Manitoba

5 ways to keep ants out of your house this spring

Robert Anderson is an entomologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, he told CBC's Information Radio what you really need to know about the mighty insects.

For ants that survive the Prairie winters, Borax is best and keep track of pet food

No matter how cold Manitoba winters are, the ants never seem to take the hint and leave. (AFP/Getty Images)

Everyone has heard the endless list of home remedies to clear those pesky ants out of your home — but what actually works?

Robert Anderson is an entomologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, he told CBC's Information Radio what you really need to know about the mighty insects. 

1. Borax is the best

Anderson said the most effective do-it-yourself ant killer he's seen – and the one he uses in his own home – uses Borax, a bicarbonate solution commonly used as a laundry detergent. 

Mix Borax with some sugar and make a solution out of a little bit of water, then take that solution and put it in the places around the house that you have seen ants, he advises. 

The sugar attracts the ants as they look for food, while the Borax acts as an abrasive and scratches the ants, which leads to dehydration and death. It is most effective because the ants take the solution back to their nest and kills the other ants as well.

2. They're immune to Prairie winters

No matter how cold it gets here in the Prairies, ant populations persist. Anderson said the ants nest deep enough in the ground through the winter that they are below the frost line. 

Not all of the ants will survive but the queen and some individuals will, which is enough to rebuild the colony. Right now they're on the hunt for food after a long winter. 

"They need to build the colony size and grow that next generation of ants to keep things going into the future. That's why we're seeing so many of them right now," Anderson said Friday. 

3. Carpenters are the worst

It's important to know what kind of ants you have in your house, Anderson said, so figure out what species you have around.

Carpenter ants are one of most widespread species of ants in North America.

"They're also one of the ones to be most concerned about around the house as well because they can get into the structural timbers of the house and actually cause damage," Anderson said. 

They like to nest in soft wood that is decaying from moisture, he said, so if you can find the nest, the most effective way to get rid of them is just to remove the wood they're nesting in. 

4. How to issue eviction notices

Another one of the common species we see in these parts is the field ant, the pests that destroy lawns with the mounds of dirt they nest in.

Anderson said the easiest way to get rid of that particular species, again, is to find the nest. Once you have located the mound, use a product called diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it on the mound.

The powder comes from ground-up sedimentary rock and works similarly to the Borax as an abrasive. Anderson said if you spread the powder over the nest it will either get the ants to find a new home or kill them off entirely. 

5. Fido's sharing his food

People don't always recognize problem areas that are attracting ants into their homes. Pet food can be one of the easiest sources of grease and protein for ants looking for just that. 

Anderson said it is best to keep pet food in sealed plastic containers to keep it out of reach. Other things that should be placed in plastic is food bought in bulk, which could be feeding ants for a long time with no one noticing. 

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