to try these mixtures.

For "sugar" type ants my personal favorite is to mix enough borax (yep that 20 Mule Team stuff sold on the detergent aisle) with honey to form a thick paste.  I put it in bottle caps in our old camper which had ants nesting in the walls after over a year of the camper not being used.  You could also put it on even just a piece of paper or on a paper plate, or any container that will tempt the ants into it.  The idea is to put just enough borax in with the honey for them to gather it and take it back to their nests where all will consume of it and kill the entire nest (s).  Yes, nests.  Ants are smart critters and will try to divide and conquer and set up several new nests, so if using a bait you need to keep baiting for a few weeks so you get them all.

If honey isn't available you can use jam, jelly, syrup, molasses or a simple syrup made with sugar instead of the honey.  I often use honey that has crystallized.

Less sticky, but equally as good is 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of borax (also known as Boric Acid)

You do need to change these baits regularly to  keep them carrying enough borax home.

Not all ants are sugar ants, some prefer protein, so mix peanut butter, or bacon grease with your borax.

If you are using these baits don't be overly diligent about using the above cleaners on your cabinets because you want the ants to take the bait home and if you wash their trails away they won't be able to find their way home

If you see the ants are not taking the bait (either sugar of protein), cut back on the amount of borax you are using in the mixture.  If the ants don't seem to be thinning out any add more borax.


If you have house pets or children then place the bait in a recycled jar or plastic container you have poked holes in the lid to help keep the bait from being easily accessible to them.

If you prefer not to use borax because of the possible harm to pets or children you can also make a sugar ant bait of  2 tablespoons of molasses, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon of yeast.

If you know where the ant hills are you can kill the ants at their source by pouring a tea kettle full of boiling water followed by full strength white vinegar on the hill. You can also mix salt heavily in the boiling water and use that instead of the vinegar.  Warning these two can damage grass and garden plants, so you may want to use 1/4 c of a mild dish soap like blue Dawn mixed with a gallon of boiling water instead.

Ants can stay submerged and survive for long periods, so the water needs to be boiling to be effective.  It is best to do the boiling water remedies for three days straight to insure you get the colony.

One of my favorite go to remedies for all sorts of pests is food grade DE (Diatomaceous Earth) I use it both inside and out, and have even put it on my pets directly.

There are many, more "home" remedies including things like grits, but these are the ones I mainly use.

One final suggestion, if ants in your pets food bowl is a problem, place the bowl in a dish or pan that has water with a little dish soap in it that will create a repellent barrier for the ants, but not where the pets can drink it (most dish soaps aren't harmful to pets in small amounts, but could cause bowel issues).

While ants do have a definite use in nature's grand scheme of things I don't think they need my muffins, or yours.  Let's keep the little guys "marching, around into the ground, to get out of the rain, hurrah, hurray."

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