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I guess with the gardening season in full bloom, and during the little time we keep windows and doors open to get a bit of natural air inside, it's also ant season.

These come in two varieties, small and large. For the small ones, I read on one of the tougher laundry powders that it contains borax, and so I mixed a bit of that powder with an equal volume of powdered sugar. It seems to have worked. The good news is that apparently the sugar lures them, and the borax kills them slowly, out of sight. The very good news is that they have time to carry the mixture back to their colony.

The best part is that this mixture is safe. If a child accidentally touches it, it's not too harmful for humans (a stomach ache, perhaps? Luckily I have no empirical results).

There doesn't seem to be a home recipe for the larger ants, and so I'm heading out to buy the brand ("a" "b" "g") that's advertising these days. No opinion whatsoever about it. Just that they seem to have a reputation to be concerned about.

My question is this: Suppose, just suppose, an ant enters these capsules and subsequently wanders walking onto an apple in the kitchen. And suppose, just suppose, that a child nonchalantly grabs this apple without the adults around getting alarmed. Now suppose that trace amounts of the product inside these capsules makes it through the skin of the apple into the digestive system of a child. Is the product they use in these capsules harmful in trace amounts to miniature homo-sapiens?

  • What are you planning, Calaf? :) – Edwin Jun 4 '17 at 1:39
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A pesticide would not be sold for home use if it were harmful to children in trace amounts. They are generally safe if used correctly. Take for example Maxforce FC Ant Killer Bait Gel, the bait that I often use to control ants. It uses Fipronil at a concentration of 0.001%. When I first started using this bait, I was a little freaked out, because I had to order the stuff online. They didn't sell it in the stores. Then one day I happened to look at the label of the Frontline Plus flea treatment that I apply liberally to my dog each month. Turns out that it contains 10% Fipronil! I did some research, and found out that Fipronil is selectivly harmful to insects (I still don't want it on me though).

Other insecticides are similar. When applied as instructed, they will not be harmful to humans. The best news is that you don't have to take anyone's word for it. Each of these insecticides have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which will tell you how and in what concentrations the chemicals are harmful to humans. Just search for the product you are using and "MSDS".

  • All insecticides are harmless to humans? How comforting! I'm a bit puzzled though. You mean the Raid spray, for instance, is not harmful. So it's just the abhorrent smell that makes it repulsive, but it will otherwise neither kill nor even harm us? – Calaf Jun 4 '17 at 3:13
  • You are definitely misunderstanding me. I did not say all insecticides are harmless to humans or even that any insecticide is harmless to humans. I will assert that if you use an insecticide meant for home use in accordance with the directions, then you can assume that no material harm will come to a human. That (along with ecological concerns) is the purpose behind their regulation. – Edwin Jun 4 '17 at 3:43
  • @Calaf, people think of "insecticide" as poison, and different from other substances. But everything on the planet is a chemical and can potentially be helpful or harmful to humans in the right amounts. Even water can kill you if you drink too much of it. Many common household ingredients will kill insects. Some less common chemicals used as insecticides can also be harmful to humans or pets in high enough doses. Products sold over-the-counter to consumers are generally very safe when used as directed. The label or MSDS will have the details. – fixer1234 Jun 4 '17 at 4:41
  • OK, I see that the active ingredient is Borax. It seems that that's not harmful to humans, although obviously one would want to nevertheless use all precautions to avoid exposure. What's not clear is whether borax is effective against "large ants" or just against "small ants". The product is not specific, but information on the web suggests it's ineffective against large ants. Of course that's a different issue than my question. – Calaf Jul 3 '17 at 19:59

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