The purpose of this project is to determine the effect of household substances, which contain naturally occurring ant-repelling chemicals, on ant behavior. While there are many plants that chemically repel ants, this project will test if there are any household products, which contain some of the same naturally occurring repellents, which ants will avoid. This paper will first identify what plants repel ants.
The herbs and plants that best repel ants are tansy, catnip, pennyroyal, peppermint, sage, coffee, and spearmint. All of these but catnip have some of medicinal use. Catnip and pennyroyal are both in the mint family. It is already known what makes catnip a repellent- ...view middle of the document...
Spearmint and peppermint, which are very closely related, both have oil composed of high amounts of menthol and menthyne, and other compounds. While the oil of these plants smells pleasing and has some limited medicinal properties, these oils are repellent to ants and peppermint has a high concentration of natural pesticides.
These plants ant repel ants because they either simulate pheromones or are toxic to ants. The next step is discovering what household substances can duplicate these effects. The candidates are substances that incorporate or somehow are based on these plants. For example, many toothpastes use spearmint or peppermint flavoring, though they are often artificially flavored. A substance many kitchens have is sage, which is used in various recipes.
Cineole, found in both sage and tansy, is better known as eucalyptol. Eucalyptol is used in many household products, often as flavoring, and it can be used as a mosquito repellent. It can often be found in mouthwash and cough suppressant. This suggests these products as possible repellents.
Finally, coffee grounds will be tested because they contain caffeine, the effects of which have already been discussed.
The ants used for this project are red harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, a burrowing ant native to the Southwest. They are usually sold for their poor climbing ability and their averageness. Their society, life cycle, caste system, and physiology are very average for ants. The only notable aspects of their biology is their high amount of formic acid and the fact that while they cannot climb, they can sting if they are threatened and...