Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NIMH-Not In My House!

Each spring sugar ants try to set up house in my kitchen. This year they haven't been too bad (yet). When I see the first ant line, I pull out my arsenal of organic deterrents...lemon juice and peel, or red pepper, or cinnamon, sprinkled where they're coming in does the trick.

One of the places I usually find ants is on the window seat in the kitchen. It's underneath a bay window, so there's lots of cracks for the insects to come in. During the winter the seat is full of plants that would die if left out in the cold. However, right now the seat's not as full as usual.

My four-foot tall schefflera bush started dropping most of its leaves right after the holidays. Soon it was a mess of bare stems with tufts of leaves at the top of each stem.  A little Internet research told me that there was some type of pathogen at work. Hoping the plant would re-grow, I cut the stems back to stubs, removing all the leaves. It was so ugly I banished it to the master bathroom tub, where it would get some sunlight.

Today I wanted to give all the plants in the bathroom a good soak from the the bottom by putting a couple inches of water in the tub. When I lifted the schefflera up to make room for more plants in the tub, dozens of ants started running every which way. They'd taken up residence under the pot! Working quickly, I closed the drain, turned the water on, and grabbed the cup next to the sink.

While the tub was filling with water, I used the cup to pour water on top of the plants. A few of the ants ran up the side of the tub, but most of them got caught in the flow. I let the plants soak for about 20 minutes, then pulled the plug and let them drain. When I cleaned out the tub, the lifeless ant bodies washed down the drain.

I moved all the other plants back to their regular places in the bathroom, but I propped the schefflera up on a plant saucer so the ants wouldn't have a nice damp spot to congregate underneath it. I also added a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon over the soil on top. However, it's just for the short term; the plant will be going out on the deck soon!


  1. sounds like the problem's solved! I've been tackling the weeds in the garden, quite a few already.

  2. Oh yuck...ants! My daughter uses borax around the perimeter of her house and especially seems to work. I use tea tree oil where I see them coming in and they will not cross over the oil...think it burns them...sounds so cruel. ha!
    But they're hard to get rid of...good luck!

  3. I didn't know ants are deterred by cinnamon. Thanks for the tip. We've got ant problems on our outdoor plants. I guess that's why we haven't brought plants inside the house lately.

  4. Thanks for the tip, I've heard of cayenne but never knew that cinnamon worked as well. If I see any of these critters I'll try the cinnamon.

  5. Careful. I've seen ants set up colonies in potted plants before.

    I will remember the lemon juice, cinnamon, and red pepper tricks though. And tea tree oil. I think I have some of that for treating calluses...

    We get ants occasionally in our kitchen and I always cringe when my husband pulls out the chemical sprays so close to our food (and now with cats stalking the ants, I'd hate for them to lick up poison).

  6. I despise ants! Now, Kathy...I have never heard of using cinnamon...must try that. Thanks for the tip!