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How to Get Rid of Ants

How to Get Rid of Ants

Ants are generally not harmful to human beings but their nests in the house are nuisance. If there is an ants’ nest in the structure of your home, it may result into certain structural problems such as rotted or eaten wood. In fact fungal growths can also take place due to the trash they create. Out of over 12,000 species of ants all over the world, few are, in fact, harmful too. For example, red ants that are also biting ants and can pose a threat for pets and infants in your house! Therefore, it seems wise to get rid of ants in the house. Here’s how to go about this!

How to Get Rid of Ants in the House?

There are many home remedies to get rid of ants but before knowing them, there are some steps that you need to take in order to get rid of ants in your home. This is essential because there are many types of ants and for some of the species of ants, you need to take special measures. In general, the following steps will help you get rid of ants.

Identify the Type of Ants in your House

This is important. To get rid of some of the species of ants, specific measures in regard of their nesting and eating habits have to be taken. Here are some tips to help you identify the types of ants.

Odorous House Ants- These ants are found in all the regions of the United States. They are dark brown to black in color. If you see an unevenly shaped thorax when viewed from the side, it may be the odorous house ant. However, the most distinguishable characteristic of this ant is the smell they give out when crushed. This smell resembles rotten coconut and thus the name odorous house ants.  They usually nest in walls cracks and under floors inside houses.

Carpenter Ants- These ants having reddish black color can be found generally in cool, damp climates. Carpenter ants build their nests in wood sources, justifying the name given to them. They can thus lead to severe damage to your wooden furniture and structures by tunneling through them to make the nest. If you see debris produced from tunneling in the wood, these can be carpenter ants. If you see flying carpenter ants in the house, this may indicate their well established colony in your home.

Argentine Ants- Having light to dark brown color, the antennae of these ants have 12 segments. They travel in trails and build their colony in wet environments, mostly near a food source. They prefer sweet foods but can eat anything. If you see trails of such ants in your house, you can almost be sure that Argentine ants have infested your house.

Pharaoh Ants- These are very small ants. Their bodies are light yellow in color and have red and black marks on the abdomen. If you see small amber-colored ants forage for food, be sure there is an infestation of pharaoh ants in your home. They must be eliminated as soon as identified because these ants spread diseases and can even contaminate sterile equipment and rooms. These ants can build nests anywhere, in walls, cabinet voids, behind baseboards, refrigerator insulation, hollows of curtain rods, and even folds of clothes, sheets and paper!

Flying Ants- These are the ants with wings and can be of any ant species.  Wings represent their stage of reproduction. Usually harmless, they can be a nuisance. However, if these are flying carpenter ants or flying pharaoh ants, they must be eliminated to protect your house structures from damage and from contamination respectively.

Fire Ants- Having dull red color ranging from reddish brown to reddish black, these fire ants have stings. They use their painful stings when their nests are disturbed and thus it requires great caution when trying to eliminate fire ants from your house. They are also known as red imported fire ant or red ants. These are aggressive ants that feed primarily on living and dead insects and animals. However, if they infiltrate your home, they can be attracted to fats and sweets.

Sugar Ants- These are the small ants that are attracted to sweets. Female sugar ants have orange bodies while winged male sugar ants are completely black. When sugar ants infest your house, they can be found in kitchen, pantry and even food containers. They get attracted to spills, stains and other food traces.

Velvet Ants- Also called cow killer ants; these are the hairy ants with velvety texture. They are mostly red or brown in color. These wingless ants are in fact, wasps and not ants but because they resemble the structure of ants, they have been named velvet ants. These ants can be easily differentiated from ants by the absence of petiole nodes, which are present on all the ant species. They are mostly orange and black or brownish black in color. The sting of female velvet ant is so painful that it can even kill a cow and thus the name cow killer ant.

After you identify the type of ants that has infested your house, the next step would be either to eliminate their trails or totally wipe them out by destroying their nest.

Erase the Trail of Ants in your Home

If you see one or a couple of ants in your home, it is not necessary that they have been trying to build a nest in your house. They might have entered your house to forage for food. But if you have even seen one ant, there ought to be more because they communicate so well that others follow them without fail. Although sounds and touch are the common ways in which ants communicate, what’s the most important factor is the pheromones or their chemical signals. An ant will leave a scented trail that is followed by other ants. They perceive this scent trail with their antennae in order to determine the direction of food. Even if you sweep or mop the place, you won’t be able to erase the intense scented trail of ants. Each time the trail is traveled by the ants, the smell gets intensified. Use white vinegar to erase this scented trail of ants.


Use Vinegar to Erase the Scented Trail of Ants

When you use white vinegar at all the entrances and paths of ants, you are in fact, disrupting their scent trails. This will make it difficult for the follower ants to reach the food source. Once they are deprived of food, they will leave your house.

Get this:

  • White vinegar- 1 part
  • Water- 1 part
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Clean cloth

Do this:

  • Mix white vinegar and water.
  • Fill the spray bottle with this solution.
  • Soak the clean cloth also in this water-vinegar mixture
  • Now spray this solution wherever you see ants.
  • Not only their paths, spray it into the entrance point also from where these ants are entering your house.
  • Where you cannot spray, wipe that place with the cloth soaked in vinegar solution.

Use Sidewalk Chalk to Eliminate the Trail of Ants

The large sticks of chalks that are generally used for drawing on pavement or cement sidewalk can be a good remedy for erasing the ants trails. When ants stumble through this chalk, they get covered in the material with which it is made. Sometimes they are killed by the minerals present in the chalk.

Get this:

  • Sidewalk Chalk stick- 1

Do this:

  • Simple draw a thick line around the entrance from where the ants are getting inside your house.

Use Essential Oils to Erase Ant Trails

You might like the aroma of essential oils, ants don’t. In fact, the strong smell of these oils confuse the ants who then find it difficult to trace their own scent trails. Also, the oil sticks to their bodies making it difficulty for them to travel to and from the food source. Any essential oil with strong smell can do wonders for you. Experiment with the oils. Some of the oils that you can use include peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus oils. You may either use these oils separately or blend them to see what works in eliminating the ants from your house.

Get this:

  • Peppermint/Eucalyptus/Lemon oil- 20 drops
  • Water
  • Spray bottle

Do this:

  • Fill the spray bottle with water leaving a little room at the top.
  • Add the drops of essential oil or the mixture of essential oils.
  • Shake it well.
  • Now spray this scented solution at the entrances from where the ants are getting inside.
  • You can also spray it wherever you see ants or their trails.

These were the common methods used for destroying the trails of ants but if you suspect a colony of ants in your house, you may need to either move them out of your house or wipe out such colonies.

Move the Ant Colonies out of your House

Yes, you can do so. Once you have erased the scented trails of the ants and cleaned all the surfaces etc. where they can find food, it is easier to lure the ants out of your house. Naturally, when they get food easily somewhere else, why will they struggle to enter your house sprayed with a variety of things like oils and vinegar! They will move outside happily if they find something that attracts their taste buds such as honey or sugar.

Get this

  • A small bowl, preferably made of paper
  • Honey- 2-3 tbsp

OR

  • Sugar- 1-2 tbsp
  • Water

Do this:

 

  • After you erase the trail of ants in your house and block their entrances, you now need to lure them outside your house.
  • Put the honey in the bowl.
  • Place this bowl out of your house, but not too far. At least one ant needs to find this great food source.
  • If you are using sugar, add it with water and mix well to make a syrupy solution.
  • Place this sugar syrup in the bowl and put it outside your house.
  • In fact, you can even drop some syrup to make a line of syrup to the bowl kept outside.
  • This will make it easier for ants to find this source.
  • Within a short time, you will see ants relocate to their new destination out of your home.

Sometimes, however, it is essential to destroy the colonies or the nests of the ants, especially if they are of damaging kinds like carpenter ants and fire ants.

Find the Ants Nest and destroy it

There are times when you need to become rather cruel and kill the ants instead of luring them out of your house. This is true in case of carpenter ants that can cause structural damage to your house. Even in case of the fire ants whose stings can actually harm people in dangerous ways, it becomes essential to hunt down their nests and kill them as soon as possible. To find the ants nest, the easiest way is to follow the ants that you spot taking food to their nests. Once you know where the nest is, it becomes easier to destroy it. Generally, ants make their nests in damp areas with cracks and holes such as framing or flooring near a plumbing leakage.

Once, you find the nest, you can either use commercially available ant sprays, insecticides or use home remedies to get rid of ants nests. You will find many such remedies in the following sections that deal with the ways to get rid of specific types of ants.

Home Remedies for Different Types of Ants

How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Sugar ants are actually pharaoh, pavement, or the small black ants. They are not only attracted to sweet foods but also to carbohydrates like breads and fatty foods. Homemade baits, traps and repellents are the best remedies to get rid of sugar ants. However, don’t use repellants when these ants have infested inside your house. This will make them scatter and make multiple nests. Use repellant only for outside ants.

Make Borax or Boric Acid Bait for Sugar Ants

Borax is the basic mineral which is mined from the ground. Boric acid is the refined form of borax. While borax is generally used for washing clothes, boric acid is used as pesticide. You can, however, use any of these to get rid of ants. Both of them are toxic, both for human beings and for insects. So, whenever using them, be careful not to ingest either of them. If you have pets or kids at home, be extra cautious while using boric acid or borax for ants.

Get this:

  • Borax or boric acid- 1-2 tbsp
  • Sugar/honey/maple syrup/ mint jelly ((anything sweet)- 4-6 tbsp

Do this:

  • Combine the boric acid or borax with the sweet food that you are using.
  • Keep it somewhere from where the ants can reach it easily.
  • Even if a couple of ants take this bait back to the nest, all the ants will get killed.
  • If you have pets or kids around, make a trap with this bait in a manner that they remain safe.
  • For this, place the borax-sweet mixture in a small box. Make holes in this box to let the ants go inside.
  • The ants might never come out the box. Even if they come out, they’ll carry the poisonous food to their nest which will kill the whole colony of ants.

How to Get Rid of Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants can feed on anything including insects, honeydew, seeds,  but they too prefer sweets. So, the borax bait made with mixing sugar or other sweet things can work well with these types of ants too. Avoid using sprays or dusts for odorous house ants because this make them split into sub-colonies and they scatter all around your house with multiple colonies. Use baits that will be carried by the worker ants to the nests killing not only other ants but the queen ant too. Apart from the bait, you can also use soapy water to get rid of house ants. When you have kids and pets around, try doing the following:

Get this:

  • Sugar- ½ cup
  • Borax- 3 tbsp
  • Warm water- 1 cup
  • Cotton balls- 4-5 or more

Do this

  • Combine warm water with sugar and borax.
  • Place the cotton balls into the solution so that it is soaked by the cotton balls.
  • Place these cotton balls in shallow dishes near ant trails.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

These are one of the most dangerous types of ants that can damage the very structure of your house, so find their nest quickly and get rid of these ants as soon as possible. Look for sawdust like trails on your carpets or doorways. These will take you to the nest of carpenter ants.


Use Diatomaceous Earth to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Get food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) which is lethal for insects including carpenter ants. The sharp edges of Diatomaceous Earth cut through the body of ants and kill them. If the carpenter ants ingest the DE, it will shred their insides.

 

Get this:

  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Dropper

 

Do this:

  • Using the dropper, squirt dry DE into the cracks leading to the nests of carpenter ants.
  • Keep spraying DE into the nest quite often and don’t forget to do it after rains because it is the time when these ants are most active in making their nests.

Use Boric Acid to Kill Carpenter Ants

Boric acid is usually a good remedy for many ants including carpenter ants.

  • Mix some boric acid with sugar and water to get a paste like thing. Place this bait to attract ants who will carry this to their nests and kill all of them.
  • You can also try spraying the boric acid directly inside the nest. For this, mix 1-2 tbsp of boric acid with about 1-2 cups of warm water. Fill it in the spray bottle and spray it directly inside the nest through the opening.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

Fire ants or the red fire ants can prove to be dangerous to your family members and pets. One of the best non-toxic ways to get rid of fire ants is by using hot soapy water.

Make Soap Water to Kill Red Fire Ants

Get this:

  • Boiling water- 1 pot – ½ bucket (depending upon the place- inside or outside house, more for outside nests)
  • Liquid dish soap- 1-2 cups

Do this:

  • Locate the entrance of the fire ants nest.
  • Mix soap with boiling hot water. You need to be very careful while using this otherwise you may burn yourself.
  • Stir well to mix the soap in the hot water.
  • Pour the soapy hot water into the nest. Do this slowly so that it doesn’t overflow. It will be easier to do so when the nest is in the yard or outside your house. If you know some other entrance, pour the water there too.
  • If the nest is inside the house with a small entrance, use a spray bottle or something having a nozzle so as to jet spray the solution into the nest.

How to Get Rid of Pharaoh Ants

The tiny pharaoh ants often live in colonies that are made up of thousands of ants. When they sense danger, the queens scatter with a group of workers along with the eggs and immature ants. This way, they create many colonies. Therefore, you need to work in such a manner that you kill them all in a one go. Don’t use repellants indoors to get rid of pharaoh ants as this will make them scatter all around your house. If they are outdoors, repellants can work. For indoor pharaoh ants, use baits. They are basically sugar ants so make the baits that you would have made for sugar ants- with boric acid and jelly or sugar. There is one more homemade pharaoh ant bait, made with peanut butter.

Make Fatty Bait for Pharaoh Ants

Get this:

  • Peanut Butter- 2 tbsp
  • Honey- 2 tbsp
  • Boric Acid Powder – ½ tsp

Do this:

  • Mix all the ingredients to make the bait
  • You can place small amounts of this bait on wax paper pieces and put them where you see the ants.
  • Place baits where kids and pets cannot reach them.
  • Replace the dried out baits with a fresh batch.

How to Get Rid of Velvet Ants

Velvet ants or cow killer ants having painful stings can be really dangerous. Because they are actually not ants but wasps, you can adopt those methods that are used to get rid of wasps. In fact, you essentially need to eliminate the nests of ground bees or wasps around your house because these are the attractive breeding sites for velvet ants. Velvet ants feed on wasps and bees. Some of the ways that you can adopt to get rid of velvet ants are listed below:

  • Eliminate bees and wasps as well as their nests around your house. They attract velvet ants.
  • Smoke, insecticides and traps can be used to get rid of bees and wasps.
  • You can use commercially available wasp killers to kill not only the wasps and bees but also the velvet ants. Spray these insecticides directly over the velvet ants.
  • You can also use warm soap water to kill the velvet ants and wasps. If you have been able to locate their nest, pour in warm soapy water inside it.

How to Get Rid of Argentine Ants

These ants make super-colonies with thousands of workers and hundreds of queens! Therefore, it is rather difficult to get rid of Argentine ants but is not at all impossible.

  • Talcum powder is one of the traditional remedies for Argentine ants. Whenever you see Argentine ants entering your house, dust the floor with talcum powder.
  • If your garden has been invaded by Argentine ants, try using Diatomaceous earth (DE). Get food grade Diatomaceous earth and line your garden with it. You may even line the area that you know has been infested by these ants.
  • Protein based ant baits also work well for these ants. Make the one using peanut butter and honey.
  • Because these ants are also fond of sweet foods, you can even use the bait made with borax and sugar or honey.
  • Boric acid and sugar water will equally be effective to eliminate Argentine ants from your home.

Now you know how to identify, locate and get rid of ants. Be equipped with the essential things and fight off these nasty ants to free your house of them.

About Sara

Sara is a Boston-based registered dietitian who works with clients to improve their health by optimizing nutrition. You can find her running, sweating in hot yoga, cooking in the kitchen, dining out, or exploring. Eating Food-Mostly Plants, and improving our relationship with food, is the secret to lifelong health in her eyes.

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