Can baby powder prevent ants from entering your home?
Water restrictions and drier conditions over the last few summers mean that more people than ever are battling ant infestations inside their homes. If like me, you think that ants fall into the ‘nuisance’ rather than ‘life-threatening pest’* category, you’ve probably also looked into home remedies to prevent ants from invading.
*Having said that, whilst black or garden ants aren’t thought to carry diseases, they can be a nuisance when they get into your home. Considering that ants frequently travel through unsanitary areas before they end up on your countertops, you don’t really want them marching through your food cupboards.
I remember hearing somewhere that ants don’t like baby powder, and that creating a baby powder firewall across the threshold will prevent ants from entering. Of course, this sounded too good to be true, so I took to Google to find out whether getting rid of my ant problem could really be as simple as a bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s.
Typing “does baby powder prevent ants” into Google gave me plenty of sites (mostly blogs) swearing that baby powder works like a charm to prevent ants from entering your home, however, none of them could give me a good reason why.
Some sites said it was because ants don’t like the ingredient in baby powder called talc. (Hence why baby powder is also known as talcum powder). Talc is a mineral made up mainly of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen, which absorbs moisture well.
According to the American Cancer Society, in its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled. Whether using talcum powder topically can cause cancer is still under debate – with several large lawsuits in progress. Nevertheless, many modern baby powders now use cornstarch instead of talc.
Other types of powder as a deterrent?
So is cornstarch effective against ants, I hear you wonder? Further googling seemed to suggest that it – and other powders such as chalk – is an effective ant deterrent, but again, the way it works was still elusive.
Other sites suggested that powders work because when ants travel, they leave a pheromone trail that can be followed by other ants. When you deposit chalk, cornstarch or powder across their trail, the pheromone path is broken. One site simply said “talcum powder will kill ants because it messes up their antennae and stops their eggs from opening” but as yet I’ve found no evidence to support that notion!
My morning of research left me unconvinced by these anecdotal reports of baby powder repelling ants. I reckon that if you try it, at worst your house will smell like baby powder and you’ll still have an ant problem. At best it may deter them for a little while. However, ants will soon find an alternative route into your home in search of food and water.
Prevention is better than cure
Of course, before one starts sprinkling baby powder across every doorway and windowsill, it’s probably a good idea to look at how you can prevent an ant problem from starting in the first place. It’s important to remember that most ants only come into your home to look for food or water. You’ll often find ants in kitchen cupboards because they are particularly attracted to anything sweet and sticky. With that in mind, it’s important to not leave temptation in their path.
Here are some basic tips to prevent ants from becoming a problem in the first place:
- Clear up food and liquid spillages immediately, and sweep up food crumbs from under your kitchen appliances and units. Ants are attracted to sugar and many other types of food and water as they need proteins and carbohydrates in their diets.
- Store your food in airtight containers wherever possible. This is because open food containers attract ants into the building.
- If you have a pet, clear away any food that isn’t eaten straight away.
- Block off entry points for ants by sealing all cracks and crevices around your doors and window frames. All cracks and gaps in exterior walls which provide access to voids or interior areas should be sealed. Cracks in slabs and gaps in expansion joints should be filled.
- In the garden keep your compost enclosed and make sure all rubbish bins have tightly sealed lids.
Some interesting facts about ants:
Did you know that ants are considered the most developed of all insect species? This is because ant colonies are seamlessly organised, including millions of hard-working inhabitants that are each assigned tasks to perform. Queens are responsible for laying eggs to ensure the survival of the ant colony. Males are in charge of mating with winged queens. Soldiers are appointed as the protectors of the colony and collect food on occasion.
Lastly, the female workers have the hardest job of all: nursing larvae, digging nests, foraging for food and guarding the colony. Ants can also carry up to ten times their body weight, making them extremely strong for their small size. But these crawling insects not only have brawn but brains too; communicating via pheromones and other chemical signals.
There will be occasions when one has to resort to more than just prevention (and baby powder). There are many DIY pest control products available to get rid of ants in low-risk areas. It is, however, essential to follow the instructions carefully for safe and effective use. If in doubt, or for frequent re-occurrences of an ant problem, call in the services of a professional pest control company such as Rentokil.