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Discovering an ant infestation on your countertops or along your baseboards can be frustrating, but most homeowners are more than equipped to tackle an invasion. Read below for tips on how to get rid of ants, when to turn to professionals, and how to prevent future ant attacks.
There are about 10,000 species of ants worldwide that range from destructive carpenter ants to aggressive fire ants. The insects, which thrive in hot climates, are usually yellow, brown, red, or black. Their size varies by species.
Ants arrange themselves by class in organized colonies that typically include queens, males, and worker ants. The queen lays eggs while the workers carry out various tasks, such as locating food, expanding the nest, and defending the colony. Some species of ants feature winged queens and males, which take flight during certain times of the year to mate.
Ants use highly sensitive antennae to seek out food sources and issue pheromone trails to invite fellow ants along (this is why you might see ants marching in an orderly fashion). Ants commonly gather beneath anthills, which serve as the entrance to underground ant nests, but some species convene inside trees, under rocks, or in aboveground nests made of leaves, twigs, gravel, or sand.
DIY Methods to Get Rid of Ants
Take the following steps at the first sign of ants in your home. The sooner you address an ant problem, the less likely it is to develop into a full-blown infestation.
You don’t need to look further than your pantry in your initial attempt to get rid of ants. Several common household items can serve as effective ant-deterrents:
- Borax: Mix Borax or boric acid into some cornmeal and sprinkle the mixture in areas where you have seen ants. The cornmeal acts as bait, and the Borax will kill the ants.
- Cinnamon: Sprinkle cinnamon powder along ant trails or near entry points. The scent of the cinnamon (black or cayenne pepper will work in a pinch, too) acts as an ant repellent.
- Vinegar: Wipe down surfaces and entry points with white vinegar. Its strong odor will disrupt ant scent trails. Lemon juice, orange peel, and other citrus products may work, too.
A well-maintained outdoor space will reduce the likelihood of ants entering your house. Clean your yard regularly to remove potential food sources such as fallen fruit and trash. Double your efforts by trimming back vegetation and tree branches that ants could use as a bridge into your home.
Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of peppermint oil and water, then apply the solution to scent trails and entry points as an ant repellent. Other essential oils from the mint family, such as sage, spearmint, thyme, lavender, and rosemary, may work.
Sealing Entry Points
Inspect your home for any entry points that ants might exploit, such as gaps around windows, doors, pipes, or utility lines. Apply caulk or weatherstripping to seal these openings and deny ants easy access. For larger gaps, consider using expandable foam or wire mesh to block ant entry.
Commercial Products and How to Use Them
Consider using commercial products such as ant baits, sprays, and dusts, as an alternative or supplement to home remedies. DIY solutions typically repel ants, while these products kill them.
Ant bait stations contain a combination of attractive food and slow-acting insecticides. Ants consume the bait and carry the poisoned food home, effectively eliminating the entire ant colony.
Place bait traps in an easily accessible location near ant trails and entry points, such as along baseboards or windowsills. Regularly monitor and replace baits as needed.
Ant sprays kill ants on contact and create a barrier to deter them from entering certain areas.
Apply the spray to areas where you observe ants, such as along doorways and near trash cans. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take necessary safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and ensuring proper ventilation.
Dust Ant Killers
Powder-based ant killers, such as diatomaceous earth and ant dust, are useful for addressing ants in hard-to-reach areas (think outlet voids and wall cracks). These fine powders contain insecticides that attach to ants’ bodies as they crawl through the treated areas.
Carefully apply the product with a duster or squeeze it into crevices and wall voids. Wear an N95 respirator or face mask to avoid inhaling dust, and keep the product away from children and pets.
Granular Ant Killers
Attack more expansive outdoor ant infestations with granular ant killers. Granules, like more localized ant baits, target the entire ant colony but can cover a wider area.
Apply granules according to manufacturer instructions, focusing on anthills or areas where ants are most active.
Special Considerations for Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants, like termites, excavate wood instead of earth and can consequently cause structural damage both inside and outside. The insects build their nests in moist or decaying wood, so it’s important to address both food and water sources. Repair any leaks and sources of excess moisture, and clear away wood debris, such as tree stumps and woodpiles. Then you can address the nest.
When to Call a Professional
Although the DIY methods above address ant control, some aggressive ant infestations call for professional help. Consider hiring an exterminator to deal with severe infestations or species that cause structural damage, such as carpenter ants.
Professional pest control companies have the knowledge, skills, and tools to identify the species of ant, locate nests, and create a custom treatment plan. Experts provide both quick and long-term solutions, and follow-up visits are often included in the initial cost of pest control.
Preventing Future Ant Infestations
To prevent future ant infestations, keep your home clean and free of food debris by regularly sweeping, mopping, and wiping down surfaces. Store food, including pet food, in airtight containers, and be sure to seal entry points with caulk or weatherstripping.
Addressing an ant infestation requires a multifaceted approach that combines proactive measures, natural repellents, and commercial ant killers. In extreme cases, consider hiring a professional exterminator for comprehensive and ongoing pest control services.
Implement a few of the solutions in this article to get rid of ants and prevent their return. Your home will be back to its natural ant-free state in no time.
How do I get rid of ants permanently?
To get rid of ants permanently, you need to kill the entire colony. Ant baits may be the best solution. You should also eliminate ants’ potential food sources, entry points, and nesting sites.
What does an ant infestation look like?
Common signs of an ant infestation include:Anthills outside your homeAnt trails or clustersDamage to wooden structuresDiscarded insect wingsFrass or sawdust-like materialIncrease in ant activityPresence of live ants
What do ants hate the most?
Here are a few things ants hate the most:CinnamonCitrusPepperPeppermintVinegar
How do I find the source of ants in my house?
Follow these steps to find the source of ants in your house:Observe ant activityFollow ant trailsLook for entry pointsCheck potential nesting areasUse bait stationsInvestigate hidden areas
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