Recently updated on August 22nd, 2023 at 07:11 pm
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Pests. You don’t have to live in a full-size single-family home to cringe at the term.
Whether you rent an apartment or own your own space, odds are you’ve come to face one if not more of the varmints that fall in this category.
Above all others, one certain pest has become synonymous with the term: ants.
These little insects have been deemed the #1 nuisance pest in the US by the National Pest Management Association.
Unfortunately, ants are more than just a nuisance— they can cause a variety of problems in your home, such as contaminating your food or damaging your property.
These little miscreants love to invade. Whether it’s your home, your yard, or your outings, ants are everywhere.
But you don’t have to put up with their presence.
Dealing with ants is a multi-stage process.
The worse the infestation, the more steps.
If you do not have ants and do not wish to get them, you can take steps to repel and prevent the invaders before they sniff out that first crumb.
How to Identify You Have a Problem with Ants
The first stage in dealing with ants is finding out if you have an infestation— and just how bad that infestation is.
You need to recognize if you have an ant problem and what type of ants with which you are dealing.
Signs You Have an Ant Problem
The most identifiable sign of an infestation is if you have ants swarming around any exposed food or walking a trail to and from somewhere.
Don’t panic if you see the odd ant here and there— these are simply scouts searching for a source, not a sign of infestation.
While you may make it a habit to cover all of your food —as well you should— ants are quick to find even the smallest crumb that escaped notice.
Next, take a tour of your yard.
Do you see any ant colonies? Where there is a colony, there is a risk for infestation.
Ants will travel incredibly long distances to find a source of food or water, and then they leave a small scent trail for the rest of their fellows to follow.
Since carpenter ants are one of the worst species with which to deal, due mostly to the amount of damage they can cause your home, these next two steps deal specifically with them: listen to your walls and look for wood shavings.
Carpenter ants are primarily nocturnal, so if you place your ear against your walls at night, you may hear a soft rustling as they work on their nests.
If you are familiar with the woodwork of your home, you can also occasionally knock over areas of solid wood and make sure they aren’t starting to sound hollow.
When it comes to the wood shavings, you are looking for deposits where the carpenter ants have started burrowing.
They will leave a small trail of sawdust in their wake because unlike termites, they do not eat the wood.
Many ants love wet spaces.
Whether they want a water source or a humid environment, damp areas are at risk of catching a colony’s attention.
Keep an eye out in your yard for signs of rotting wood or damp areas to ensure they haven’t gained new tenants.
Common Species of Ants
Over 700 species of ants have been identified in the US alone, so knowing just what kind have graced you with their unwanted presence can be a daunting task.
Luckily, most nuisance ants belong to the top 18 species, which we’ll discuss below.
Top 18 Species of Ants Found In Homes
Best Ways to Kill Ants and Get Them Out of Your Home
Now that you know what ants are becoming an issue, it’s time to get rid of them.
You need to eliminate any nests within your walls— taking out the outdoor nests is a bonus.
You have three options:
- Chemical-based Ant Killer
- Natural-based Ant Killer
- Extermination Services
In this section, we’ll look at the chemical-based and natural-based.
Extermination services will be covered in a later section.
Best Ant Killer – Chemical-Based
With chemical-based ant killers, you have four major product types: liquid ant baits, sprays, gels, and granules.
Consumers have had success with each, though the uses and results vary by product.
When it comes to any product, read all the labels carefully.
The below is general information, and the product of your choice may have variations.
Best Liquid Ant Baits & Traps
Ant baits & traps can be used for ant infestations inside the home as well as outdoors, just be sure to buy the correct type.
They typically contain borax or a similar ingredient as the active ingredient with several others.
Ant foragers will be attracted to the sweet liquid.
Ant bait stations work as a “slow kill,” so the worker will transmit the location to other ants and have pieces carried back to the colony.
|Terro T300 Ant Killer Liquid Ant Baits||Hot Shot Ultra Liquid Ant Bait||Terro 1806 Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits|
|Which Ants:||Liquid ant baits work best for Argentine, Carpenter, Ghost, Odorous, Pharaoh, and Pavement Ants.|
|Indoor/outdoor use:||Some are made for indoors, others for outdoors. Pay attention to packaging recommendations, as outside baits are more powerful than indoor.|
|How much is needed:||These baits often come in small plastic tabs that you set around your house anywhere you have seen ants. For the rare liquid needing to be dispersed, generally, one to two small dabs will suffice.|
|How long:||Results should be seen within a few days, but you want to allow up to two weeks for full eradication.|
|Safety precautions:||Not safe for pets to eat— keep them away from any baits|
Best Ant Spray
|Raid Ant & Roach Aero-Unscented||Ortho Home Defense MAX Insect Killer Spray||Raid Max Roach & Ant|
|Which Ants:||This varies by spray, so read labels carefully|
|Indoor/outdoor use:||Most sprays can be used for both, though some will specify|
|How much is needed:||This will depend on the size of your treatment area; generally a thorough coating of lawns or around the edges and openings in your home.|
|How long:||You will typically see results within the first few days, but you must reapply sprays on a monthly basis to keep ants under control.|
|Active ingredients:||Contains pyrethroids, piperonyl butoxide, and permethrin; other products contain tetramethrin, cypermethrin and imiprothrin|
|Safety precautions:||Skin irritants, eye irritants, keep pets and children away during application and for a few hours after.|
Best Ant Gel
|Dupont Advion Ant Gel Bait||Raid Precision Placement Ant Bait Gel||Bayer Maxforce FC Killer Gel Ant Bait|
|Which Ants:||Sugar lovers— Acrobatic, Argentine, Field, Ghose, little black, Odorous House, Pavement, Pharaoh, and thief ants included|
|Indoor/outdoor use:||Indoor use|
|How much is needed:||Apply in cracks and crevices where you see ants; several dabs|
|How long:||You will typically see results within 3-5 days|
|Safety precautions:||Harmful if swallowed, keep away from children and pets until hardened|
Best Ant Granules
|AMDRO Ant Block Home Perimeter Ant Bait Granules||TERRO Ant Killer Plus 3lb. Shaker Bag||Ortho Home Defense MAX Insect Killer Granules|
|Which Ants:||Up to fifteen species, including fire ants and pharaoh ants (also kills other pests like cockroaches)|
|Indoor/outdoor use:||Outdoor use only|
|How much is needed:||How much is needed: use either as a band treatment around your home or all over your yard. These products have a conversion chart for you to take the area of treatment and determine how much to use. (typically 2-3 pounds per 1,000 square feet)|
|How long:||Results within 24 hours|
|Safety precautions:||After the treated area has been watered and then dried, these are safe around children and pets; toxic to fish and aquatic life; harmful if swallowed; eye irritant.|
Natural Ant Killer
Many households are taking more natural approaches to pest control, hoping to avoid cons like skin and eye irritation or toxicity to pets and children.
Others just like keeping chemicals to a minimum.
Make Deadly Treat with Borax
Remember reading that borax was an active ingredient in baits?
This substance is actually a naturally occurring mineral and can be purchased.
You can make a sweet treat with any liquid or jelly-based foods and mix in a little borax.
You still need to keep these away from your children and pets, but it’s all-natural and still attracts sugar-loving ants.
You could also make a grease-based variety with similar results.
Flower Pot and Boiling Water
A flower pot sounds innocent enough, right?
This tactic works best for outside colonies when you’ve located an entrance or mound.
You will need the terracotta-style flower pot with a drainage hole in the bottom.
Simply place the flowerpot upside-down over the top of the anthill or colony.
Then, take a pot of boiling water and pour it through the hole.
You are quite literally burning down the ant-hill.
A word of caution: if you are dealing with biting ants, be sure to wear protection in case any stragglers catch you at work!
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
This option is non-toxic for animals and people and remains effective as long as it is present and dry.
You will want to read the package to ensure the food-grade diatomaceous earth of your choosing is rated for controlling ants and other pests.
So, how does this work?
The sharp, microscopic particles that make up FGDE pierce through the waxy outer layer on the ants’ bodies and disrupt the internal water balance.
In essence, it dehydrates ants so that they die.
Ready to learn how this is all-natural?
FGDE is an off-white powder similar to talk that is made from fossilized marine plankton.
Plankton jerky which in turn causes bug jerky.
Eco Friendly Sprays
More companies are starting to head consumers’ calls for eco-friendly, natural pest controls.
These products are specially formulated with all-natural, non-toxic ingredients.
The only downside?
They tend to cost more.
These sprays kill on contact like their chemical cousins, but they rely on ingredients like botanical oils to get the job done.
These sprays can also deal with other insects and some varieties of spider.
Best Ways to Repel Ants and Prevent Future Infestations
You don’t have to eliminate entire colonies of ants to protect your home.
You may not have a choice if a full infestation is under way, but a variety of preventative measures and natural repellants can help repel ants from your home.
If you manage to repel and prevent, you can safe yourself a lot of headache and hassle in the future.
Eliminating an infestation is always more work, even if your preventative measures occasionally feel like an extra hassle.
Keep a Clean Home and Eliminate Food & Water Sources
Ants invade when they find a stable supply of food, water, and shelter.
The easiest way to keep them out is to keep them away from any sources of food or water.
Ants also like moist, humid environments, so keep an eye on any areas in your home where moisture can buildup.
Let’s take a look at steps you can take in the most commonly infested rooms of a house:
- Store sweet foods like sugar, syrup, and honey in snap-shut airtight plastic containers. Wipe them down to remove sticky residue.
- Place a bay leaf inside containers for dry goods such as flour; the pungent scent keeps ants away (and other pantry pests!)
- Clean up grease spills from all counters and floors immediately after they occur
- Rinse out soda and juice containers before recycling or tossing.
- Take out trash regularly; bonus points for cans that close!
- If you keep an open-air fruit bowl, toss out overripe fruits asap
- Watch for water buildup around your sink and any leaks in the facets and pipes.
- Pick up any leftover pet food and wash pet dishes regularly.
- Inspect sinks, toilets, tubs, and all plumbing for any leaks or water buildup.
- Clean thoroughly with disinfectants and cleaners; wipe down the insides of drawers, as well.
- Check your shampoos, lotions, soaps, and other items for leaks, wipe off container surfaces, and wash away any buildup that occurs.
Ants can slip in through the smallest of cracks and crevices. The NMPA conducted a survey and found that ants can also be found inside walls, bedrooms, living rooms, basements, and HVAC units.
Pest Proof the Perimeter of Your Home
You can help prevent pests inside your home by finding most of the areas they can access. A small tube of silicone caulk will be your friend as you walk the perimeter of your house to seal any cracks and crevices.
Holes in windows and door screens can provide access, as can worn down weather stripping. Trim away any tree branches that stretch towards your home, and place repellants in the small holes that allow utility wires into your home.
Natural settling can cause cracks and crevices in your foundation, which you can seal with the silicone or hire a contractor to handle.
Natural Ant Repellant
A number of household items, many of them organic, can help keep ants away from your home. Here are 14 natural ant repellants for you to consider.
Ants absolutely detest the smell of vinegar. It won’t kill them, but it will create an invisible barrier to keep them away. You can also take a small syringe of vinegar to their nests and mounds to chase off the colony.
2) Citrus Fruits (Lemon, Limes, Oranges)
Make a puree of peels and warm water and pour it in and around anthills and access points. Not only will the ants go marching on, but your house will smell amazing!
3) Salt or Pepper
You can spread salt around nooks and crannies where ants enter your home. Ordinary table salt, nothing fancy! You can do the same with any granulated pepper.
You can use ground cinnamon or spray the essential oil. Either way, ants avoid the smell! Your house smells nice, and cleanup is a breeze. More and more homeowners are leaning towards the oil, as you can spray it along access points and then forget it. Get some cinnamon essential oil spray on Amazon here.
Spraying peppermint oil around access points can help prevent ants, but there’s more! If you have an essential oil diffuser, you can diffuse peppermint oil anywhere you see ants starting a trail to immediately chase them away. This gives you time to clean up whatever attracted them in the first place. Get some peppermint essential oil spray on Amazon here.
6) Baking soda
Baking soda cuts right through an ant’s protective acidic barrier, eliminating their defenses. Whether the baking soda itself causes them pain or the ants don’t like being defenseless, they’ll stop coming around.
7) Vicks Vapo Rub
Vick’s contains a mix of strong vapors. They cut through our congestion, but did you know they give ants a major headache? Simply dab Vick’s Vapo Rub around access points in your home to chase off any scouts.
Flour can repel ants, though you’ll have a little more cleanup than with other options. Sprinkle a line around pantry shelves and across entry points to repel the invaders.
9) Sugar Substitutes like Equal
Equal acts like a neurotoxin to ants. Mix packets with something like apple juice to attract the ants and lead them to their own demise.
10) Coffee Grounds
Yet another granular repellant that overpowers an ant’s sense of smell, spreading coffee grounds around access points can chase off invaders. You can also spread these over anthills to get a colony to move.
You can spread tape stick-side up around the edges of your counters or around ‘prize’ items like sweets. The tape acts as a miniature moat.
Chalk contains calcium carbonate, which deters ants. Draw a line of chalk that ants won’t cross, or let the kids decorate the foundations of your home. You can also scatter powdered chalk around your home and in your gardens.
The scent from cucumbers can overpower the scent trail left by ants for their fellows to follow; it also repels ants. You’ll want to use the skin of the cucumber, wiping it along the path of any ant trails or placing it in entrance points.
14) Talcum Powder
Talcum powder is another substance that ants actively avoid. Sprinkling it can repel them from access points and chase them away from a scouted prize.
Importance of Keeping Ants Out of Your Home
You may be wondering just why it’s so important to keep ants out of your home. Sure, they’re a nuisance, but are they really causing any harm?
Short answer: yes. Ants cause a variety of issues within your home, from causing property and structural damage to putting your home at risk. Some ants also have painful bites and stings, the worst of which can cause allergic reactions or create large welts on your skin.
- Spreading Food Borne Disease Organisms— ants carry and transmit bacterial and fungal organisms that carry diseases. An example is the pharaoh ant, which carries clostridium, salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus.
- Ant Bites & Stings — no one likes being in pain. Some ants have particularly potent venoms that also react with our skin to cause welts or create serious, and sometimes life-threatening, reactions. Lesions, pain, swelling, itching, and anaphylaxis are all potential reactions.
- Home Damage — from the wood-chewing habits of carpenter ants to insulation stripping to make room for nests, ants can cause a lot of damage in our homes.
- Food Infestation — from E. coli to Shigella and Salmonella, ants can contaminate our food with more than just germs and standard bacteria. Let’s not forget that ants aren’t exactly hygienic.
When to Seek Professional Help
No shame comes with admitting you need help. And with ants, it’s likely you will. Colonies carry hundreds to thousands of members, often with several queens. They reproduce quickly, and smart ants won’t take to baits.
You can eliminate a lot of hassle by calling an exterminator. These technicians are trained to recognize types of ants and know what solution works best to chase off the colonies. They also know how to reach those hard-to-get places like wall voids to chase out ant nests.
You can still DIY the occasional ant visit, but constant visits and larger problems like infestations need a professional touch.
How Much Does an Ant Exterminator Cost?
Calling an exterminator is often less expensive then trial-and-error with multiple potential solutions—not to mention all the food you may end up throwing out due to contamination or any home repairs.
The price for a single visit will vary based on the size of the property being treated, but a safe average is between $90-$250. However, treatment for carpenter ants will always cost more, as there is far more effort involved.
Reoccurring contract treatments
Annual contracts can provide continuous protection to your home, ensuring that ants will never become a problem. Visits can take place by the month or by quarter. Contracts typically range between $600-$1500, once more dependent on the size of your treatment area and also the number of visits per year.
Depending on the type and range of your infestation, you may come across extra costs. Having an exterminator pest proof your perimeter, for instance, will ensure a thorough seal but cost a little extra (around $60-90 in labor charges).
You also need to repair any damage the ants caused and replace any contaminated food, which can all add up.
It’s pretty easy to tell why ants have been branded as the #1 nuisance pest.
They reproduce quickly, spread like wildfire, contaminate any food they touch, and can spread dangerous diseases.
Preventing and repelling ants from the beginning is always the best approach, but don’t be afraid to call an exterminator if you’ve discovered an infestation.
The sooner you act, the better you will protect your home— and everyone within.
Additional Pest Control Reading: Check out our other guides to the keeping all types of pests out of your home. Click the links below to read these detailed guides!
Do you have an ant problem or did you solve one? Tell us about your experience or drop any questions you may have for us in the comments below!