Last week I asked folks for their best defense against ant invasions. Here are some of the letters I received.
DEAR JOAN: We have periodic invasions of ants, and I've always been able to stop them in their tracks with a spray of orange oil. Apparently ants don't like the scent of citrus.
I initially used an orange-scented room deodorizer spray sold at Trader Joe's, but they stopped carrying it so I had to order a substitute online.
A short spray at the entry point usually does the trick.
DEAR LOUISE: It may not be the orange aroma but a chemical in any citrus that ants don't like. It's a good option, and one that smells good, too.
DEAR JOAN: Insects breathe through holes along their sides called ventricles. Powder clogs the ventricles, suffocating the insects. That's why ants are reluctant to cross a line of baby powder or cinnamon or any other fine powder. Powders are a safe and nontoxic ant control technique.
For years, I successfully used baking powder, cinnamon or baby powder to stop ants at an entry point. Although it would work for ants, I think it is better to avoid food products such as cornstarch or baking powder. For some hard-to-reach spots, I put powder on a card and use a straw to blow it into a crevice.
dear terry: Makes sense to me.
DEAR JOAN: I used to get regular ant invasions, especially when the rains started. When I had my carpets replaced about 10 years ago, I caulked all around the base of the walls where they meet the floor with clear caulk.
I had one small invasion where I had missed a spot, but once that was caulked I haven't had an ant since.
DEAR ELAINE: A practical solution and proof that a good defense is a good offense.
DEAR JOAN: Not exactly a home remedy, but certainly inexpensive, nontoxic and easy is diatomaceous earth, found at garden supply stores and some big box retailers. Not the swimming pool type, though.
It is a light powder, often used in various human products. You spread in areas were any type of bug that is bothering you will walk through it, causing the bug to dry out and die.
It has been my salvation as far back as a cockroach infested student apartment and a flea epidemic in another. One local nursery used to carry it in a plastic squirt bottle with the brand name "Dri-Die," but now I usually see it in a big bag that will last a lifetime.
It can be used indoors or out, and while it might irritate pet paws if spread on a carpet to kill fleas, it is quite harmless.
DEAR JOAN: I have found that diatomaceous earth works well. I sprinkle it around the outside of the house and garage, and it does a good job of keeping the ants outside.
DEAR CANDY and Clara: You're right, diatomaceous earth is effective and safe when used correctly. It's only downside is that it can be an irritant if inhaled, so use it carefully.