DIY Homemade Ant Killer and Natural Ant Repellent Recipes

Get rid of ants with natural, homemade ant killer recipes.

Want to get rid of ants naturally?

Below is our ultimate guide of homemade ant killer and natural ant repellent recipes.

We have natural recipes that include:

  • Borax
  • Boric Acid
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Vinegar, lemon juice, & essential oils
  • d-Limonene
  • Spinosad and
  • The best natural methods for getting rid of fire ants and carpenter ants.

Whether the ants are in your house or yard, you can get rid of them without toxic treatments.

Most retail products are liquid or granular formulations containing toxic insecticides/pesticides such as abamectin, fipronil, hydrmethylnon, or propoxur.

We have found more natural ingredients that are just as effective at killing or repelling ants, and much less toxic to both your family and the environment.

And better yet, these ant killer remedies are inexpensive and simple to make.

Terro liquid bait ant killer active ingredient is borax.Homemade Ant Killer

The popular Terro Liquid Ant Killer Bait is nothing more than a liquid containing 5.4% sodium tetraborate decahydrate, aka, borax (the active killing ingredient) and 94.6% other ingredients (sugar-water solution attractant).

Borax is a natural mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water and is toxic to ants when ingested.

Save $$ and Make Your Own Borax Ant Bait

The Terro Liquid Ant Baits cost more than $6 each.

You can make your own at a fraction of the cost with just 3 ingredients: borax, sugar, and water.
Natural borax ant killer recipe with sugar and water.

Borax Ant Killer Recipe

Materials & Ingredients:

  • Containers* (see note below)
  • 6 oz sugar (12 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp borax
  • 3.5 oz warm water (7 tbsp)


  1. Gather and prepare your containers as described below (either lids, cotton balls, or closed containers).
  2. Mix the sugar and borax thoroughly, breaking up any clumps so the sugar and borax is distributed evenly. (Please read Borax Safety below).
  3. Add the warm water to the borax/sugar mixture. Stir until dissolved. The exact temperature of the water doesn’t matter. Using warm water instead of cold water will help the sugar and borax dissolve faster.
  4. Fill your containers. If using closed containers with lids, again, make sure you don’t fill up past the punched holes!
  5. Place bait indoors at sources of ant entry, such as under the sink, bathroom cabinet, pantry, etc. or simply where you see the most ants. Look for trails outside entering into the home and place at those points of entry as well.
  6. Monitor bait stations and refill when necessary until ants are eradicated.

*Note about Bait Containers & Making it Safe for Pets & Children 

I wouldn’t leave an easily accessible, open container or even soaked cotton balls (cats will love to play with those) with borax bait laying around if you have children or pets. The Terro Liquid Ant Killer baits are molded plastic containers with the liquid bait out of reach (for the most part) to children and pets.

I recommend using a container with a lid (food storage containers, baby food jars, used food container, i.e. sour cream container, etc.) and then poking holes in the container above the liquid bait (obviously) for the ants to enter. These aren’t 100% child or pet-proof, but much more safer than an open container with no lid.

You could also put the bait out only at night, if you know your children and/or pets won’t have access to them during that time.

If you don’t have children or pets, you could simply pour the bait in a open lid or use bait-soaked cotton balls.

Using the Correct Borax Concentration

I’ve seen recipes on the web using all kinds of ratios of borax to sugar water. The recipe we have listed above is closest to the Terro bait at a 5% borax concentration.

There is a reason for not making the borax concentration higher or lower.

Obviously, any lower and the bait may not kill the ants and you’re just providing a sugar-water buffet for them.

But at higher concentrations, the worker ants may die before making it back to the colony, or, because they can detect borax at concentrated levels, it will act as a repellent. They will avoid the bait and you will still have an ant problem.

Tip: Remove food sources such as sugary foods, pet food, and water sources that may compete with the bait attractiveness.

Borax Safety

Although natural, borax should be handled with care as it can be toxic.

Here is the 20 Mule Team Brand Borax Safety Sheet (pdf) which includes potential health effects and 1st aid measures.

It is recommended that you use a dust mask, gloves, and eye protection to prevent inhalation, skin contact, and eye contact, respectively.

If you do not use all your bait at once, place the excess in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and clearly label it. Store it out of reach of children and pets.

Borax liquid ant bait works better than powders or solid baits.Why Does a Liquid Bait Work Better Than a Paste or Powder on Ants?

I’ve seen some borax ant killer recipes that create a paste or powder rather than a liquid. It’ll work, but offering a liquid bait to the ants will eliminate the colony quicker.

Ants can’t digest solids, so when you place out a solid bait, it must be first brought back to the nest and processed further before the ants ingest it.

With a liquid, on the other hand, the worker ant can immediately ingest the borax bait and take it back to the nest for the other workers, larvae and the queen.

In a process known as “trophallaxis”, the ant regurgitates its stomach contents to the other ants in the colony, allowing them to ingest the bait immediately as well.

With a liquid bait, the borax will eventually kill the worker ants who are transporting the bait, but in a delayed enough period of time so that the worker ant will make several trips to the bait and back to the nest before dying.

This food sharing behavior enables the bait to be spread throughout the colony before the toxic borax takes effect.

At first, more ants will appear after setting out the borax bait.But There’s More Ants Now!

After placing out the bait, you will, at first, see more ants than less. After all, we are baiting them – we want them to come!

Resist the urge to kill the ants as they swarm the bait station – that defeats the purpose of the bait. You want them to take it back to the nest.

Be patient, Grasshopper.  Smaller nests may take 1-2 days to eradicate; a larger colony may take up to 2 weeks to completely destroy.

Ant Trails

Once you’ve eradicated the ants, be sure to wash the surfaces where the ant trails were. This way, no scent is left for any remnant, straggler ants to follow into your house again.

For Larger Ant Infestations

The 5% solution is best used for small to moderate sized colonies. This integrated pest management site (UC IPM), however, states that a 0.5-1% borax concentration will have the most impact on larger ant infestations.  That is because at a lower toxic level, the worker ants have more time to bring the bait back and feed a larger colony.

A large colony will go through a lot of bait – which is why they say that bait stations like Terro’s aren’t as effective – you will have to use many of them, replacing them often.

Instead, they say that a larger refillable station will be more effective – which is what we can do with our borax bait and refillable containers. Although, they also state, because the lower concentration takes longer to kill the ants, it may takes weeks before you see a significant reduction in ants.

Sugar-Eating vs Protein/Grease-Eating Ants

The above borax ant killer recipe will work on an sugar ants such as odorous house ants, Argentine ants, big-headed ants, ghost ants, pavement ants, cornfield ants, acrobat ants, crazy ants, white-footed ants, and other sugar-eating ants.

If you find that the ants aren’t going to the bait, it may mean you have ants that are currently searching for protein or fats.

Some of the above sugar-eating ants will also eat protein at different times of the year.

Ant identification table for one and two-node ants along with food, nest and physical descriptions.

Ant identification table of common household ants.

But something like Pharaoh ants will always prefer protein or greasy baits while fire ant will prefer oily baits. You can identify what kind of ants you may have by going to this ant ID table.

If this is the case, you can try using the above borax bait, but replacing the sugar water with a fat and/or protein source like peanut butter.

I have read where tuna (or the liquid drained from a can of tuna packed in water) was a good bait source. You could also try a mix using the borax recipe and then adding a tablespoon of finely chopped tuna (or the drained tuna water) to the borax-sugar solution.

We have more specific information about getting rid of carpenter ants and red ants, aka fire ants, further below in the article.

Other Borax Uses

Not only for killing ants, other borax uses include:

  • Laundry detergent booster
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Candle wicks
  • Crystal decorations
  • Odor control

You can read more about borax uses at 20 Mule Team’s website.

Natural Ant Repellent Sprays and Powders

The above Borax ant killer recipe is just that, an ant killer.

If, however, you do not have an indoor ant infestation and rather simply want to stop ants from entering your home (rather than kill them), you can use a natural ant repellent.

Either a natural ant spray or an ant powder can be used at outside entry points to deter ants from entering your house.

Tip: Before going crazy and treating the entire perimeter of your home with a repellent, first try to seal up all cracks or other obvious places where ants can enter.

Use expandable spray foam for sealing larger cracks and holes.

Use exterior grade sealant for sealing small cracks and holes.

Natural Ant Repellent Sprays

You can make a simple, homemade ant spray to use on entry points in and outside your home. They are detected by the ants as irritants and won’t travel past them.

Spray the vinegar, lemon juice, or essential oil sprays (detailed below) anywhere you have seen ants – along baseboards, doorways, countertops, etc.

If you see an active ant trail, spray the trail as well. Scout ants will leave a scent trail to food once it is found for other ants in the colony to follow. If you routinely spray the trail and entry points, they will eventually stop coming into your home.

Ant repellent spray using lemon juice or vinegar.Acidic Ant Repellent Spray

Using a vinegar or lemon juice spray at entryways is an effective ant repellent, but you will have to reapply it more often than the essential oil spray repellent listed below, which doesn’t dissipate as fast.

Lemon Juice or Vinegar Ant Killer or Repellent Spray

Mix vinegar or lemon juice in a 1:1 ratio to water (i.e., mix a 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup of vinegar).

Essential Oil Ant Repellent Spray

An essential oil repellent spray will last a little longer on surfaces than the acidic sprays.

Orange guard ant control spray with d-limonene extract.

Orange Guard contains d-limonene, a natural organic compound found in orange peels that repels and kills ants.

Add 10 drops of any of the essential oils to one cup of water in a spray bottle.

  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon
  • Lavender
  • Cedarwood
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Orange (you can also use Orange Guard Spray)
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Clove

Warning to Pet Owners: If you have pets, I would not recommend using essential oil sprays where they would have access to them. Essential oils can be very toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets.

Natural Ant Repellent Powders

Like the acidic and essential oil sprays, ants will also be deterred by certain powdered substances. The powders are a little longer lasting than the sprays.

Make a line of powder across entryways and/or on ant trails with any of the below powdered substances:

  • Ground Cayenne
  • Talcum Powder
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Chalk
  • Boric Acid (can be used as a repellent, bait, or ant dust killer – read below)

Boric Acid Ant Killer and Repellent Powder

Boric acid can be used as both a repellent and as a bait. First, a note about the difference between borax and boric acid…

Borax vs Boric Acid

Note that boric acid is different than borax.

Boric acid is a weak acid derived from Boron. Borax is a mineral salt of boric acid.

The most important thing to know is that boric acid, though natural, is more toxic than Borax. Boric acid is a US EPA registered insecticide.

Boric Acid Safety

Like borax, boric acid can be a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant as well as toxin when ingested. Boric acid safe-use guidelines and first aid treatment can be found here.

Again, as with borax, it is recommended that you use a dust mask, gloves, and eye protection when using boric acid.

Boric Acid Bait and Repellent Uses

Because of it’s more toxic profile than Borax (although it has to be ingested or inhaled in large quantities to become poisonous), I think it’s better to use the Borax Ant Killer recipe above than making a boric acid bait.

But as a simple repellent, boric acid can be applied directly to surfaces and is considered safe to use in homes, but again, out of reach of pets and children.

Most boric acid baits, like Terro Ant Bait Granules, have a concentration of about 5%. Terro’s is 5% orthoboric acid.

What’s orthoboric acid?

A fancier name for boric acid.

Why 5%?

Because at higher concentrations, the ants avoid contact with the powder after detecting it with their antennae, or lightly with tarsi (legs) or mouthparts and will not ingest it.

I’ve read articles that state ants must ingest boric acid in order for it to kill them; the powder is not a contact killer.

While other articles state that if the ants come in contact with the powder, it will kill them because it destroys their exoskeleton. Can’t seem to find a consensus either way.

Regardless, it can be used either as a bait or as a repellent.

Zap-A-Roach and Ant Kiiller with boric acid ant bait to kill ants naturally.How to Use Boric Acid as a Repellent and as an Ant Dust Killer

Most ant dusts contain 95% boric acid.

The rest of the ingredients are just to make the powder not clump to be easily spread.

However, this is one case where buying the main ingredient (boric acid) is not any cheaper than just buying the ant killer powder.

When I compared prices per ounce, Zap-A-Roach (Roach and Ant Killer) was actually cheaper than buying a pound of boric acid.

And the ant killer product actually is 100% boric acid without any additives. You may be able to purchase boric acid in bulk (5 lbs or more) at a cheaper price per ounce, but if you don’t need that much, just get the ant killer product.

How to Apply Boric Acid To Repel or Kill Ants

If you apply a thick layer or line of pure boric acid along entryways, it will act as a repellent to ants, as previously mentioned, and they will not make enough contact with the powder to kill them.

If you apply a thin, nearly invisible dust of boric acid powder to ant trailways, they will not detect it. Instead, the ants will walk through it, then later ingest the boric acid dust as they groom to clean their legs, antennae, and mouthparts, which eventually kills them.

So if you want to simply repel new ants from entering the house, use the boric acid thickly as a repellent.

If you want to get rid of an established colony that has already infested your home, apply a thin dust that will kill them.

Here’s some more relatively cheap options of Boric Acid Ant Killers.

Other Boric Acid Uses

Not only for repelling or killing ants, you can use boric acid for:

  • Yeast and athlete’s foot infections
  • As an eye wash
  • Acne treatment
  • Cleaner
  • To kill other pests such as cockroaches

You can read more about boric acid applications at Dr. Axe’s blog.

Natural Ant Killer – Diatomaceous Earth Powder

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a sedimentary deposit made from the fossilized remains of single-celled organisms called diatoms, a type of algae.

When ants travel through diatomaceous earth, the sharp edges of silica make cuts in the insect’s waxy-coated exoskeleton.

The diatomaceous earth then acts as a desiccant, causing the ant to die of dehydration.

How To Apply Diatomaceous Earth

Natural, food grade diatomaceous earth to kill ants.

Make sure you buy food grade DE which is the safest to use around humans and animals.

The diatomaceous earth needs to be applied either where you know ants are traveling along trails or directly into the nest or any cracks where you see them entering or exiting, i.e., under refrigerators, along pantry baseboards, under sinks, window sills, etc..

If necessary, you can use one of these bulb dusters to apply to narrow openings.

  • You do not need to apply a thick layer – just a coating of thin dust.
  • You can also apply diatomaceous earth directly to the ants.
  • Indoors – Clean off and reapply diatomaceous earth to areas once a month or until ants are gone. If you have a larger infestation, you will need to ultimately target the colony at the nest.
  • Outdoors – Reapply if rain or heavy winds remove the application.
  • Diatomaceous earth is also the best natural ant killer for getting rid of carpenter ants.

How Long Does It Take For Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Ants?

Once exposed to diatomaceous earth, ants will usually die within 48 hours.

Important! Use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Note that there are different grades of diatomaceous earth.

Make sure you purchase Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, NOT Pool Grade! 

Pool grade (Diatomite) is not safe to be used around humans or animals. It should only be used for pool filtration.

Pool grade diatomaceous earth has been treated with high heat which results in a high concentration of crystalline silica which has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. That’s not what we want to use to get rid of ants.

There is also a feed grade diatomaceous earth, but it can contain higher amounts of arsenic and lead.

You might as well buy the food grade, because in addition to using it to get rid of ants, you can also use it for many health benefits for you and your pets.

Diatomaceous Earth Safety

Diatomaceous earth is relatively safe to use.

You wouldn’t want to ingest or inhale larges quantities or get it in your eyes, of course. It is recommended to at least wear a dust mask when using.

What we like best about DE is that, unlike some of the other treatments (i.e., borax, boric acid, essential oils), food grade diatomaceous earth is much safer to use around pets.

You can learn more about diatomaceous earth, its uses, and safety guidelines by viewing this fact sheet.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ant IDCarpenter ants do not eat wood.

However, they can damage wood in homes when excavating a hollow to build their nest.

If they do make a nest in a house, they prefer moist, soft, rotting wood over new wood, so its best to inspect and replace any damaged wood in your home often. They typically will not make the parent colony nest in wood that has a moisture content of less than 15%.

How to tell the difference between a carpenter ant and a termite.

Make sure you have carpenter ants and not termites. Carpenter ants have bent or elbowed antennae and a narrow or pinched waist. Termites have straight or curved antennae that are beaded and have a broader abdomen.

The Colony May Be Located Outside Even If They Are In Your House

Just because you see carpenter ants in your home doesn’t automatically mean your house is infested with a colony.

Carpenter ants may forage for food up to 100 yards from their nest.

So it’s possible that their nest could be in a decayed log or wood structure outside and they are only foraging inside your house.

This is another reason not to store wood within 100 yards of your home, and remove any stumps or rotting wood within the same distance.

Example of Sawdust Pile Outside Carpenter Ant Nest

Usually there will be a cone-shaped pile of sawdust outside the entrance hole to the carpenter ant nest…

The ants are most active at night, so if you cannot find a sawdust pile, you can follow the ants as they travel back and forth to the nest.

Baits for Carpenter Ants Don’t Work So Well

Carpenter ants eat a variety of food items including insects, sweets, meat, fats, and sweets.

Because their diet is so varied, baits are not very successful.

Sometimes they are foraging for protein, other times for sweets, so if you put out the wrong type of bait, they won’t eat it or take it back to the nest.

Carpenter Ant Contact Killer Sprays and Powders

Contact killers are only a short-term solution.

Some carpenter ant workers will die, but the colony will still remain and new workers will continue to forage.

However, if you do not have a nesting colony within your house and only want to repel the foraging ants, you can use the vinegar, lemon juice, or essential oil ant repellent sprays or powders along entry points to keep them out of your home.

You could also use diatomaceous earth (detailed above) as a perimeter treatment to keep ants out. For getting rid of a carpenter ant colony, read on…

Dusting the Carpenter Ant Colony with Diatomaceous Earth

Insecticides that are commonly used to treat carpenter ants include pyrethrins, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, and carbaryl.

Use diatomaceous earth to kill carpenter ants.Instead of using a toxic insecticide, you can use natural diatomaceous earth.

How to Apply:

Find the nest entrance by, again, looking for a pile of saw dust.

Using a bulb duster or any kind of plastic bottle with a tube tip, inject the diatomaceous earth directly into the nest entrance hole. You may have to enlarge the entrance hole to fit the duster inside.

It’s possible that in addition to the parent colony, where the queen resides, there may be other satellite colonies (that don’t require as much moisture), so look for and treat those as well when found.

Diatomaceous earth usually kills ants within 48 hours after contact.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants (aka Red Ants, Red-imported Fire Ants) Naturally

Fire ant mound cross section. Apply a d-limonene mound drench to kill the colony.

Courtesy of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (pdf)

Red-imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta), are native to tropical regions of Central and South America, but have become an invasive pest to the United States and several other countries.

There are actually a total of 6 fire ant species in the U.S. including the tropical or native fire ant, the southern fire ant, the black important fire ant, and the golden or desert fire ant, but S. invicta is the most prevalent.

Fire Ants vs Red Ants

Fire ants are sometimes referred to as “red ants,” but note that there are many species of ants (i.e., red carpenter ants) that are red in color, but are not fire ants.

If you have been stung by a fire ant, then you’ll know for sure you have them. If not, look at this page about how to identify fire ants or view the illustration and photo below.

Fire Ant Identification

Fire ant identificationA key characteristic of fire ants are the two nodes or “petioles” between the thorax (midsection) and abdomen (gaster). Photo by Joshua Basham.

fire ant id and sizes

Size variation in RIFA worker ants and queen on the right. Photo: S. Porter.Picture taken by Dr. Samford Porter, USDA-CMAVE workers vary from 1/8 to 1/4 inch

Homemade Fire Ant Killers That DON’T Work

First, do not use any of the below methods – They are ineffective, but unfortunately keep getting recirculated as homemade remedies for getting rid of fire ants:

  • DO NOT USE instant grits, Malt-O-Meal, club soda, baking soda, molasses, aspartame, plaster of Paris or vinegar.
  • Even worse… Gasoline, diesel,  ammonia, and chlorine.

Pouring Boiling Water On Mounds Isn’t The Best Method Either

Pouring boiling or soapy water down a fire ant mound is only 60-70% effective.

You will most likely kill only a portion of the colony and get stung in the process.

The remaining surviving ants and egg-laying queen(s) will simply relocate and start a new colony within your property and then you still will have a fire ant problem.

A Homemade Fire Ant Killer That Does Work

Let me just say that it may be impossible to completely eliminate all fire ants from your area…

Especially if you don’t kill the queen which can lay over 1,000 eggs per day.

Some colonies can be very deep and will not be able to be completely eradicated by any treatment.

With that said, if you have a smaller area to treat, you can, at the very least, eliminate enough mounds and smaller colonies to a tolerable level with a natural treatment.

Aside from toxic insecticides, the only certified organic products for fire ant control are:

  • d-Limonene and
  • Spinosad

D-Limonene (Natural Contact Ant Killer)

d-limonene is a natural insecticide made from oranage oil.D-Limonene is a natural organic compound (terpene) found in the oils of oranges, lemons, mandarins, limes, grapefruits and other citrus fruits.

D-Limonene kills ants by suffocation. It dissolves the protective waxy coating of their exoskeleton and then the oil smothers their spiracles (airways).

D-Limonene is considered a broad-based insecticide by the EPA.

How Is d-Limonene Applied to a Fire Ants Colony?

Several studies have found using d-Limonene mixed with water and dishwashing soap as a fire ant mound drench provided quick elimination of treated colonies.

A Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension study (pdf) compared a combination of treatments including Arinix, Gardstar, Qrd-400 and the Orange Oil/Dishwashing Liquid treatment and found that the orange oil/soap/water combo was an economical and successful method of eliminating fire ants.

The U.S. Forest Service also tested the efficacy of the commercial Orange Guard product and found the treatment resulted in 80% or greater control when applied as a mound drench. They found it to be statistically comparable with conventional diazinon (chemical insecticide) formulations.

Make Your Own Orange Guard or Buy It

You can either buy Orange Oil (d-limonene) full strength and then make a 5.8% concentrated solution with water and dishwashing soap (recipe below) or…

Buy a ready-to-use product called Orange Guard.

Orange Guard Ingredients:

  • d-Limonene (orange peel extract) ….. 5.8%
  • Inert Ingredients ….. 94.2%

Orange guard ant killer spray made with natural d-limonene orange oil.
I attempted to find out what the “inert ingredients” were under Orange Guard’s EPA Registration (# 61887-2-AA), but aside from water, the only details given is that it contains a natural emulsifier – which is proprietary. Here is the complete Orange Guard Label with directions for indoor and outdoor use.

All the ingredients of Orange Guard are on the FDA GRAS list (generally recognized as safe) and the product is certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

So if you want to make things simple, you can buy the Orange Guard.

If you want to make your own Orange Guard-like treatment, then you will have to mix your own (recipe below).

We do not know what the “natural emulsifier” in Orange Guard is, but the addition of dishwashing soap (as noted in the Texas A&M study) serves the same purpose. The detergent helps the d-Limonene and water blend, forming an emulsion.

d-limonene non-toxic ant repellentOrange Oil (d-Limonene) Homemade Red Ant Killer Recipe

This recipe will treat 1 fire ant mound.

  • 1.5 ounces of 100% (not diluted) Orange Oil (d-Limonene)
  • 3 ounces of Dawn Ultra Original Scent (blue) liquid soap (Every study used Dawn – I don’t know why you couldn’t use a different brand of soap, but lets just make it simple & consistent with the studies & stick with Dawn)
  • 1 gallon of water

Directions and Method of Application:

Apply as a mound drench during early morning or late afternoon hours of the day, which is when the fire ants are most likely to be home.

  1. Mix ingredients in a large enough container (to hold a gallon of water plus the 1.5 ounces of orange oil & 3 ounces of soap)
  2. Puncture the fire ant mound and saturate with the 1-gallon mixture. Apply to the mound when the majority of the ant colony will be present – either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The Texas study applied treatments from 3:00 p.m. until 5:40 p.m.
  3. Repeat to treat additional mounds.

Your can read about more methods for controlling fire ants at

Warning: d-Limonene is Toxic to Cats!

Do not use d-Limonene if there is a possibility your cat(s) will be exposed to the oil.

Other Uses of d-Limonene:

If you purchase a bottle of d-Limonene, aside from an ant killer,  you can also use it as a cleaner, degreaser, biodegradable solvent, among other uses:

  • Multi-purpose Cleaner for Kitchen, Bathroom
  • Window Cleaner
  • Jewelry Cleaner
  • Carpet Stains
  • Upholstery Cleaner
  • Grill Cleaner
  • Removes glue/tape residue
  • Driveway oil spots
  • Air Freshener

Spinosad (Natural Contact and Ingestion Ant Killer)

Spinosad is a natural insecticide of chemical compounds derived from fermentation of the bacterium, Saccharopolyspora spinosa (soil microbe).

It works as a contact killer (direct application on ants or if ants walks across a treated surface) and as bait which is ingested and brought back and distributed throughout the colony.

The spinosad kills the ants via hyperexcitation of the nervous system, eventually leading to paralysis.

Spinosad – What is it? How does it work? How Toxic?

According to Dow AgroSciences, spinosad has several attractive features when compared to most synthetic insect pest control products:

  • It is derived through the fermentation of a naturally occurring organism;
  • It is highly active at low use rates;
  • It is active by ingestion and contact exposure;
  • It has less impact on certain predatory beneficial insects; and
  • Toxicity is extremely low.

Spinosad is the only bait product that is both organically (OMRI ) and USDA certified which means it can be applied to organic certified crops.

You can also use spinosad on your garden pests…

Spinosad not only works on fire ants, but also other insects, especially tree and garden pests, such as caterpillars, beetles, midges, leaf miners, fruit flies, grasshoppers, borers, thrips, and more.

Comparison of Spinosad Products and How They Are Applied (Contact vs Bait)

There are several branded products that contain spinosad as the active ingredient.

You can either buy Spinosad as a bait product (granules) as in the products: Come and Get It! and Southern Ag Payback Fire Ant Bait which contain 0.015% Spinosad.

However, from reading reviews, the bait products don’t seem to perform as well as mound drench applications (contact killer) which are in liquid form (o.5% concentrate) and applied to a mound after mixing with 1 gallon of water.

Monterey Garden Insect Spray with Spinosad Concentrate and Conserve Naturalyte Insect Control are both for use as a mound drench with Spinosad at 0.5%.Monterey garden insect spray with spinosad to kill ants.

You simply mix  2 ounces (4 tablespoons) with 1 gallon of water and apply to the fire ant mound.

Monterey comes in 16 oz, 32 oz, and 128 oz containers, providing 8, 16, or 64 applications, respectively, using 2 ounces in one gallon of water to treat one fire ant mound that is 7″ or less in diameter. You will have to use more if the mound(s) are 8″ or greater in diameter (explained below in “How much do I need to apply”).

Conserve Naturalyte spinosad natural insect control for ants and other pests.Naturalyte comes in 8 oz and 16 oz containers, providing 4 or 8 applications, respectively. Like Monterey, you use 2 oz in 1 gallon of water for a mound drench.

There is another brand I have found called Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew which also contains 0.5% spinosad in a 16 oz container. So you can compare what the current prices are for Monterey, Naturalyte, and Captain Jack’s and get the lowest-priced product since they all have the same active ingredient concentration of spinosad.

When To Apply Spinosad to Fire Ant Mounds

Apply Spinosad when the weather is cooler, 65 to 85 deg F, typically early to mid-morning, or late afternoon/early evening. This is when the ants will be actively foraging.

If possible, apply the mound drench after recent rainfall. During hot, dry periods, the ant will be nesting deeper in the ground during the day.

After a period of rain, they will be more active near the top of the mound and the spinosad will penetrate the mound better and reach more ants.

If you can’t wait for rain, no worries. Just apply during the cooler times of the day as previously noted.

You can always test if it is the right time of day by placing some bait or even a bit of food near the mound. If ants come out to take the bait, the time is probably right.

Don’t disturb the mound prior to, during or after application.  Disturbing the mound may cause the ants to relocate.

Directions for Using Spinosad on Fire Ant Mounds

  1. Mix 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) of Monterey Spray or Conserve Naturalyte with 1 gallon (128 ounces) of water.
  2. Place in sprinkler can or similar container and apply to mound. Do not use pressurized sprays – they may disturb the colony and cause the ants to flee, reducing kill rate.
  3. Apply about 10% of the spray volume around the perimeter of the mound and the remainder directly to the mound.

Note: These are abbreviated directions. Read the Monterey Label  or Naturalyte label thoroughly before using.

How Much Do I Need To Apply Per Ant Mound?

The Naturalye Product recommends using 1 to 2 gallons per mound depending upon the mound size.

For mounds less than 8 inches in diameter, use 1 gallon of diluted mix per mound.

For mounds 8 inches or larger in diameter, use up to 2 gallons.

How Long Does It Take To Kill The Ants?

Since I didn’t see anything about this on the label, I asked Monterey how long and if reapplication is necessary. Their response:

“It will take about 4 days to kill the ants. If you see them around again (I’d say in a week or so) you can reapply.”

Spinosad Toxicity to Bees

One of Spinosad’s benefits is that it has limited to no activity to most beneficial insects and exhibits low toxicity to mammals and other wildlife.

What about bees?

This studySpinosad toxicity to pollinators and associated risk, concluded:

“Field studies in which typical application methods of spinosad were used on a variety of crops have demonstrated that spinosad has low risk to adult honeybees and has little or no effect on hive activity and brood development.

The collective evidence from these studies indicates that once spinosad residues have dried on plant foliage, generally 3 hr or less, the risk of spinosad to honeybees is negligible.

For more information about getting rid of fire ants, here is a review of natural, organic, and alternative fire ant management methods (pdf) by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extention Office.

Before You Kill Every Ant In Sight…

Ants eating a cockroach. Don't kill all the ants you see.

Eating cockroaches is just one of the many benefits of ants… so don’t kill them all!

Ants do play an ecological role in the environment. They are soil makers, seed sowers, pest controllers…

Many ants prey on the eggs and larvae of bothersome household insects such as flies, fleas, silverfish, bed bugs, and even cockroaches. They are food for other species – lizards, birds, anteaters, etc..

So I humbly suggest, unless they are invading your home or are non-native and causing you harm (i.e., fire ants), please don’t feel the need to kill every ant in sight. We’re supposed to have ants in our world!

The Secret World of Ants…

I know you’re probably not in the mood to be fascinated by ants in our natural world, but when you have your ant problem solved, watch the below video. Award-winning cameraman Wolfgang Thaler and ant-expert Bert Hoelldobler put together a fantastic video. I know you are anticipating it right now. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

What kind of ants are you having trouble with now?

Have you tried any homemade ant killer or repellent recipes before? Comment or ask a question below.

Oh, and if you want to repel mosquitoes naturally, try out our homemade mosquito repellent.


  1. Janette Johnson says

    Great article, very informative. Wish you had a downloadable pdf format.

    • Thanks, Janette. We spent a lot of time researching natural ant killer and repellent recipes and putting it all together here in one article. We’ll consider creating a pdf. This page would be good one to bookmark for future reference. 🙂

  2. Thank you! This article is wonderfully complete, with all the pros and cons, answering all the questions I’ve had about dealing with ants. I don’t want to obliterate the ants…but I do want them out of the house, and off the peach tree, and without killing every other thing that moves!
    And yes, I am going to bookmark for future reference.

  3. Thanks for your encyclopedic account of killing ants. They’ve been a problem ever since I moved in and I’ve tolerated them, but now they’ve turned my own bedroom into a war zone. They’ve gone too far this time. Armed with your information I’ll be feeding them some delicious borax solution tonight. Drink up my pretties. Anyway. Thanks again.

  4. Harold Casados says

    I’ve found that it is best to use containers with lids, as this make it easier to handle, transport and move the borax ant traps around without spilling. Place your lids (with or without holes) on each container.

  5. Dana Ting says

    I have had small ants since I moved into my home 2 years ago. This year they were really getting bad and I noticed little funnel looking spots in my flower bed near the side of the house. A neighbor told me that was ants.

    So, I took borax and sugar and mixed them together and put them inside the little funnels and anywhere I saw the ants marching along. After just a couple of days, I noticed I didn’t have as many ants in the house.

    So I went outside and could see that they had cleared several funnels, dug some more and were working tirelessly to clear some others. I filled them all up again and will continue to do so. It’s really working and I’m amazed.

  6. Great resource, thank you! There is so much misinformation regarding fire ants out there. I will be sure to share this with my mis-informed neighbors.
    A few years ago I mixed a recipe of sugar/borax/water that was fabulous, but cannot find the same one. Now the recipes I find turn solid (or EXTREMELY thick and gooey) after several hours’ exposure to the air. Thoughts or comments on this?

    • Thanks, Andrea, for reading our article and sharing the info with your neighbors. Our sugar/borax/water ant killer recipe above calls for 6 oz sugar (12 tbsp), 1 tbsp borax, and 3.5 oz warm water (7 tbsp). Haven’t had any problems with it turning solid or being too thick. Using warm water will help dissolve the sugar and borax and combine better. Perhaps the recipe you used before called for more water, but if you add too much water, it will be diluted as far as the strength of the borax and so may not be as effective at killing ants.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?