Garden Myths Gardening Harmful animals

Garden Myth: Cornmeal Makes Ants Explode

20170716AEN.jpgThere are all sorts of garden myths, but one of the strangest is certainly the one that suggests if you put out cornmeal, it will make ants explode.

According to this urban legend, when ants eat dry cornmeal, it will expand in contact with the liquids in their digestive system, creating so much pressure that they explode! A variant of the legend claims that ants die instead from flatulence. And yet another insists that it’s not cornmeal that you should feed ants if you want to kill them, but grits… or a mix of cornmeal and grits.

Obviously, this is all nonsense. Do you really think that the ants will start exploding like firecrackers because they ate something? In fact, cornmeal and grits make wonderful ant foods.

Commercial ant baits are often made of a mix of cornmeal and boron.

It’s easy to understand where this legend comes from. Commercial ant bait is often made up largely of cornmeal… not that cornmeal kills ants, but because they love it! It’s not the meal that kills them, but the insecticide that the producer mixed into it.

Worker ants can’t eat ant bait (i.e. cornmeal) because it’s a solid and they can only eat liquids. The queen ant too only eats liquids. So there is no danger they’ll eat the cornmeal bait themselves, then die of explosions or farting on their way back to the nest. Instead, they bring the poisoned meal back to their nest’s larvae and they can consume solids. They chew it up, partially digest it, then regurgitate the sweetened liquid that results from their digestion. This is the liquid the workers eat and that they feed to the queen.

If the larvae ate poisoned bait, one containing a weakly toxic product (usually boric acid is used), something that won’t kill them outright, and the queen eats it, she’ll be poisoned little by little and will eventually die. But only if the cornmeal contains a toxin.

It’s not the cornmeal that kills ant colonies, but the toxic product that is incorporated into it. If you simply apply cornmeal to the soil, as per the urban legend, you won’t be killing the ants, you’ll be feeding them.20170716AEN

16 comments on “Garden Myth: Cornmeal Makes Ants Explode

  1. Angela Raines Greene

    Not true I put cornmeal along my kitchen counter and literally saw them explode, it works, so I do not know what corn meal you use but it will kill them. And it was my regular kitchen cornmeal.

  2. Teresa McDonald

    Well what then? do you suggest that is a home remedy to get rid of all these ants that are building between every crack in my driveway, sidewalk and everywhere????

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  4. It’s not true that ants only eat liquids. Put a few dry cat kibbles in a jar lid, and watch what happens.

    • They’re not eating the kibble, they’re bringing bits of it back to the nest where they feed it to larvae.

    • Adult ants only consume liquids. They take the solids back to the nest to feed juveniles, who can eat solids.

  5. Before you bash something observe and understand it. Prove your theory.

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  7. And yet every fireant pile I’ve ever dumped cornmeal on has been completely eradicated after 2 weeks. Every single one. Ever single time.

    • Great for you. But did you see the ants explode?

    • They probably just moved. If the queen is alive, she just keeps laying more eggs. Stop believing these old wives tales, they are codswallop.

      • Cornmeal works….For what ever reason the ants are gone. I’ve done this to multiple hills and all at the same time and they’re gone. Sure makes sense Zelda, make an ant hill just to move immediately out of it.

  8. mack1946

    Thanks for the post. I thought it might be wishful thinking. I think I’m gonna try Sevin dust. I saw where some folks had used it and it didn’t seem to hurt the chickens. But again thanks for the info..

    • Racchel Racchel

      don’t use Sevin if you have pets. I had three baby tortoises die because they ate a very small amount of Sevin. The ants may not explode, but cornmeal has done the trick and is safe for other pets.

  9. Pingback: Garden Myth: You Can Kill Slugs With Cornmeal – Laidback Gardener

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