Get rid of ants without harmful pesticides.

Time: 
Minute

Although it may be tempting to think the world would be a better place without ants, keep in mind that these pesky critters play an important part in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Ants help control numerous insect populations. They have been called "the foremost predators" and are superb scavengers. Because many ants build their nests in soil, they have a key role in keeping outdoor soils healthy. Ants, along with termites, turn more soil than earthworms.

Despite the beneficial role ants play outdoors, they become pests when they enter homes in search of food, water and shelter. If ants invade your house, don't turn to toxic sprays and dusts. Their use can actually make ant problems worse by causing a colony to split up into multiple colonies. Moreover, most pesticide applications are not directed at the nest but at the workers that are out foraging. In some species, this may be just 5 percent of a colony's total members.

Instead of using pesticides, keep kitchens and other rooms as free of food scraps as possible. Wipe all kitchen surfaces with soap and water to remove grease and spills. If there are particular spots where ants always return, try this simple remedy: In a bowl, mix one cup borax, one cup sugar, and three cups water. Place a loose wad of toilet paper into each of four screw-top jars, the shallower the better (baby-food jars are fine). Pour the mixture into the jars until it is about one inch from the top. Screw the lids on the jars, and with a hammer and nail make four to eight holes in each lid. Place the jars in areas where you have ants, and watch them line up to march in. Keep away from children; the mixture is not safe to ingest.

The price of all these ant traps? Virtually nothing, since you probably have everything you need already.