Borax is one of the most common forms of boric acid, and you can find it sold in many stores for cleaning, doing laundry and other household tasks. Although borax and boric acid are slightly different in their specific chemical nature, both are used interchangeably as a general insecticide and as an ant killer. If you have ant problems in your lawn, garden or other outdoor settings, a homemade jelly-and-borax bait can help eliminate the problem.
Avoid inhaling or ingesting borax. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets. Follow any labeled guidelines or warnings on the borax product label. If you accidentally ingest borax, follow the first aid guidelines on the product's label. For additional advice about borax and borax toxicity, call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
How Borax Kills Ants
When ants eat borax, the mineral destroys both their nervous system and their digestive system. The borax is mixed in with jelly to make the borax appealing to the insects. Scavenging ants take the borax-laced jelly back to their nest to feed the rest of the ants, eventually wiping out the entire ant hill.
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Almost all ants like sugar-based bait, making borax-laced jelly an effective control option in most cases. Common ant species that you may encounter in a garden setting that are prone to being attracted to sweet baits include:
- Argentine ants (Linepithema humile)
- Big-headed ants (Pheidole megacephala)
- Little black ants (Monomorium minimum)
- Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum)
Borax Bait Recipe
Look for a borax product that contains only borax or boric acid and no other additives or ingredients. Then, combine the borax with your choice of jelly or other sweet baits that you may have in your kitchen.
Things You'll Need
Mixing spoon or whisk
Borax or boric acid powder
Jelly or other sweet bait
Add 1 teaspoon of borax or boric acid powder to a mixing bowl.
Pour in 2 cups of fruit jelly. If you don't have jelly, effective alternatives include honey, pure maple syrup or any other sweet, viscous bait.
Mix thoroughly with a whisk or spoon until all of the borax or boric acid powder is dissolved in the bait.
The exact borax-to-jelly ratio differs depending on who you consult. For example, some recipes suggest using equal parts borax powder and jelly. This 50 percent ratio is not wrong and will control and eradicate ants. However, the less borax you use, the more attractive the bait is to scavenging ants. A borax concentration of as little as 1 percent -- that's 1 part of borax per 100 parts of jelly, as listed in the recipe -- will kill ants just as effectively, if not more effectively.
Borax Bait Stations
To target the ant problem, simply dab the jelly into empty bottle caps or smear the jelly on postcards or pieces of tinfoil and place the bait around an ant hill or wherever you notice an active ant trail. However, for the best results, make a homemade ant bait station.
Smear a couple of tablespoons of jelly in a sealable plastic container, such as an empty, washed yogurt container. Place the lid on the container, poke three or four holes in the lid and place the container near the ants. The ants will crawl through the hole to get to the bait, but the container will shield the bait from rain and other weather elements.
Replace the bait station whenever the ants have used up all of the jelly. It can take several weeks and up to a month for borax to eliminate an entire ant nest.
To increase the effectiveness of the borax jelly bait:
- Keep the bait moist. If the bait has dried out, replace it with fresh jelly.
- Place the bait station out of direct sunlight. The sun's heat makes the bait dry out faster and may also cause the jelly to spoil.
- Eliminate other sources of ant food. This avoids distracting the ants away from the borax-laced jelly. Examples include fallen garden produce and outdoor pet food dishes.
- Colorado State University Extension: Ants in the Home
- SFGate: Borax Kills Pests if Boric Acid Unavailable
- University of California Master Gardeners of Monterey Bay Blog: Get Rid of Ants in Your Vegetable Garden
- University of Nebraska Extension: Ant Baits -- A Least Toxic Control
- Texas A&M University Extension: Homemade Boric Acid Mint-Apple Jelly Bait for Indoor Ant Control
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Ants
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Tips for Effective Ant Baiting