multi-talented bay leaves keep pests away

Bay leaves are good at more than flavoring soups and sauces. They also keep pests away. A couple of summers ago, when we returned from a trip to the beach, we were dismayed to find lines of ants marching to and from food in our pantry, including a box of one of my favorite cereals (Peace Maple Pecan). We never had to deal with an ant problem before — and we didn’t want to douse our kitchen in chemicals — so we were open to a friend’s suggestion to use bay leaves as an ant repellent. After scrubbing down our kitchen, we placed dried bay leaves on shelves and under the sink. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or if it’s because we now store food like cereal in plastic containers (or if it’s a combination of both), but we haven’t had an ant problem since. I love it when green solutions work! –Michelle V.K.

More green pest solutions? See our info on fighting termites and rose bush mites.

From our partners

Great suggestion!

What we’ve found is that if you mess up their tracks (they leave invisible tracks to follow), the ants won’t be able to find the food.

My guess is that you probably did a lot by putting open things into containers. :)


I’ve heard the bay leaf thing too, and I’ve kept one on each shelf ever since, and never had a bug problem. I can’t nail it down to that either, but circumstantial evidence leads me to believe – why not!

Bev Bourne

I did that once, too, but also put out slices of spearmint gum (still in wrapper). Don’t know which of the two remedies worked, but problem solved.

Michelle Volpe-Kohler

Spearmint gum? Interesting! I never heard of that. Will keep it in mind if we ever have to deal with this again.


Another great ant killer is Mrs. Meyers countertop spray. It kills them dead in their tracks and smells good, too. It doesn’t seem to work as a preventative, but if you walk in the kitchen and find a ton (we do every spring) all over the sink and countertop, it’s a big help.

Love the tip and I’ll try it this summer. Do you know of anything that works with spiders? They seem to try to move into our basement every fall.


Embarrassingly, I’ve had a rodent problem in my apartment recently. First came the signs, then came the poison, then came the dead animal smell, then came the flies…Does anyone have a natural prevention for rodent problems, natural remedies for dead animal smell, and/or remedy to swarm away the flies? FYI, the rodent is in the wall so I can’t get to it. I just have to deal with it.

Here’s one that worked for us. Take equal parts of borax (laundry additive) and granulated sugar – mix with enough water to make a thick paste. Put this in discarded bottle caps (we used the plastic tops from gallon milk jugs) and place them where you find ants. This eliminated our ant problem within days.

As much as I’m enjoying the blooming jonquils and budding forsythia in my yard, I’m dreading the coming spring because that means ANTS in our kitchen. Yuck. I’m ready to try the bay leaves and spearmint gum. Borax worked pretty well, but we find them coming from so many directions that it’s hard to block all of their tracks (also the version we had was blue, so little lines of blue inside and outside our house, a little weird…). My favorite, having-an-anxiety-attack-because-I-just-walked-in-the-kitchen-and-turned-on-the-lights response is also to use Mrs. Meyers (or vinegar spray, or windex) and just spray them in their tracks. It’s almost worth resorting to an exterminator, tho. Hate those little buggers.

Remember that borax and boric acid are both toxic to cats. One lick is lethal.