Ants are probably the least offensive of household pests. Watching an ant or two slink by isn’t usually cause for concern, but a large infestation of the industrious bugs is enough to give anyone the creepy crawlies. The good news is that most ant problems are easy enough to take care without the intervention of a professional exterminator. With a little patience, you can banish the insects from your home and surroundings for good. Here’s how you can tackle your ant problem with efficiency.
In This Article
1. Identify the Ants
Identifying the intruders is the first step in figuring out how to get rid of them. It’ll also inform your decision to call in backup. Certain types of ants — carpenter ants, for instance — may cause structural damage and require a more concerted effort to eradicate.
Most common household ants are small in size and nest outdoors, but some species like to nestle into moist nooks and crannies or inside walls. Other ants are not only a nuisance, but they also deliver a painful sting. Stinging ants, however, are far more common in the southern United States. Here’s a breakdown of common household ant invaders along with information to help you identify each species.
2. Get Rid of Food Sources
There are over 10,000 species of ants, but many of them find their way inside homes in search of food. Delicious crumbs that litter countertops, improperly sealed food, and other food scraps are a welcome treat for hungry ants. Ants are particularly interested in carbohydrate-rich foods. Sugar, honey, and syrup are all potential targets for these sweet-toothed insects. Be sure to clean up after mealtimes. Swipe away crumbs left behind on the kitchen table and counter. Regularly wash and tidy your pet’s eating area and bowls. Don’t forget to empty your toaster’s crumb tray frequently. And, of course, seal all foods in airtight containers.
3. Cut the Signal
As ants sneak their way into your home, cabinets, and kitchen cupboards, they leave behind a distinctive trail of pheromones. These act as a signal to other ants to let them know that: “Hey! There’s food over here!” Getting rid of these scent trails essentially blocks effective communication between ants. The rest of the colony will no longer have access to the imaginary signposts pointing them towards sustenance. Use regular hand soap, liquid detergent, or cleaning spray to wash away the scent markers left behind by foraging ants.
4. Don’t Spray Them
A targeted spray won’t help much in the case of an ant infestation. The colony will keep coming even after you’ve murdered a few good workers on their way to scavenge for food. Spraying pesticides in puffs around your home is also a bad idea if there are pets and children present. Not to mention, it’s not ideal for your respiratory health, either. The ant queen will continue to lay eggs, and ants will continue to appear, and none will really care that your stream of poison killed a few good soldiers.
5. Use a Slow-Acting Pesticide
Opt to give the pesky pests a slow death. Why? When using sweet-tasting traps filled with slow-killing poison, the ants return some of the syrupy goo to the nest where they pass it to the rest of their crew. It’s a slow pest control solution, and you might notice ants skittering around for a few weeks after placement, but eventually, the poisonous gloop will destroy the entire colony.
Place these mess-free Terro Liquid Bait containers around your home and watch as hoards of black insects swarm to get their fill. You’ll have to clean up a litany of dead ants for a few weeks, but the formula is ultra-effective — it contains borax, which is safer for furry housemates than boric acid. You may also need to replace the bait traps if your ant problem is severe. Just be careful not to let pets lap up the viscous goo.
6. Try Essential Oils
If the thought of handling poison makes you cringe, here’s a natural solution for your consideration: essential oils. If you’re interested in repelling the small number of ants that find their way inside your house in the summer, try making an essential oil concoction to keep them out. Ants dislike the scent of peppermint and lavender, and spraying the stuff around potential entry points can keep them from paying you a visit. Read more about how to create an effective natural ant-repelling solution by checking out this article. Regular white vinegar is another effective ant repellent, though it’s not as long-lasting as potent essential oils.