How to Get Rid of Ants
Put an end to most ant problems with inexpensive products from the home center or hardware store, and save the expense of hiring an exterminator.
I.D. the Ant
Start by identifying the type of ant in your house so you can find out its nesting habits and have a better idea of where they’re living (they may be nesting outdoors). Take a close-up photo of the ant and send it to your local university extension service (enter your state’s name and “university extension service” into any online search engine). The extension service will tell you the type of ant you’re dealing with and where it nests. They may give you fact sheets about the ant species and maybe even some advice on getting rid of that particular ant species.
Keep it Clean to Deter Ants
A clean house is your first defense against ants. Sweep up food crumbs, wipe up spills, take out the garbage and don’t leave dirty dishes sitting around the house. This takes away the ants’ food source. Spray vinegar mixed with water around bowls of pet food to keep ants from feasting there.
Erase Ant Trails
Where you see one ant, you’re bound to see others. That’s because ants leave a scented trail that other ants follow. Sweeping or mopping isn’t enough to eliminate the scent. Instead, mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water in a spray bottle, then spray wherever you’ve seen ants in the past. This will stop outdoor nesting ants that entered the house to forage for food (ants that come inside are not necessarily trying to establish a nest).
Vinegar and water won’t stop ants that are already nesting indoors. You’ll need to kill them with ant bait.
Determine the Best Ant Bait
Prebait ants in areas you’ve previously seen them. Ants’ tastes change during the year. They usually prefer protein in the spring and sweets or fatty/oily foods in the summer. Set out sugar or honey, fried food and peanut butter, then see which food attracts ants. Use whichever food they prefer for bait.
Once you know what the ants like, buy and set out toxic ant bait that’s geared to their taste. Look on the bait package for words like “controls both sweet and grease eating ants.” Stop ants before they come inside with this outdoor ant bait.
Wipe Out Ant Colonies
Once you’ve set out toxic ant bait, expect to see lots of ants (initially). That’s a good thing. It means more ants are taking the bait (which is toxic) back to the colony where they’ll share it with the rest of the ants, including the queen, and kill them. There might be thousands of ants back at the nest.
Liquid bait works best for many sweet-loving ants. Other ants prefer solid bait. If you still have ants after two weeks, replace the bait containers. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to hunt down the nest.
Find Ant Nests
Cut small holes in water-damaged walls to track down the ant nest. (You’re going to have to repair the walls anyway.) When you find the nest, spray it with an insecticide that contains bifenthrin, permethrin or deltamethrin (look on the label). Ortho’s Home Defense Max is one brand. Be sure to fix the water leak and replace damaged wood. If you can’t track down the nest, hire a pest control service. Pros spend about 80 percent of their time hunting down nests. Their fees start at about $150, but tough cases with multiple treatments can cost $400 or more.
Image courtesy of Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota
Spray Ant Entry Points
Spray on an Ant Barrier
If you’re still getting ants in your house after spraying interior entry points, spray a 12-in.-wide band of insecticide on the foundation and on and under the first course of lap siding to keep ants from entering the house. Use an outdoor insecticide that says “barrier treatment” on the label.
Destroy Exterior Ant Nests
If you frequently see ants in the same area on the siding, there’s probably a nest in there. Look for holes in the siding where ants are crawling in and out. The holes are often located between bricks where mortar has fallen out, under lap siding or in cracks in stucco. Once you locate the nest, or the vicinity of the nest, spray the area with an insecticide containing bifenthrin.
Image courtesy of Mike Merchant, Texas A&M
Kill Ants in Your Yard
Anthills are eyesores in yards, and the ants can ruin outside dining. If you only have ants in a certain area, like along your sidewalk, spot-treat the area with an outdoor insecticide. Liquid or granules work fine. For large-scale ant problems, use a lawn and garden insect killer that contains bifenthrin as the active ingredient. The spray will also kill other insects (read the label for a list). First mow the grass, then spray the insecticide on the entire lawn—you can also spray shrubs and trees. Spray in the early morning or late afternoon when the ants are most active. And it’s best to spray on a calm day to prevent drift. If ants are still building mounds after six weeks, treat the lawn again (the insecticide works for up to six weeks). You won’t kill every ant in your yard (nor would you want to!), but spraying will eliminate most of them and stop the annoying mounds.
Kill Fire Ants with Bait
Fire ants are found in the Southeastern United States and Southern California. Standard insecticides are much less effective at killing fire ants. You need a special product that’s designed to wipe out these biting critters. Apply the granules with a broadcast spreader. Fire ants carry the granules, which they think are food (it’s actually toxic bait) back to their mounds. The ants share the bait and die. Some of these insecticides keep killing fire ants for up to a year. As with other baits, it may take a few weeks for you to see full results.
Eliminate Safe Havens for Ants
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