Does baby powder kill ants? If you're asking this question, we get it: you are just having far too many ants come into your backyard and/or home. Ants are resilient and fearless insects – you thought you'd got rid of them, yet more are coming.
Find out whether baby powder is an effective ingredient when figuring out how to get rid of ants – and what else to try, according to pest control and gardening experts.
Does baby powder kill ants?
You may have heard this or read online that baby powder supposedly acts as a desiccant (e.g. it dries out ants' bodies) or clogs up their airways, killing them by suffocation. If this sounds more than a little cruel, you will be relieved to know that our experts gave a unanimous verdict – no, baby powder doesn't really have this effect. Gardening expert Jeremy Yamaguchi (opens in new tab) says that 'considering talcum powder isn't dense at all, I find that one hard to believe. Any level of respiration would dislodge it.'
Rachel Strike, Researcher at Pest Advisors (opens in new tab), confirms that no, baby powder does not kill ants, 'but it can be used to break the scent trail.' Eric Sebring, Associate Certified Entomologist for Ehrlich Pest Control (opens in new tab), explains further that 'using talc or baby powder in areas where you have seen ants may deter them from that area. Ants don't like to cross the powder and get it on their bodies. It is clear that ants have an aversion to baby powder – but we don't necessarily quite know why.'
In other words, baby powder or talcum powder is more of a deterrent, which will be effective up to a point with ants, but won't eliminate them if it's severe. Megan Cavanaugh, from Done Right Pest Solutions (opens in new tab), also points out that 'you will have to reapply it frequently with weather.' Like many other barrier deterrents for pests, this one is only effective during dry weather – rain washes it off straight away.
What are the alternatives to baby powder to get rid of ants?
So, are there better solutions for keeping ants away from your backyard? Megan recommends eucalyptus or peppermint oil. For Rachel, 'the best way to deal with ants in the home is to mix some borax (boric acid) with grape jelly and place it on a paper plate near where you're seeing the ants.' Mind, this isn't a humane method as the ants will carry the jelly back to their colony and die. This method is also not pet safe – boric acid is strong stuff and harmful when ingested.
Eric thinks that 'when it comes to solving ant problems if you see more than three or four ants, it's always a good idea to call a professional.' This is because 'to solve an ant problem, you must get to the nest. If you're merely attempting to eliminate the scouts, more will just continue to come.'
Whether you're attempting to get rid of ants or even learning how to get rid of carpenter bees or any other pests, our advice is always the same – try the humane remedies first. If all else fails, boric acid can be attempted with ants – if you take care to keep it away from any children and/or pets in your household. Finally, if the situation doesn't improve, call the pros.
Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.
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