Ants can be a menace when they find a way into our homes, offices or yards. Though it may take time for them to find their way, everything becomes a mess quickly once they do. Trying to eliminate them can be challenging, though. Ants are highly resistant to most pesticides unless you have enough to eliminate them. While we cannot always stop ants from coming into our homes, there are ways we can deal with them. However, selecting the correct method of ant removal is vital to ridding your residence of ants.
Most insects transmit various disease-causing microbes, including fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Social insects such as ants live in large colonies that multiply at high rates, making them more likely to cause allergies or transmit diseases.
To put it into perspective, just how many ants are in the world? Currently, there are approximately ten quadrillions (10,000,000,000,000,000) ants on earth compared to seven billion people only.
The National Wildlife Federation confirmed that although the ant species exceed 12,000, most of them are harmless to us. However, some dangerous species such as Monomorium ants cause severe allergic reactions and bronchial asthma.
Ants are also unhygienic as they contaminate food and even bite people. In hospitals, ants are a serious concern, as they transfer microbes and disease vectors. Some varieties, such as Carpenter ants, can cause severe damage to your home's building materials.
So how can you get rid of ants in your home? Let’s explore some of the safest ways to achieve effective results.
All ants live in colonies, with most having one queen and numerous female worker ants that are sterile. However, some territories can have up to twelve queens and millions of ants.
Male ants often have wings, and they are only helpful when the colony requires additional ants. Their only responsibility is to ensure the queen produces larvae through mating.
Once they finish mating, they die, but the queen can live beyond one year and produce countless offspring in that period. During reproduction, numerous male ants inhabit the colony to mate with the queen.
The queen then looks for a comfortable nesting place and ensures it’s ready for the colony. She sheds the wings and lays eggs to start the new colony.
Ants can carry between ten and fifty times their body weight. Most people wonder, why do ants suddenly appear?
As they move around, foraging ants mark their trails using pheromones to guide the other ants towards the food supply.
The pheromones also serve as a warning when there's danger. The ants can protect and save the sick or dying ants from the nest.
If you see some running around your home, there's a high likelihood that they live nearby. Most ants prefer living outdoors, so they only look for a convenient entry point near food or water.
Some species, like carpenter ants, create nests inside wooden structures such as beams. They weaken the beams and other fittings from the tunneling.
Ants have various survival mechanisms, such as clumping together to float on water for long periods.
Ants thrive in most environments because they can survive eating almost anything. To get rid of ants, you have to establish what is driving them into your home.
The main attractions are:
Ants can eat most food items like crumbs and leftovers but mostly prefer sweet foods. A single drop of honey or fruit jam is enough to attract hundreds of ants. When one ant finds the food sources, it marks the trail using pheromones to guide other ants.
2. Water or Moisture
Ants also require water to live, but they don't always look for a water source when need be. They also carry some moisture back to the colony to store for future purposes.
A water source doesn't have to be major like a broken pipe, but it can be your potted plants or your pets' water bowls.
3. Living Space
Due to their small size, ants can establish a colony in any warm, comfortable space. Even tiny cracks between floors or walls are enough to accommodate them.
Getting rid of ants requires knowing which species you're dealing with. Some of the most common types you'll find in your garden, kitchen, or bathroom are:
Carpenter ants prefer staying outside your homes like your garden, house siding, or deck. Although they don't eat the wood, they create tunnels to establish their colonies and build nests. They can therefore cause significant structural damages to your home.
Ants are mostly active during the night or after dusk. They survive on proteins and sugar and eat pet or human food remains.
Pavement ants or sugar ants are tiny and either black or brown. They establish their nests and colonies in pavement cracks but look for food inside your home.
You'll find them mostly in your kitchen, pantry, dining room, or any other area where they can get food crumbs.
Argentine ants are common in urban areas and are light or dark brown. They are about 2.2 to 2.8 mm long and are easily identifiable by their elaborate nests.
They use fibrous materials such as shrub and tree cavities, wood, mulch, and debris.
Seeing one ant is often a sign of an advanced infestation. One colony can accommodate several nests with more than a hundred queens. They are aggressive and can overrun and kill nearby ant colonies.
Argentine ants migrate to look for shelter inside your home in extreme humidity or dry weather. You can find them nesting beneath the floorboards or in the walls.
Fire ants are tiny and have a dull red-brown color. They have a prominent stinger near the back of the abdomen, which they use to deliver excruciating stings and bites.
Once they sting or bite someone, they inject some venom into their victims, causing an intense burning feeling hence their name. The stung area develops red rashes that grow into white pimples with some fluid in about 24 hours.
They are invasive and like building nests and colonies outdoors, but they can enter the house to forage for food if they find an entrance.
Harvester ants are larger and have red or brown bodies about ¼-½” long (0.635 cm to 1.27 cm). Their bodies are spineless, and their heads have a square shape.
Harvester ants live outdoors and often clear vegetation in circles around their nests and colonies. Patches on your lawn can be a sign of their foraging trails near their nest.
Most ants live outdoors but escape to the inside of your home in extreme temperatures or when dry weather finishes their regular food sources. So how can you find them?
Eliminating ants requires you to destroy the nest and colony. It's not an easy task, but there are common areas where you'll find them.
In general, they prefer moist, soft areas like soft areas on the floors or walls where there is some water damage. You can start your search by inspecting bathrooms, attics, and external walls. If there's some water damage on the walls, cut small holes in the spots and peek inside.
Grab a flashlight and inspect under and behind furniture and appliances such as kitchen and bathroom cabinets, under sinks, refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher. In severe infestation, it's easy to follow the foraging paths to the nest.
If the path is unclear, you can excite the ants by placing sweet or protein-rich food crumbs in their way. The ants will quickly assemble and lead you directly to their nest.
If the trail leads you outside, the nest is likely in well-hidden areas such as beneath yard debris and woodpiles, decaying tree stumps or vegetation, and under the house siding.
Once you locate a nest, you can kill the ants through your preferred method. Ensure you fix the leaks and replace the damaged sections. If you're unable to find the nest, it's best to seek help from a professional pest control service.
Since ants are most active at night or evenings, it’s best to schedule the inspections during this time for better results.
1 - Eliminate Food Sources
Ants prefer feeding on food sources rich in sugar or protein. To prevent rapid infestation, it’s best to:
2 - Close off the Entry Points
Most ants are small and can fit in the tiniest of cracks. If you notice a trail, follow it to see whether it leads to a broken seal or crack in the wall or floor. They can also enter through the caulking around electrical wires, so ensure you check and seal all points.
3 - Use Bait or Sprays
The two main methods of eliminating ants are using baits or sprays. By design, target the specific ants and the entire colony. The ants consume the bait or carry it back to the nest, poisoning all the ants it comes into contact with.
Sprays contain certain compounds that target the specific ant, killing it directly. Let’s take a closer look at both options.
Baits and Gels
Baits are often in gels, liquids, granules, or blocks. Some baits are ready to set out, but some require mixing the active ingredient with water. It's best to buy the ready bait to prevent exposing you to the chemicals.
If you choose to use baits, you’ll have to leave the ants undisturbed for some time to ensure the number is enough to infect the entire colony. Position the baits near the ant trails, close to the entry point.
The idea is to have them crawl over the bait, but it should be far enough to be out of reach of pets or children. It should also be far from foods to prevent contamination.
When using gel, spread it inside cracks and crevices and apply some beneath the sinks, cabinets, closets, and appliances. The full effect may not be immediately noticeable, but you'll see the ant population gradually becoming smaller.
Various ant bates contain different active ingredients. Continuously using the same pesticide over long periods can cause the ants to develop resistance. Try rotating other baits if you notice one type is less effective.
The types of active ingredients present in baits include:
Boric Acid or Borates
Baits whose active ingredient has Borax or boric acid require mixing with syrup or sugar. They are most effective against Argentine ants and grease ants.
The baits attract foraging ants that take it back to the nest, killing the ants and queen. Since boric acid and borates occur naturally, their toxicity levels in humans are significantly low, but they are very toxic to plants.
If you ingest small quantities of boric acid daily over some months, some side effects include low sperm count.
Insect Growth Regulators
Methoprene and pyriproxyfen are standard growth regulators used in baits. They stop the ants from developing from one stage to the other.
They are most effective in controlling fire ants and are toxic to aquatic plants and animals. Once you finish using the best, it's best to dispose of it well to avoid contaminating water sources.
4 - Use Aerosol Sprays and Foggers
Using sprays and foggers to control ants is not advisable due to the high possibility of contamination and harmful exposure when in use.
They also leave residues on home surfaces and risk explosion if improperly stored. The chemicals can drift and affect beneficial wildlife like bees and other insects when used outdoors.
Some aerosol sprays have natural substances such as:
Although they are often harmless through food contamination, inhaling the spray can cause health issues.
Ant sprays can either be repellent or non-repellent.
Repellant sprays cause the ants to flee or get confused. Such sprays are effective in other uses but not controlling ants. They mostly chase away the ants without killing the majority.
Ants are very sensitive to smell, so if you use a repellant spray, then decide to use bait, ensure you clean the surface well using warm soapy water, and then rinse off with clean water.
Non-repellent sprays are very effective against ants since they don’t smell the insecticide when sprayed. Once they come into contact with the chemicals, they transfer them back to the nest or colony.
Since they don’t have to consume the bait, they only need to pass through it to spread it to the entire colony.
Most ant solutions don't require indoor spraying, so it should be the last option. Before using any product, it's essential to read the label carefully as some sprays are only for outdoor use. You can spray across entry points like windows and doors or around your home's foundation.
You can also spray into holes, such as where electric cable lines pass through. If there are insecticide residues, it’s best to clean using mild soapy water without any bleach.
The chlorine present in bleaches reduces the effectiveness of the pesticides in ant sprays.
Most aerosol sprays and foggers have pyrethroids, where the active ingredient has “-thrin” at the end. Although they kill insects they come into contact with; they are less effective when eliminating the insects in the colony or nest.
The risk of contamination via surfaces is high, and inhaling the chemicals can cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks.
Ants often infest the kitchen due to the readily available food and water sources. Kitchen counters harbor tiny food crumbs and droplets of sweet liquids that attract the ants.
Ants don't require large amounts of water to survive, as damp kitchen cloths or mats are enough. If you have a kitchen fan, it's best to air dish towels near it to dry them faster or throw them in a dryer for a couple of minutes.
You can also remove food crumbs and grease from the drains and pipes by pouring a mixture of soda and vinegar in equal quantities. Allow the liquid to sit in the drain for about ten minutes, and then flush down some hot water.
If there are water pipe leakages, ensure you seal off all weak points. You can also cover the sink drain using a cup to stop the ants from climbing in through the drain.
Ensure you seal off small cracks and crevices using caulk and replace any damaged door or window screens where they enter. Besides keeping off ants, it will also help prevent other pests and insects from entering your home.
Since they depend on smell to locate food sources, using non-repellent sprays, scents and traps will effectively control the ants. Once their olfactory or scent receptors get disrupted, the ants either die or escape.
If you can't locate the colony or nest, you can buy some ant traps online or at your local store. The traps are in the form of a small plastic container with a small amount of corn syrup or Borax in the middle and a tight seal.
You can place the trap near entry points in the kitchen to help the ants find it faster. After touching the bait, the ants carry the poison back to the colony, killing the tiny ants, the queen, and eventually the entire colony. Ensure there are no nearby food sources to distract them.
Bait gels are also effective when applying them on surfaces the ants use. However, avoid using repellant sprays to ensure the bait is effective.
To prevent re-infestation in your kitchen, here are some helpful tips.
Although there are numerous ant species, the common species you’ll find in bathrooms are pharaoh ants, sugar ants, and carpenter ants. Moisture ants are also common, and they are often yellow and about 4-5 mm long.
They prefer areas with high moisture and can indicate moisture damage in the wooden structures in the floor or foundation. They also like the scents from toothpaste, lotions, soaps, perfumes, and bath salts.
These ants thrive in warm, moist conditions, especially in the summer. Wood in the bathroom is often warm and damp, the perfect environment for moisture ants. You can also find them nesting in clogged drains or near water puddles.
To get rid of the ants, seal off cracks and holes in the bathroom walls, tiles, and tub.
Other helpful tips are:
De-humidifying the Bathroom
Since ants like humid environments, keeping your bathroom dry will effectively keep them off. You can try opening the bathroom windows or using the ventilation system to eliminate steam and water puddles on the floor and walls.
Drying Off Stagnant Water
Avoid leaving water puddles on the bathroom floor after showering. Ensure you dry the water using a cloth, and remember to clean and replace the bathroom mats often.
It’s possible to get rid of ants by sucking them using a strong vacuum. Once you finish vacuuming, empty the contents into a sealable bag or outdoors far from the house.
You can pour some water into the tank to trap the insects at the bottom and add a few bleach droplets to ensure they die. Alternatively, you can use some boric acid to line the bottom of the tank.
How to Kill Ants in Drains
Pouring a mixture of vinegar and soda down the drain is an effective way to get rid of ants. Allow the mixture to bubble up, then take out the dead ants and pour hot water down the drain.
Boiling water is also effective when getting rid of ants in your bathroom.
Sugar ants prefer sweet or sugary foods and often live outside your home. They have more advanced odor receptors and can enter the house through vents, cracks, or other openings near the foundation.
To get rid of sugar ants effectively, you need to locate the nest or colony. Once you do, you can either pour hot water into the nest or flood it using a garden hose for about five to ten minutes.
You can also flood the nest with running water from a garden hose for 5–10 minutes or pour boiling water over the nest. Alternatively, pour some baking soda or a mixture of water and one cup of bleach to kill the remaining ants.
Pharaoh ants prefer warmer climates and have a light red or yellow color with black marks. They are tiny at about 1/16-inch (0.15875 cm) in length and often nest under debris or shade.
You can start your inspection with a check under carpets and appliances and voids in your walls. They also hide in cabinet voids, window moldings, inside the shower, curtain rods, behind baseboards, or the expansion joints connecting slabs.
Pharaoh ants prefer nesting outside buildings with constant moisture, such as evaporative cooling units, boiler rooms, and sprinkler systems.
The most effective way to control these ants is baiting. Since they survive on sugar and proteins, it's best to use fat/grease-based, protein-based, or sugar/carbohydrate-based baits.
Pharaoh ants are persistent and quick to change locations. Ensure you use a non-repellent spray around the perimeter to prevent them from getting back inside.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants
Unlike termites, carpenter ants don't ingest wood, but they chew it to create pathways for the entire nest. They are bigger than most species, measuring between 1/2" and 5/8" (1.27 cm-1.5875 cm).
Carpenter ants can be brown, red-black, black, or red. Besides chewing through the wood to enter your home, they can also enter through small openings or cracks. If the space is too far up, they use nearby items to climb up.
Some signs of a carpenter ant infestation are:
Carpenter ants prefer nesting near water, sinks, dishwashers, air conditioning units, and bathtubs.
You can use baits to get rid of them. Since they like sweet foods, some jelly or jam is enough to attract them. You can also place a shallow dish with a mixture of sugar and baking soda in equal parts. The sugar will attract them as the baking soda kills them.
Cleaning the surface, they passed on wipes the pheromone trails to food and safety. You can soak a cotton ball in essential oils such as cedarwood, tea tree, orange, or lemon, then use it to wipe the surfaces.
If you don't have essential oils, you can spray a dish soap and water mixture or white vinegar with water in equal parts.
You can drill holes in the walls for indoor nests, inject insecticide, or apply non-toxic solutions like Borax or diatomaceous earth. Pour liquid insecticide or spray it using a spray bottle for outdoor nests.
If you’re unable to locate the nest or it’s in an inaccessible place, you can place some granular bait stations near moist areas or entry points. Alternatively, you can inject gel baits into small holes in the walls or plumbing gaps.
Carpenter ants rarely attack good or solid wood so getting rid of them requires you to identify and replace decaying or damaged wood.
If your plumbing runs inside the walls, start by checking areas where the condensed water droplets on the cold pipes come into contact with the wood.
Odorous house ants are also "stink ants" or "coconut ants." They have a black or dark brown color and are between 1/8" (0.3175 cm) and 3/16" (0.47625 cm) long. They produce a distinctive smell of rotten coconut when smashed.
As an adaptive ant species, odorous house ants can live in various conditions, both indoors and outdoors. Outside the house, they like nesting in shallow soil beneath the debris, logs, mulch, stones, and boards in the yard.
They live in massive colonies and sub-colonies with multiple queens and thousands of foraging ants. They can eat almost anything, including plant secretions, other insects, seeds, and raw or cooked food wastes.
Indoors, odorous house ants prefer nesting in wall spaces, close to sinks, water heaters, or hot water pipes. They migrate pretty often, especially during summer, depending on changes in their environment, making it difficult to get rid of them completely.
You must destroy all colonies, sub-colonies, and queens for total elimination. The best way to do so is by using baits or non-repellant insecticide. Seal off any cracks and crevices they can fit in and ensure garbage cans outside are tightly closed.
Black ants have a black or dark brown color and measure about 1/8" (0.3175 cm). They like nesting in dark, protected places, indoors or outdoors.
You can find their nests under logs, rocks, or other debris in your yard. They enter your home through tiny spaces, cracks, and crevices and establish colonies in quiet, dark, or undisturbed areas like wall voids or behind baseboards.
Black ants can also infest your bathroom due to the scents of soap perfumes and water paddles. They enter through wall holes, windows, cracks, or pipes.
The most effective way to eliminate black ants is using baits. You can inject gel baits into nests, under debris, and holes in your wall. It's also best to apply a liquid insecticide around the perimeter, about three ft. from the foundation.
1. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth or silicon dioxide is silica dust from fossils or ancient aquatic life called diatoms. It works by extracting oil from the ant skeletons till they dry.
You can sprinkle some powder near the entry points and paths to kill the ants. Since its natural, it's harmless to people and pets and very effective. However, it can cause some skin and respiratory tract irritation.
Most detergents such as dish soap, hand soap, glass cleaner or liquid detergent effectively erase the pheromone trails.
Since ants use their sense of smell to find food, water, and shelter, the scent of pepper irritates. You can sprinkle some black or cayenne pepper behind appliances and near the baseboards to prevent them from coming into the house.
Keep in mind that pepper can also irritate children and pets.
4. White Vinegar
A mixture of water and white vinegar in equal parts effectively controls ants. Besides killing the ants it comes into contact with, the scent repels the other ants to prevent re-infestation. They can still sense the smell even after it dries or becomes unnoticeable to you.
You can also use vinegar to wipe down surfaces to repel other insects or disinfect them.
5. Boric Acid or Borax
Borax and boric acid are different chemical compounds but are equally effective against ants. They can kill an entire colony within a few days, including the queen.
To prepare the mixture, pour a cup of warm water, add four tablespoons of sugar, and half a teaspoon of boric acid. Once you stir the mix, you can soak some cotton balls and place them near entry points or pour them into the nest.
You can also make baits by mixing boric acid with something sweet like syrup and placing them in places where you spot several ants.
6. Essential oils
There are various types of essential oils effective in controlling ants.
Peppermint is an effective insect repellant. You can inject peppermint oil drops into an incense oil burner and position them near the entry point. You can also mix the oil with water to spray the windows and baseboards.
It’s available in most health food stores or groceries.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil works the same way as peppermint oil. You can mix a few drops with water to spray or soak cotton balls to place near entry points. If you don't like the strong smell, you can add peppermint oil.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon eucalyptus oil comes from the lemon eucalyptus tree and is effective against ants and common insects. Soak some cotton balls in undiluted oil and place them around your home. Remember to change the cotton balls after a few days.
Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
Cinnamon has a strong smell that repels ants. You can mix cinnamon oil and some cinnamon powder to strengthen the scent. Alternatively, soak some cotton balls in undiluted oil and place them near entry points.
Neem oil comes from the neem tree and is very effective for ants and aphids when undiluted. If you have some potted plants, you can spray some oil to stop both insects.
Cornstarch is readily available and effectively kills ants. You can smother the ants by pouring generous cornstarch and then adding water. You can also sprinkle some on the ants, vacuum them, and dispose of the outside bag.
8. Coffee Grounds
Brewed coffee grounds are also adequate and repellants. You can place fresh grounds on disposable cards and place them near entry points and on windowsills. Since they become less effective when dry, ensure you change them often.
Chalk has calcium carbonate that eliminates ants. You can draw chalk lines across entry points or sprinkle chalk powder. It acts as a barrier that ants are unable to cross.
Lemon juice and lemon peels also repel ants. You can squeeze some lemon juice and add it to water when cleaning floors and surfaces or place lemon peels near entry points.
Suppose the ant infestations in your home keep recurring even after using various types of natural or chemical solutions. In that case, it's best to look for a professional pest control company such as Nathan Green Pest Control.
During the first home visit, experts will inspect your home to identify entry points and infected areas. They apply treatment in possible nesting areas such as inside cabinets, holes in sheetrock, and moist areas.
Additionally, a green pest control technician will continue serving the exterior of your home after every two months. This ensures there’s an invisible barrier about twenty feet from your house.
Book your free inspection today and get a 100% satisfaction guarantee.