How to get rid of ants

How to get rid of ants

I’m not squeamish about insects, so when my husband told me our yard was overrun by ants and that we needed to call an exterminator, my first thought was that he was overreacting. And my second thought was, I don’t want to spend money on an exterminator!

But soon I had to admit that we had a real problem on our hands. If you’ve read my post about trying to grow new grass, you’ll know that I put a lot of effort into fixing up my lawn. And now ants were making a huge mess of it with 66 three inch in diameter anthills dotting all of it. And I know how many because I counted them all!

It was time to do something about them. Here’s what I tried and what you can try, too, if you need to get rid of ants.

Borax and sugar – the formula

Would you like some poison in your sweets?

When you go into a hardware store asking for borax, the guy or girl there knows immediately that you are aiming to kill some ants – “got some ants, ma’am?”

But you can’t just pour borax over your yard. For one thing, it can kill your plants, and another thing is that if you don’t dilute it somehow, the ant will just die on contact and not share it with its friends. And, you really want it to share.

In order to get the ant to carry the poison back to its nest, you have to mix it with something. And it turns out that the best poison delivery method is good old fashioned sugar.

get rid of ants

Now, there are some competing methods and ratios out there. I tried mixing borax with maple syrup, with powdered sugar, and granulated sugar. I found personally that granulated sugar was most effective and also easiest to store.  Here’s the ratio that I used:

1 cup of granulated sugar

1/3 cup of borax

What you want to do is mix this up well, but you don’t want to handle it since borax is toxic. I sacrificed an old plastic spoon and put it in a glass container with a lid. That way, I could just open it up and use the spoon inside to scoop it.

get rid of ants

Where to put it

The best place to put it is right in the natural path of the ants.  Just take a peek at the path they are already walking and drop the borax and sugar right in the middle of the path. I put it on each of the 66 anthills, and just a little bit goes a long way. These little guys can’t possibly eat much of it, so you only need a little on each anthill.

get rid of ants

Now, unfortunately borax is toxic, not only to ants but also to grass. So it is definitely a trade off using an insecticide which is also a herbicide on a lawn, as rain water can make it run into your grass and kill it. As the ants had already destroyed the grass, I simply put a little bit of borax on each of the 66 ant hills, on a day when there was no rain in the near forecast. And waited.


One week later I had 22 anthills. I applied the borax again to get rid of ants.

One week after that I was down to 6 anthills. So I can say that this approach did work, but it does require reapplication.

Next steps

For some reason, these last 6 anthills that remained were in the area of my yard that I was recently trying to grow grass, so I continued to look for other options besides borax and sugar. I’m not sure why I did not have success here, but, it could be that this was where more ants were located and another reapplication or two would have reduced them even further.

But then, I had the good fortune of meeting Eddie, the groundskeeper at Round Hill, a beach neighborhood on the southern shore of Massachusetts while on holiday. I said, Eddie, I’ve got some stubborn anthills in my yard, do you have any recommendations?

Eddie had a product that he swears by. In fact, he had just battled his own yard ants with success using a product called Terro Liquid Ant Baits for yard ants. And, since he handles the grounds, ants and all, for a 70 acre area, I figured he probably knew what he was doing.

get rid of ants

With this product that I bought, you get six baits in the box. I set up two of the baits near the area with the worst ant problem. These baits are designed self enclosed disks where you turn the top and the poison goes into a reservoir where the ants can just climb in. So the poison is contained.

Or so I thought. The next morning, I noticed that an animal had chewed the top off of the bait. Upon closer inspection, it seemed that the liquid was still in the reservoir below, so that the animal was not able to access it. Smart design.


To summarize, borax plus sugar eliminated 44 of my anthills for about $3, and Terro eliminated at least 2 of the remaining 6 for $16. My conclusion is that these are two solid options for making a dent in your yard ants. And I didn’t even need to call an exterminator.

Personally, I think I’d use the borax plus sugar again to get rid of ants since it is cheaper, very effective, and I would likely reduce the amount used. I might even try altering the sugar to borax ratio and see if I got similar results with slightly more sugar and less borax. Ants are, after all, pretty tiny!

Another option that seems very intriguing, and is organic

My friend Will introduced me to an organic option to get rid of ants – bugs that eat bugs! I mean, is this brilliant or what? I’ve been meaning to try this but haven’t had the chance but wanted to mention it, since who wants to be spreading toxins around if you can avoid it?

It’s a product from Arbico Organics called “15 Live Beneficial Nematodes” which you can get from Amazon (note: we don’t get any affiliate money from this recommendation, as we are completely unbiased) and costs $16.

I do want to try this and will report back. I still have some stubborn ants and a new puppy so I hesitate spreading any chemicals if I don’t have to.

Do you have any ant killing challenges or successes you can share? Please leave a comment and share.

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