Use non-toxic ant traps
1-2 tsp. Boric Acid or Borax
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup Karo Syrup
Mix the Boric Acid or Borax with the hot water (in a jar or other container you can seal well) until the powder dissolves. (Have to admit, I use a plastic spoon for measuring/stirring and throw it away when I'm finished.) Add the Karo Syrup and mix well. Cut 2-4 ant access holes around the lip or lids (try a hole punch - easier than scissors) of the plastic containers that will serve as your ant traps. (I save the little plastic containers with lids that salad dressing or sauces come in from take-out, but you could use larger containers from cottage cheese/sour cream/etc.) Pour some of the bait into your prepared plastic containers, cover with the lids, and place them out of the reach of pets and children, but where the ants will find them. Mark the jar with leftover bait as POISON and store it to use for new traps or to refill the old ones. Because these traps just don't dry out very fast, I've started leaving them in place even after the ants are gone, just in case they come back (like under my sink or behind the kitchen trash can.
I'm no expert, but I think these are important things to keep in mind (and if anybody knows about more up-to-date studies, I'd love to hear about it):
* Boric Acid and Borax are relatively non-toxic (compared with other things, like Arsenic, maybe), but they are still poisonous to plants and animals (see below), so keep the bait in containers away from pets
* Many of us may have Argentine ants now, and they have huge nests or even networks of nests, so eradication takes patience and perserverence.
* Different ants like different foods, so if the ants you have don't go for sweet things, you can try substituting smooth peanut butter for the Karo syrup (haven't tried this myself)
* Boric Acid or Borax ant bait works slowly - it doesn't kill the ants outright, better yet they take it back to the nest where the concentration builds up until the entire nest is killed. However, that can take weeks (or months), depending on what kind of ant and how big the nest is. Here's a good article by the USDA about it:
Different websites tell you to mix up the bait in differing amounts - from 1% to 5% boric acid or Borax. According to the USDA study (above) and others, especially if you have Argentine ants, you want to use only a 1 or 2% concentration. That turns out to be about 1 tsp boric acid or Borax dissolved in 1 cup food bait (Karo syrup, sugar water, etc.)
The Bug Man in the SF Chron has run several articles about killing ants - this is a link to the latest, I think: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/15/HOJ915Q85K.DTL
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