Ants and borax

Ants have invaded my home and searching the web seems to favour borax as an effective solution. I’m curious as to how the borax works. The best answer I’ve found so far involves the ants respiratory system, but I’m curious as to how they can carry it back to the nest and not be affected?

as far as I know they do not carry it back to the nest per se, they inhale it into their spicules and it does tissue damage on the individual ant [or roach or flea] which kills that specific bug

My understanding is that borax is an abrasive and kills insects by scratching holes in their exoskeletons, causing them to lose water and die by desiccation. It takes some time to work, so ants are able to carry it around without being killed immediately.

Minor correction; that should be spiracles (openings that admit air into the insect’s body).

That sounds more like the mode of action of Diatomaceous earth than Borax,

You wouldn’t mix a water soluble abrasive agent with food such as peanut butter or maple and expect it to work. Borax is sometimes used this way.

Borax is a pretty good buffering and chelating agent, seems to me it works through those properties rather than as a simple mechanical agent.

I know nothing about how borax specifically affects an ant. However, I offer that the affect is not restricted to borax. I also had ants regularly moving along a specific path in my home. I dusted the area with talcum powder and from that moment on, never saw another ant.

By dusting, I mean that I tipped the container upside down, then to a 90 degree angle and squeezed it. The amount of talc that was deposited was nearly invisible and could be mistaken for light dust. One application lasts from Spring until Fall.

Quite a few sites I found allege that the method of action of borax is as a cuticle abrasive, but since they are non-technical I acknowledge they could well be wrong. The most technical article I found says boric acid is a slow-acting stomach poison.

Yes, I noticed that. It’s exactly the sort of disinformation the internet excels at spreading.
Not only is borax a water soluble material, but it’s not even a particularly hard material. It also tends to come in granules that are bigger than say, table salt. If it worked through abrasion, you’d expect salt and sugar to be effective as well, They are not.

If you place some under a stereo microscope you’ll see that it’s packed with 20-mule teams. These wagons run down the ants, scratching up their exoskeletons and causing dessication.

Next week: the truth behind Sea Monkeys’ castles!

My (possibly flawed) understanding is that it chemically dissolves the waxy seals on the joints in the legs and exoskeleton, causing the dessication.

This was in response to the effect of boric acid on cockroaches, but:

There seems to be a consensus that the effect is primarily on the exoskeleton, although the precise means by which the acid damages it seems to be unclear.