Creating makeshift moats is a simple way of ant-proofing sweeteners and baked goods during an ant invasion. All you need are containers and water.
It’s been a long time since I’ve lived though a serious ant invasion. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like. Almost. It’s all coming back to me though as the ants continue their vigilant effort to find every last crumb in our entire house.
It turns out that letting your kids decorate your Christmas tree with candy canes is a really bad idea. As we made merry and enjoyed the season, the ants did, too, feasting unnoticed on the wrapped candies gracing our tree. Judging by the caves and tunnels carved out beneath the plastic coating, they’d been at it for quite some time.
If I hadn’t been so horrified about their discovery, I probably would have thought the work they’d done on those candy canes was really cool. Instead, I took those infested sweets outside to our garbage can and chucked them in with a shudder.
Once we cleared the ants’ food supply, rather than thanking us for our hospitality and moving along, they did more exploring. Rain and cold weather didn’t help matters, since ants usually come inside when the whether changes anyway.
They set down new marching trails just as quickly as I could destroy them. I’ve sought out points of entry and doused them with “non-toxic” ant spray (Why am I surprised that they’re still alive?). I’ve cleared, sanitized, and reorganized every cupboard, drawer, and shelf in my kitchen. I’ve wiped every counter religiously. I’ve vacuumed and mopped obsessively.
My kitchen has never been cleaner, yet still they come. I have found them in an unopened bag of brown sugar, floating in a bowl of soup, and in an ice cube dispensed by my ice maker. They are everywhere.
One of my least favorite ant cleanup tasks involves removing their little bodies from honey, molasses, and corn syrup jars. Invariably, these bottles have sticky residue which grabs onto ant legs, antenna, and odd abdomen parts as you wipe them off.
This cleaning job is one I will only ever do once; once the jars are clean and ant-free, I drop them in small containers of water.
Ants can’t swim, so even if the sweetness inside the container lures them, once they venture into the water, they’re doomed. As long the bottles don’t touch the edges of the containers holding the water, you’ll never find ant trails leading to your sweeteners.
Creating makeshift ant moats is simple, easy, and much better than just tossing out those partially used bottles in a fit of frustration after that the ants continue to find them again and again no matter how clean you get them. I leave my sweeteners sitting in water on the counter until the ant crisis passes. Hopefully this will happen soon, so I can dry them off and return them to the cupboard where they belong.
Ant moats also solve the problem of storing other foods that you don’t want to put in the refrigerator. I’ve used this method for storing partially-eaten fruit pies, allowing bread dough to rise, and for cooling baked goods. When I baked banana blondies the other day, I balanced the baking pan on a small bowl turned upside-down in a large casserole dish filled with water. This kept our dessert far from the reach of scouting ants until after dinner-time.
This method also works well with cooling racks. Simply set your baked goods on the rack and place the cooling rack atop the bowl.
If it feels wobbly, like it did with this persimmon cake I baked for my dad’s birthday, you can add a second bowl for more stability. Be sure to check that your bowls clear the sides of the casserole dish — mine looked a bit tight, so I swapped out the bowls for two mugs.
I hope you’ll never, ever need to get to work ant-proofing sweeteners and baked goods in your kitchen.
But if you do, I hope your battles is short and your victory complete!
I’d forgotten about ant moats! When I was a kid we’d see clay ones everywhere, they were called jal-kanda, and they sort of looked like this:
Wow! I had no idea this was a thing you could buy! Thanks for sharing, Nadiya!
Thank you so much. I am building my ant moat right now to cool my second try at loaves of sweet potato bread; the ants got to the first 2 loaves. ?
Oh, I’m so sorry you have ants! Glad you could save your baked goods from them!