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How to Get Rid of Ants And Keep Them Away for Good

ants on jar of honey in kitchen- how to get rid of ants
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What do ants look like?

Ants are common insects that inhabit every continent of the world except Antarctica. Though they come in different colors, they all have three body regions: the head with antennae, thorax, and abdomen.  If you see flying ants, that means they’re mature males who will soon die after mating. Wingless ants are responsible for the ant infestation of your property.

At some point, it’s likely homeowners will need to know how to get rid of ants in their yard or residence. Ants are hardy insects that can easily make colonies in the ground and inside buildings. Not only can some species eat wood, but they can also cause painful bites and reactions in those who have allergies or an immunological sensitivity.

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While all ants can bite, not all species are likely to bite humans. Fire ants are the most aggressive species and are the most common biters. A blister with red spots forms soon after a fire ant bite. Carpenter, pavement, acrobat, field, and crazy ants can also bite humans when provoked repeatedly. It is usually easy to tell when you’ve been bitten by an ant because the area swells and has a stinging sensation.

Close up photo of two black ants
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How do you get ants in the house?

Ants live practically anywhere, although they are more likely to position their colonies near steady sources of food such as grease and sugar. Areas responsible for these sources are trash bins, receptacles, and even compost piles. Ants naturally live in the ground and make nests in damp places in nature. However, they can also form nests in homes if their scouts find entry and a reliable source of sweet and greasy snacks left around.

Scout ants typically end up in the kitchen because this is where the majority of food prep happens. If homeowners are not diligent in cleaning up messes like sticky soda spills or oil splatter from frying, this inattentiveness can manifest as an unintentional greeting card for scout ants in the house.

An ant infestation can mean trouble for homeowners since all species can spread diseases and bacteria like salmonella. Black carpenter ants can compromise your home’s structure by burrowing into wood and building nests. Getting familiar with methods on preventing and addressing an ant infestation may not only save your household from unnecessary health concerns and a loss of food, but also help prevent losses from renovating and repairing the damage caused by ants in the house. 

How to identify ants and how to find ant nests

To identify ants, you should note their color, size, if they have wings, and how they move. Since there are over 700 ant species in North America, it is also a good idea to take a picture and show it to a professional exterminator for official identification.

Ant nests can form either outside or inside the home. If they are outside, you can see the top of each anthill visibly since they look like grainy mounds with a hole on top. When nests form inside the house, ants tend to set up camp in damp framing or flooring. Ant colonies in walls and floors are often a side effect of water damage from leaking pipes.

To check for ants in your yard, note the number of ant mounds that you see. If there are many around and you see a lot of ants scurrying about, you have a yard infestation. To locate a nest inside your home, look for where you see water damage. Cut a few small holes in this water-damaged area to locate the nest within the wall or floor. You may need professional help to pinpoint the nest’s exact location since their nests can easily be overlooked, mistaken, or obscured by parts of your home you may not be aware of.

How long can an ant infestation last?

An ant infestation can last as long as you allow it to go untreated. Leaving food crumbs or spills around the house can intensify the scale of the infestation. Wherever ants go, they leave a scent trail to help their colony follow along. If food is found, the ants returning will deposit a luring, pheromone-infused scent trail. This odor will encourage and escalate scouting among the ants. As long as the ants are happy and have access to a comfortable nest in your yard or home, they have no reason to relocate or stop growing their colony. Their growth will directly correlate with their adventurous steps to seek food. Sometimes the mere odor of chapstick can be enough to lure ants to an upstairs bedroom. Despite not finding food or leaving a pheromone-infused trail, there is still a subtle trail left behind that will leave room for a future scout to give the path another try.

How to get rid of ants, step by step

Residents who want to learn how to get rid of ants in the house will be glad to know that an infestation is completely fixable. By following these steps, many people have reclaimed their homes from ants.

Step 1: Set up ant baits

Set up ant baits around your house, such as TERRO Liquid Ant Baits or Raid Max Double Control Ant Baits. The scout ants will carry the poisoned bait back to the colony and reduce the ants’ numbers.

Step 2: Vacuum

Vacuum every inch of your home, especially carpets and upholstery. Dispose of the vacuum’s contents immediately after cleaning. Wet vacuums and steam cleaning are preferred over standard vacuuming methods.

Step 3: Get rid of the ants’ nest

If you have water damage in the walls, cut into the drywall and find the nest, then spray it with an indoor insect killer like Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer. If you cannot find the nest, call an exterminator. Make sure to take care of the water damaged area as well to prevent further infestations.

If you’re wondering how to get rid of anthills, mow the lawn and then apply an insect killer that contains bifenthrin to the entire lawn. If nests still appear after six weeks, repeat the process.

Products you can use to treat an ant infestation

How to get rid of ants with natural remedies

If you don’t want to use extermination chemicals, there are home remedies for ants that work, too. Below are few remedies that are each made to contour a variety of households. Mix one part vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle and spray the solution onto the ants and nests. You can also eliminate ant trails by spraying lemon juice on their tracks although lemon juice has a short duration period of effectiveness. For more serious countermeasures and natural remedies for ant infestations, continue reading the following ideas.

Diatomaceous earth is the highest recommended natural remedy when infestations are noticeably escalating but not drastic or affecting anyone’s health. Make sure it is fresh water sourced diatomaceous earth as it is non-toxic. Food-grade diatomaceous earth meets this standard. You may dust it on your carpet before vacuuming, or put it in a duster and dust difficult to reach areas. 

Emulsifying the diatomaceous earth in a solution of water and oregano oil is a popular household concoction for Caribbean dwellers who live on the ground and face ant problems regularly. A tip is to place this solution on a limited area, in direct sunlight, to see if discoloration or tarnishing may occur. Despite both compounds low-reactivity, it is smart to experiment first.

If there are no dogs around the household, diatomaceous earth and cinnamon powder is a great natural remedy. This combination can be dusted within and upon the mounds outside. A heavy coating around the edges of the house, window sills, door entrances, and around the outside of sliding glass door frames. If you have dogs, avoid black pepper and heavy use of cinnamon powder as they’re noxious and mildly toxic to them. You may simply resort to diatomaceous earth as it is an effective ingredient by itself. 

If you are in an area that is windy, encounters frequent rain, or has a sprinkler system, oregano oil will not last long.

Having a hard time dusting a surface with diatomaceous earth? Rub oregano oil on the area and then dust the diatomaceous earth over it. This combination will ensure a strong countermeasure that is also non-toxic.

When to call a professional exterminator to treat ants

When you cannot find the nest’s location or continue to see ants in your home after doing everything to eliminate the problem, it is time to call an exterminator. Persistent ants often have multiple nests that are difficult to locate. A professional exterminator knows how to get rid of ants with specialized instruments and insecticides that are not available in many stores.

How to keep ants away

You can keep ants away by following a few preventative steps. 

  • Make sure that you do not leave any food out for long periods of time. 
  • Seal all boxes and containers in your pantry. Clean up food and drink spills right away.
  • If your garbage cans or outdoor receptacles are leaking, fix and seal those leaks. Then, place oregano oil and diatomaceous earth on the inside, the lip and/or lid, as well as on the outside of the receptacle. Avoid using toxic compounds.
  • Check your home’s baseboards, windows, and doorways for small cracks or holes that grant entry to ants. If you find any areas where ants can enter, seal them immediately. 
  • Deal with any water damage in your walls or framing as soon as possible. 

The bottom line on ants

Ants are a common household and yard pest that pose health and financial risks. It is important to learn how to get rid of ants inside and outside of your home to prevent damage as well as ensure the longevity of your home’s integrity. Eliminate anthills and nests to keep yourself from being bitten or paying a lot to repair damaged floors and walls. You can eliminate ants with effective store-bought insecticides and bait or by using natural ingredients like vinegar and cinnamon. When infestations become stubborn, do not hesitate to call a professional exterminator.

Frequently asked questions

Q:

What’s a fast way to get rid of ants?

A:

A fast way to get rid of ants is to place ant bait around the house and spray insecticide around your home’s perimeter and in your yard. If you notice colonies and their structures are apparent, spraying insecticide on them is an effective way to get rid of ants. Be wary, however, since insecticides can also negatively impact gardening methods such as pollinator gardens.

Q:

Does borax kill ants?

A:

Yes, borax (also known as sodium borate) is a common ingredient in cleaning agents and does kill ants. When it comes to DIY extermination, many homeowners use borax for ant infestations. This compound is readily available at home improvement stores and on Amazon.

Q:

Do ant baits attract more ants?

A:

No, ant baits won’t attract more ants. However, it will attract the ants already infested in your home and work on reducing the colony’s numbers through bringing poison back to the nest, or even to the origin of the ant infestation near your home.

Q:

Where do I place ant bait?

A:

Place ant bait in all the places that ants like to go such as under sinks, in cabinets, corners, and along walls. Keep enticements like sugary spills cleaned up so the ants have less options for food.


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