The 1 Food Scrap To Keep If You Hate Ants

The secret to repelling the bugs is probably in your compost bin.
Denisa via Getty Images

I think the wisest thing I’ve ever heard might be that “there’s no such thing as a single ant”. The cooperative critters outnumber humans by about 2.5 million to one and love to work in groups.

Their colonies are, on average, about 20,000 to 100,000 strong – though the Argentine Ant Supercolony spans more than 3,700 miles and contains roughly 307 million ants (woah).

It’s no wonder then that getting rid of an infestation can feel so daunting.

Of course, ants play an important role in our ecosystem by aerating soil, dispersing seeds, and providing a food source for many animals. Therefore, baits that work by destroying whole nests might not be your cup of tea.

Thankfully, whether they’re in your garden or on your countertops, there is one way to confuse the beasties out of your space ― and it only requires citrus peels and water.

Which peels, and why?

Any citrus peels ― lemon, grapefruit, lime, tangerine, etc. – will work. However, orange rinds might be your best bet.

It works because D-limonene oil ― the acidic oil found in the peels of citrus fruits – is toxic to ants (it can even kill them on contact). And this oil is especially concentrated in orange rinds.

The oil may be harmful to any ants you directly spray the stuff onto, but if you don’t hit the bugs and simply spray nearby, the powerful smell will confuse them and make them forget their food trail.

In theory, this means that the ants that have been returning to your garden over and over again will finally leave that one spot near your flowerbeds well alone.

Unlike with ant baits and other pest control methods, affected ants won’t bring the toxic stuff back to their nests. So, you won’t have the blood of thousands of shiny black critters on your conscience.

OK, so how do I administer it?

Though some TikToks and other sources might encourage you to simply leave peels in your garden or kitchen, it’s far from the best solution.

D-limonene, the substance we want to get from the peels, is extracted through hydro-distillation ― in other words, soaking and heating the peels.

  • Add your leftover citrus peels to a pot with just enough water (or a 50/50 vinegar and water mix) to cover them.
  • Heat the mixture until it’s steaming, but not boiling; the oil is released when the liquid steams.
  • Leave it to sit overnight.
  • Strain the mixture into a spray bottle and spritz on any affected areas.
  • Make sure you’re only using the peels and none of the flesh, as the sugary fruit of your citruses could attract more pests.

Kevin Rodrigues, from Gardening Mentor, told Homes & Gardens that you should “spray this every 3-4 days to get rid of pests like slugs, aphids, ants, whiteflies, and fruit flies – and to keep them away”.

And if your ant issue is mainly indoors, spray it on their trail to steer them out of the kitchen, and apply it to any cracks and possible entry points for prevention.

Of course, it’s possible that the ants might find a way to return to your space. If that happens (and if you’ve tried everything else to get rid of them), it could be time to call in the pros.