How do you get rid of ants in the house and around your yard? Nobody wants to deal with an ant infestation, or even a slow trickle of ants in and around your home. Personally, I absolutely hate ants and any insects in my house. I have frequent nightmares about that so I’m very sensitive to this whole issue of how to kill, prevent and ultimately get rid of ants once and for all.
I think you’ll find this article useful in helping you get rid of ants for good.
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Intro | How to Get Rid of Ants
Ants can cause a major problem when they find their way into your home. They can get into the tiniest spaces due to their small size and colonies consist of ants by the thousands. So what do you do if you find them in your kitchen or food pantry? There are different solutions that can effectively repel and kill the ants in your home, but the best way to get rid of ants is by knowing what kind you’re dealing with.
Species of Ants and Their Behaviors
There are numerous types of ants and different species are attracted by different things. For instance, carpenter ants like moist, decaying wood to create their nests which may bring them indoors, while fire ants typically stay outdoors. Most ant types feed on similar foods that we eat, especially sweets and greasy foods, although some will also eat other insects. When you’re looking at effective methods for eradicating your ant problem, being able to identify the type that is residing in your home will provide the best solution.
Photos of Common House Ants in North America
The most common types of ants that homeowners find in their kitchen are often referred to as ‘sugar ants’; however, there are a number of different species classified as ‘sugar ants’ which include acrobat ants, odorous house ants, and pharaoh ants.These species are characterized as small ants ranging in size from 2 to 15mm and their size is typically affected by their habitat due to the availability of various food sources.
When ants find a food source, they will leave scent trails consisting of pheromones which you can’t see, but other ants can follow. This is why you often see a trail of ants marching along one behind another. Sugar ants are generally considered to be mild-mannered and do not bite unless disturbed.
Their bites are not painful and do not cause any symptoms so they may even go unnoticed. The biggest nuisance with ants invading your home is that they colonize in very large numbers and can contaminate food and food preparation surfaces.
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What Causes Home Ant Infestation?
Sugar ants (Camponotus consobrinus) like warmer, humid climates preferably in suburban areas and feed on sweet foods, as well as nectar, different types of plant secretions including honeydew, and even other small insects. Due to their social behavior, ants travel in colonies and follow their queen. When you find an army of ants in your home it’s usually because the queen ant just so happened to find a desirable location to form her colony nearby.
It is the worker ants that scavenge for food and bring it back to the nest. Most species of ants prefer to make their nests in warm, damp areas near a food and water source which could be within the walls of a structure or even under foundations. Acrobat ants will make their nests in wood that has been carved out or damaged by other insects, often leaving traces of wood and dirt outside of the nest area that may lead homeowners to suspect termite infestation. For this reason, it is recommended to call in a professional to confront the problem if you’re unsure as to which type of pest you have because the treatment will vary.
The kitchen isn’t the only place you might find ants in your home. You may find little black ants lurking around in your bathroom. In addition to food sources, ants also seek a source of water for survival. Most species of ants are attracted to moisture, so a place where there may be stagnant water such as from a leaky faucet, could be a warm welcome for ants in your bathroom.
If you have an ant infestation the colony can and will expand to other areas of the home if given the opportunity. Pharaoh ants are among the most common types of ant species that are drawn to the bathroom. Odorous house ants are another common species found indoors, which are attracted to strong odors, like fermenting hair in your drains. Other areas that may draw ants in are basements and laundry rooms.
Ant Bait Traps | Exploit Nature
✓ Did you know?
Ant bait traps exploit the fact that animals practice social food sharing called trophallaxis, which is typical among ants. Basically, ants will recruit their nest partners to help them collect food and return it to the nest, which then gets distributed throughout the entire colony. This is where ant bait becomes amazingly effective because as they share bait with their nest partners, the active ingredient in the ant bait gets distributed throughout the colony and if it happens to be an insecticide then they all get killed.
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Natural Ant Control
Pesticides and chemicals may not be safe to use in homes with pets and children. For this reason many homeowners prefer to look towards more natural solutions that are safe and effective. Another reason you may wish to side more with all natural solutions is because using the wrong formula of pesticide on an unidentified species could actually make the problem worse. Here are a few recommendations on the best way to get rid of ants using household products you may already have on hand.
Video | How to Kill Ants Naturally
Killing Ants with Borax
Killing ants on contact will solve the problem initially, but may not be useful against colonies that are nesting in the walls where you can’t see them. The problem with killing ants that you see in your home is that as long as the queen lives, she will continue to reproduce and rebuild her colony, which means a good possibility of ants returning to your home.
A bait solution using borax (Amazon) is the best way to get rid of ants that have formed a colony in your home. Borax works to kill off odorous house ants that consume the bait and bring it back to the colony for the queen and larvae to feed on. There are different ways to bait ants based on the type you’re dealing with because different species will be attracted to different types of bait. Even some commercial brands of ant bait consist of borax. An ideal solution is to use a combination of baits with a sugary solid, a sugary liquid, and a protein to attract different species.
- For the sugary liquid, you can use maple syrup as your bait mixed with borax. Heat up ¾ of a cup of syrup in the microwave for a few seconds then mix with ¼ cup of borax.
- For the sugary solid, mix ¼ cup of borax with ¾ cup of powdered sugar
- For the protein, mix 3 parts of peanut butter to 1 part borax
After doing a little observation and identifying where the ants are coming from, place the bait solutions in small containers around areas where ants are spotted. This is not ideal around pets or children so be sure to keep out of reach or look look to an alternate method. You can also purchase commercial ant baits that are enclosed in child-resistant housing while still allowing ants to access the bait.
Bait traps are not effective on ant species that do not bring food back to the nest such as Carpenter ants. The best way to get rid of ants such as these is to kill them on contact and locate the nest. They like to dig through wood so a big tip off to finding the nest is spotting piles of sawdust.
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- DuPont Advion ant gel bait is a superior ant bait from DuPont Professional Products that targets most pest species of ants, including all key sweet feeders plus additional ant species.
- Advion ant gel bait targets most pest species of ants, including all key sweet feeders plus additional ant species
- Advion ant gel features a highly attractant, homogenous formulation.
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- The product will last a minimum of 2 years from the date of manufacture.
Peppermint and Tea Tree Oil
To make this solution you will need a spray bottle filled with water. Add 15 – 20 drops of peppermint oil and 15 – 20 drops of Tea tree oil to the bottle and shake to mix well. You can also add a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper to your solution for really severe ant infestations. Spray the solution in areas where ants are spotted and around cracks and potential entries that ants are making their way into your home. This solution will kill ants on contact and repel them from coming back.
If you don’t have these oils on hand, using pure white vinegar or apple cider vinegar works too. Add to a spray bottle and spray around baseboards, corners, cracks, and crannies where ants may be trailing in. You can also use a cotton ball soaked in vinegar to place in holes and cracks to deter them from entering.
Another good remedy with multiple purpose is using Dr. Bronner’s castile liquid soap! You can clean multiple surfaces of your home or laundry, leaving a refreshing scent while eradicating your ant troubles. Many dish detergents and soaps, especially pure castile liquid soap, are deadly to ants because it breaks down layers of the exoskeleton that are vital to their survival. To make an ant killer using Dr. Bronner’s soap, combine ¼ cup of the peppermint castile soap to a 1 quart spray bottle and fill with water. Spray around baseboards, cracks, and entry points where you see ants coming from.
How Get Rid of Ants Around Your Home
Ant problems don’t just occur inside. Ant mounds around your yard could be bothersome to pets and especially young children. Fire ants can be really problematic around your home. The small red-bodied ants are one of the most aggressive species with stingers that can leave painful, itchy bumps and severe reactions to those who are allergic. Pavement ants are tiny black ants that are commonly seen around pavement slabs, lawns, and building foundations.
They don’t cause structural damage or pose any harm to your property but they can be annoying to deal with. They can also make their way into your home in search of food.
The best way to get rid of ants to keep them from coming into your home is by eradicating the problem before they stand a chance.
Diatomaceous earth is one of the best ant killers that can be used in and around your house without posing harm to you and your family. DE is a substance that is made up from algae-like plant remains and is completely natural and organic. Food grade DE is completely safe for use around pets and children and can even be consumed for a variety of reasons but it’s lethal to insects, including ants.
Just be sure when looking to purchase DE that it is food grade diatomaceous earth. It can be used indoors to kill carpenter ants by sprinkling directly onto the nest or outdoors around ant mounds. When using outdoors, you will need to reapply DE after it rains.
How does diatomaceous earth work to kill ants and other insects?
“Diatomaceous earth is not poisonous; it does not have to be eaten in order to be effective. Diatomaceous earth causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect’s exoskeleton. Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process. It remains effective as long as it is kept dry and undisturbed.” (Oregon State University site)
Preventing Ants from Entering Your Home
The best way to get rid of ants once and for all is to take necessary action to keep them from returning. Food stains, spills, and food preparation surfaces where traces of food may be lingering around are all sources that can draw in sugar ants.
Even the most minuscule crumb could serve as a feast for a colony of hungry ants and is just enough to bring them back looking for more. They are looking for any source of food to bring back to the colony to feed the larvae and the queen, so if they do make their way in don’t give them any reason to stick around. Once you have successfully eliminated your ant problem there are preventative measures you should follow.
- Be sure to keep all areas of your home clean and free of food debris. This means thoroughly wiping areas where food is prepared, sweeping and vacuuming hard to reach areas such as behind appliances, and refrain from leaving dirty dishes lying around. Also use a cleaner to clean surfaces where ants traveled once they’re gone to eliminate scent trails.
- Pet food can also attract ants so only leave out what your pet will consume in a feeding. Empty crumbs that may remain in their bowl once they’re done eating and clean up water spills.
- Inspect pipes and faucets for leaks and make necessary repairs. Replace baseboards or any wood that has become wet to eliminate potential sources for nesting.
- Seal all cracks and gaps around your home, windows, doors, and pipes with silicone or caulk.
- Keep all food closed and sealed and keep a lid on trash cans. For best results, store sugar and particularly sweet foods such as cookies in an airtight container rather than simply rolling the bag/package it came in to keep intruders out.
Even with good sanitation and preventative care to your home, bugs and insects will likely still try to make their way in and who can blame them? A warm structure where there’s food and water is inviting to any creature when resources become scarce.The following natural solutions can repel bugs and insects, including ants, from invading your home.
Bay Leaves – these fragrant herbs can give a nice flavor to dishes but their odor is very unappealing to bugs and insects. Place whole bay leaves around your home along countertops, in cabinets, and food pantries, and around window seals to repel ants. Whole cloves will also do the trick.
Coffee grounds – if there’s an ant colony nearby, the worker ants are the ones that go in search of food. Placing coffee grounds, even used, around your home will throw off their scent trails to keep them from coming in. The rest of the colony will be susceptible to dying from starvation when the worker ants don’t return with food.
Citrus and Essential Oils – These are also unfavorable to ants that rely on their scent trails to find sources of food. Use citrus oils and essential oils around your home to repel insects and add a nice natural fragrance to freshen up your living space.
If ants are persistently becoming a problem even after methods to eradicate them, it may be time to call in the professionals. They’re trained on identifying specific types of different insects and finding their nest to kill them right at the source.
Additional Resources | How to get rid of ants & general education on ant control