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Environment & Science

How to rid your house of ants

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As temperatures spike in Southern California, you may notice a new village of ants crawling around your kitchen. It’s not food they're are after. It's the water.

In this segment, we talk to Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, about the effect of the drought on insects’ behavior. Click on play above to hear the interview. 

We've also been curating the best remedies to rid your home of ants. There are a number of different types of ants, each of which — according to exterminators — requires a different pro tactic. 

Keep in mind that when the ant parade is fanning out from under the door jams, creeping up from the floor boards, climbing through window panes and pouring out of the top of the toilet seat, it's a pretty grim situation no matter what you do.

Start by not leaving crumbs or water — really, zero — in the sink or anywhere, and by putting most of your food in the the fridge. Then try to find where they're coming in and stop them before they march.

If you're taking matters into your own DIY hands, there are a few lo-fi fixes worth trying. Here's my non-expert advice. 


Chalk: There's toxic chalk, and there's regular old chalk. In my unprofessional experience, they work exactly the same, so go for the one that won't poison you and your pets. I suspect the chalk itself is the thing they can't cross, so start making crop circles around vulnerable cracks and corners (and go doubles around the pet food bowl). This works fairly well. The downside: your house now looks like kindergarten recess.

Our Facebook friend Gary van der Steur adds: Black Flag Ant and Roach Chalk is best. (Almost impossible to find. Bellefontaine Nursery, Pasadena, may have it.) Unlike the mysterious under-the-counter Chinese chalk, Black Flag LISTS its ingredient, and you can research how and why it works.

Glue: Elmer’s glue is a quick, clear, non-toxic hole filler. Use. A. Lot. Of. It. 

Windex: Ants are fascinating little industrious creatures, and I don’t want to kill them. But if you’ve asked them nicely to leave and been denied — and all the other tactics have failed — and you wake up to a horror movie situation on your floor, a bottle of windex is the weapon of choice. It’s a terrible, gruesome massacre, and I usually say out loud that I'm sorry, and that I hope they’re all reincarnated into beautiful giraffes. 

Orange oil spray: On Facebook, Courtney Knopf  says: This is "the only thing I've seen that stops them dead (DEAD! REALLY DEAD!) in their tracks." Terro is good to keep them at bay, but it can be unnerving to watch them swarm the baits for a few days.


Peppermint oil: Dot the entry points? This is useless. They just find another nearby hole.

Cinnamon: Sprinkle around counter edges and window sills? This is also useless and messy. I'm starting to think it makes them stronger.

Ant traps: Maybe the bait works for some ants, but not the ones in my former house. They walked around them. And laughed.

And we'll leave you with this: An antsy poem from our Facebook friend, Justine Kragen. 

Ants in the litter box,
Ants on the floor,
Ants in the shower,
I can't take it anymore.

They're coming through the light switch,
descending on the wall.
They're climbing up the cracks,
and marching down the hall.

Relentless in their quest
for anything around,
they're partying it up
in my home above the ground.

I tried patience and compassion,
I helped multitudes escape.
But they trampled my good nature,
thereby sealing their sad fate.

Goodbye all you ants,
we gave you a fighting chance.
I hope the toilet seat was worth the risk
of being your last dance.

For more ant dos and don't, check out the comments on our Facebook post, where you'll find tons of your fellow Angelenos commiserating. 

Share your best remedies.