Natural Ant Deterrents

A friend recently asked how to get rid of ants in her garden and around her house without using chemicals. There are three things I can think of:

  1. Using plants from the mint family
  2. Using cornmeal
  3. Using a Borax/Sugar mixture

The mint family (or scientifically, the Lamiaceae family) actually varies quite a lot (around 900 species), and includes herbaceous perennials and annuals, some shrubs, and some that are considered weeds. Some of the common kitchen herbs such as basil, rosemary, oregano, and thyme are part of the mint family. The strong-smelling foliage of some plants in the mint family, especially Salvia, Common Sage, and Mint tend to deter ants. It’s even suggested that the strong smells confuse ants and send their sensories off-track.

To get rid of ants, you could use mint oils from a store, dilute them down some and spray it around your garden. Or you can grow plants from the mint family around your garden (in pots), which is one way to deter ants, and you can also use the leaves to make your own ‘bug spray’.

Mint plants

These plants are quite easy to grow, almost too easy. They can become weedy if not properly managed (so plant them in pots), but that also means that they can grow from cuttings quite easily. The plants themselves may also naturally discourage herbivores from consuming your garden because the leaves and stems are generally covered with tiny hair-like projections called trichomes which decrease the loss of water, and also prevent the plants from being palatable to grazing animals.

Salvia, sage, and mint are quite easy to recognize because of their square stems, hairy stems and leaves, and aromatic foliage. If you take a pinch of the leaf, rub it between your fingers and give it a smell, you’ll know at once whether or not you have a plant from Lamiaceae family. Plants from other families may have square stems or fuzzy leaves, but if you have all three of these identifying features, it’s highly likely it’s from the mint family.

Another problem with ants is that several ant species will ‘farm’ or care for aphids.  Aphids can feed on the leaves, and then they produce a sticky sweet liquid that the ants can eat.  And of course there’s always the danger of kids getting into ant piles.  Ants aren’t welcome at all on my property.

Cornmeal: Ants can’t digest cornmeal, so if you set some cornmeal out, they’ll take it back to the ant nest, eat it, and eventually the ant nest will die out.  It’s a solution that takes more time.  A quicker solution is using borax.

Borax is poisonous to ants.  If you mix it with something sweet (sugar) they’ll eat it and it’ll kill them.  To make a sweet borax solution us:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp. borax
Mix it together, then put it in a pop can or something else with a small opening, put it where the ants will get to it.  It would be a good idea to weigh it down so the family dog can’t knock it over and lick up the sweet stuff.  Or cover it with a dome of chicken wire so nothing will get to it but the ants.  Take care in using this option! You don’t want your kids or animals finding it.

Note: Even though some plants from the Lamiaceae family are used in foods as aromatic oils and herbs, we always recommend that our readers be extremely careful before eating or tasting anything unfamiliar. We do not recommend trying plants yourself that have not been positively identified by a botanist, and labeled as safe.

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3 Responses to Natural Ant Deterrents

  1. Elizabeth May 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    Very usefull in my garden ideas

  2. Eve February 27, 2018 at 2:44 pm #

    I use the essential oil Oregano to send ants running. I put it on my fingers and run it along cupboards, shelves, tables, side stands and basebords and around doorways and across the bottom of entryways. Use it really anywhere you find ants. They stay gone for about a month, so I re-apply every 2 weeks.

    • Anni May 2, 2018 at 2:32 pm #

      Excellent info. Thank you!

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