UPDATE: Aug 2106
This post from 2014 is not our current practice. While it is super effective it does kill the ants… When we arrived at the farm in 2014 it was hard for us to grow a lot of things because we were not fully connected with the cycles of nature here.
These days we find the ants are not bothering our plants as much because there is a lot more food available on the farm seeing the environment is a lot less harsh. Organics does work really well to restore balance.
We do have issues at times with some plants but what we focus on is better plant feeding so they are stronger and grow faster. If we really need to fix ants these days we give them an alternative food supply away from our plants. A good feed of fish and a sugar trail to follow to find the fish will keep the ants at bay for a few days while your plants can recover and grow stronger.
We have had a lot of issues with vermiculture with the ants eating the worm eggs and the small baby worms. The solution we found here was NOT to feed our worms kitchen waste and instead feed them cow-dung and epil-epil leaves — this stops the ants being attracted in the first place.
I used to think that ants just ate things that were dead or dying. I never thought they would eat plants! Ants in the Philippines love to eat certain plants at certain times of the year when other foods are in short supply.
Right now we are in the middle of the dry season and without rain for 2 months, the ants like everything else, are parched and hungry for water.
I first noticed that ants were a problem in our organic garden when our thriving cucumbers started to wilt and die off. I looked for caterpillars and other bugs but nothing could explain how a 1 1/2 metre plant with a superb leaf structure could start to die off so quickly.
Once I got my ‘nose’ closer to the soil I could see that the plants were being attacked by red ants who had created a nest close by. I knew ants could be distracted by using borax so I sprayed them with a borax and water solution but I lost all my plants 🙁 The ants won!
Undeterred I planted new seeds and after transplanting I made some ‘ant stew’! As you can see below the ant’s loved it and started to leave my cucumbers alone.
¬†Using borax to control ants naturally
‘Ant stew’ is really borax powder, sugar and water!
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral salt that is very high in the trace mineral boron. Boron deficiency in soils world wide is common. Applying a solution of borax is the normal solution.
Borax when consumed by certain insects will dehydrate them so they die. It is not fast acting so it can take a few days. The benefit of using borax is that it is naturally occurring and the dying or dead ants are taken back to the nest infecting the nest. However, avoid spraying borax seeing it can also kill natural beneficial insects like lady bugs.
The best way to apply is by mixing up a ‘soup’ of sugar, borax powder and water. All the ingredients dissolve even at room temperature.
We use : 1/2 cup sugar, cup of warm water, 1 tablespoon borax powder.
If the mixture is too strong it will repel the ants and they will not eat it. This is why if you want to create a natural protection for timber you can use pure borax (no sugar) and water and spray on timber. it will repel insects stopping them infecting the timber.
If you want ants to consume borax you need to ensure it is well masked by sugar and water else they will ignore it. Never make the mixture too strong else your time will be wasted.
Put the mixture in small caps (stops animals consuming it) and place near your crops. Larger animals will not be affected if they consume the mixture. Despite some information saying that borax is a poison, it is in fact a powerful nutritive healer when consumed in small quantities.
Borax can also be used to treat cockroach infestations. ‘Ant stew’ can also be fed to cockroaches in the house to eradicate them for a month or two.