September 13, 1996


As a thinker and planner the ant is the equal of any savage race of men; as a self-educated specialist in several arts she is the superior of any savage race of men; and in one or two high mental qualities she is above the reach of any man, savage or civilized.

Mark Twain, 1906

Ants have been the bane of my existence. They seem to find my home a most attractive place to set up their nests. I have tried just about everything on the market. If I spray that odoriferous and toxic stuff called "ant and roach killer" on them, it kills them, of course. Then more come -it seemed to be an endless and futile battle.

I have tried commercial ant bait. I am sure that it will not only kill the ants, but that the ants will, as advertised, carry it back to their nest and it will wipe the nest out. The only problem was that I couldn't get the ants to eat it. I am sure that they have been tested on ants and that they do work, but either my ants are smarter or they don't read the same books that city ants do. Anyway, it just doesn't work for me.

One day, I left a closed jar of honey on the counter top. By morning it was covered with ants. I logically deduced that my ants liked honey. I also knew that many ant baits contain 2% boric acid. So I made up a honey solution with 2% boric acid. The ants clustered around it and consumed it all. Within a few weeks, there were no more ants. Dead ants were cascading down from the ceiling -and they are still falling. I guess that I got the honey lovers. Then there were some smaller ants that liked canned cat food. So I made a similar solution using blended cat food as a base, again with 2% boric acid. I tried the same thing with the sugar-water that I feed the hummingbirds. The ants loved it. Two weeks later, they began dropping, and they are still dropping. The key may be patience. Keep feeding them poison.

Should you decide to try it, here is some information that you will need:

Boric acid is toxic. When I was growing up, boric acid was a standard remedy and I watched my mother boil up a boric acid solution to put on me -I forget what for. It was considered the universal remedy, along with alcohol and iodine, for just about anything. In those days, massive amounts were used. It is a weak germicide and is bacteriostatic (it will stop the growth of bacteria). There are now much better remedies for infection.

In 1962, a review of the medical literature reported 172 cases of boric acid poisoning, of which 89 were fatal. One fatality was reported of an infant treated with boric acid for diaper rash. It is not innocuous. However it takes about 15 to 20 grams(roughly 2 or 3 teaspoons of the powder) to kill an adult and 5 to 6 grams (almost a teaspoon full) to kill an infant.If it doesn't kill, it does not remain in the body for long, and about half is excreted by the kidneys in 24 hours -about the same as the active component of marijuana.In other words, as poisons go, it is a fairly safe one. It is much safer than the arsenic that is used in many ant baits. Boric acid is available in any drug store at about $2 for a lifetime supply for you, your children and grandchildren.

Here is the recipe: To make a 2% solution, take the solution that you intend to use as bait (honey and water, sugar and water, dog food and water. or whatever). Add 2.5 grams(one level teaspoon) of boric acid powder to 125ml (4 fluid ounces) of your bait. Heat it on the stove until the boric acid dissolves. After it has cooled, pour some in a shallow gizmo like a jar lid and leave it where the ants will find it -and where your children and pets will not be able to get at it. I have no idea how much will kill a dog or a cat. Then wait until there are no more ants around it.Take your time; let them eat their fill and take as much as they can to their nest. It might take a week or two. Then be prepared to duck drunken and dead ants.

What will I do when some surviving ants develop a resistance to boric acid, as they probably will? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

7/6/04 The ants have returned. They look the same and smell the samewhen crushed. However, they are not interested in sugar water laced with boric acid. I am now trying different things.

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