Ants are common house pests that typically appear in warmer months to seek out food. This persistent insect can be dealt with using DIY extermination and preventative methods, but don’t be shy to call a professional to handle the situation.
It may feel like clockwork—temperatures start to warm up, windows can be left open to let in the summer air, and ants start to appear. With over 700 varieties of ants, only 25 of them make their way into houses. However, no matter the species that has found its way into your kitchen, they are likely unwanted.
Whether this is your first time or yet another battle against ants, there are many ways to get rid of them yourself.
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How to get rid of ants in your home
When it comes to dealing with ants, there are a few things to know to keep them out for good.
Try to locate the ant nest
Do your best to locate the ant nest by following one of the ants. Don’t get discouraged if the ant disappears—another will likely come along soon. Finding the nest’s location can help you to understand the source of the infestation. What’s more, you can then target the nest and deal with the root of the problem by setting the toxic baits nearby.
Choose the best bait for your traps
Seasonality impacts what ants are attracted to. If it’s spring, they’re more likely to seek out protein-dense foods (peanut or other nut butters are good options). In the summer, try setting out sweets or fatty/oily foods (options could range from honey to fries).
Setting out the correct food is a quick and sure-fire way to attract these pests to the toxic bait.
When it comes time to buy your ant bait, take a look at the package. If you see wording similar to “controls both sweet and grease eating ants,” then you will be good to go.
Remove any “ant trails”
Even though we may think mopping or sweeping an area after spotting an ant cleans the space well enough, sadly it is not enough to erase the ant’s traces. When ants move, they leave behind a strongly scented trail for their colony members to follow to the food source they found.
Since ants leave this scented trail, you’ll likely need to remove the scent using a water and vinegar mixture (one part vinegar to three parts water). Once you’ve made this solution, spray this wherever you’ve seen ants. This will remove the ant trails and deter other visiting pests.
Focus on targeting the entire colony
When you set out bait, you may see a swarm of ants going after it—now don’t stress! These ants are hopefully picking up the toxic bait and carrying it back to the colony, spreading it to the other ants, including the queen.
If this method still doesn’t work, you’ll likely need to find the nest's exact location and apply the poison closer to their home.
How to get rid of ants in your yard
If ants are slowly starting to take over your backyard, it’s best to start by evaluating the problem before attempting any treatments. If ants are only in one spot (i.e. along the sidewalk, near the patio, or garden bed), then you can treat the problem using an outdoor insecticide.
For issues that are wider spread, you will likely need to buy a lawn and garden insect killer with bifenthrin listed as the active ingredient. Keep in mind that this spray will likely kill other insects as well.
To apply the lawn and garden insect killer, start by mowing the lawn. Then, apply the insecticide by spraying the entire lawn and any nearby shrubs or trees that may be housing the ants.
Professionals recommend that you use the spray in the early morning or late afternoon—this is when the ants will be the most active. Be sure to choose a calm day with little to no winds to avoid letting the insecticide drift into neighboring homes or yards.
Most outdoor insecticides are effective for up to six weeks. If after six weeks you still have ant hills cropping up throughout your yard, you may need to repeat the process over again.
Key Takeaway If you are getting rid of ants outside, you have a variety of options depending on how big the infestation is and where you find the ants.
Killing exterior ant nests
Maybe you’ve noticed a lot of ants in the same area on your home’s siding. If so, there is likely an ant nest in the siding itself.
To target these nests, start by looking for holes in the siding that the ants are climbing in and out of. Keep an eye between bricks where mortar has fallen out, under the lap siding, or in cracks in the stucco.
Once you’ve identified the area, spray the infected area with your bifenthrin insecticide.
Non-toxic ant repellants
If you have ants in your home but don’t want to use chemical solutions to get rid of them, there are some non-toxic options to naturally repel the ants. Keep in mind that these are not fool-proof and may require some trial and error before finding one (or a combo) that works.
Here are some non-toxic ant repellants to get started with:
- Black or cayenne (red) pepper are natural deterrents
- Peppermint, tea tree, or lemon eucalyptus essential oils
- White vinegar
- Boiling water
- Corn starch
- Coffee grounds
Why do ants come inside?
Ants make their way inside in search of food or water. This is not uncommon and, especially in the spring and summer, you’re likely to find at least one or two ants in your home.
Crumbs, spills, or open food that is left out for an extended period will likely attract these persistent insects to your house. One of the best methods for preventing ants is to keep your house clean and crumb-free.
Are ants dangerous?
In general, the ants in and around your house are not dangerous.
There are over 700 species of ants out there but fortunately, only 25 species may find their way into their home. The most common type of ants poses no threat to humans or pets, making them more annoying than dangerous.
However, if you live in the Southeastern U.S. or Southern California, you may be familiar with the fire ants that live in these regions. These ants have stingers on the ends of their tails and got their name for their bites and stings. Though a bite or sting from one of these ants might not be especially pleasant, it will not harm a person.
However, if your pet is stung by a fire ant you will need to visit your local vet as soon as possible to prevent any infection or serious reaction in your pet.
How to deal with fire ants
Keep an eye out for fire ants if you live in the Southeastern U.S. or Southern California. Known for its dull red or brown color, this species got its name from the nasty bite and sting they can give.
If you find fire ants in your house or yard, you’ll likely need a special insecticide to get rid of them. These formulas are manufactured as granules that the fire ants will carry back to their nests. Simply read the label on the insecticide before purchasing to make sure it will take care of fire ants.
How to prevent ants in your house
Even after you’ve dealt with the immediate ant infestation, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent future pests from getting inside.
Start by keeping your home clean of food crumbs, spills, garbage, or any other food item that might attract ants. This includes any area in your home that stores food for you or your pets (i.e. pet food bowls, garbage, food storage units, and pantries).
Once you’ve made sure your house is tidied up and free of food, it’s time to caulk and seal any holes in your molding or around doors and windows. After closing up these holes, spray an insecticide in a four-inch-wide band along the surface near any possible entry point so that it is wet. Make sure to select an insecticide containing bifenthrin, permethrin, or deltamethrin.
When the insecticide dries, it will leave a residue that will keep ants out of your home. Keep in mind that this will not kill ants that are already inside your house but only deter others from visiting.
If you’re still getting ants inside your home, head outside and spray the insecticide in a 12-inch wide band on the foundation and on and under the first course of lap siding. When selecting the insecticide for this outside job, make sure the label advertises “barrier treatments.”
Key Takeaway Preventing ants from entering your house can range from keeping areas with food clean and free of crumbs to using your insecticide to create an “ant barrier.”
How to prevent ants in outdoor spaces
When it comes to preventing ants outside, know that you’re facing a tough battle. However, don’t give up!
These tricks will help you keep the number of ants in your backyard to a minimum:
- Trim back bushes, shrubs, and trees that touch your house’s siding or roof—doing so will reduce the number of access points ants will have to your house
- Leave a three- to six-inch-wide gap between the soil and your home’s siding or foundation
- Keep firewood stacks away from your house—these piles are often a favorite hiding spot for ants
- Maintain a healthy lawn (if you have one). Bare spots in your yard are more prone to ants
- Remove lawn clippings by raking or bagging the grass after mowing.
How to know when it’s time to call the pros
If you’ve tried one (or many) DIY methods with no results, then it is likely time to call a professional. Keep in mind that some DIY treatments do not specifically target the entire colony, so you likely will start to see ants in your home again after a couple of weeks. What’s more, is that DIY methods can sometimes backfire and make the situation worse.
There is no hard-and-fast rule for when to call in a professional since everyone has different tolerance thresholds.
Calling in a professional exterminator will help you:
- Assess the problem and inspect your property for any ant foraging trails or nesting sites
- Identify the type of ant you’re dealing with
- Create a treatment strategy to deal with the problem
It’s also important to note that calling a professional exterminator may not be a one-time job. You may need several visits from the exterminator to get rid of the problem.
Does home insurance cover ant infestations?
No, most home insurance policies do not cover insect infestations or damages caused by these infestations.
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What causes ants in the house?
More often than not, ants make their way to your house in search of food or water. This is why keeping your house clean and free from crumbs, spills, and open food storage containers goes a long way in keeping ants at bay.
How long does it take to get rid of ants in the house?
It depends. For the most part, it may take weeks or months to get rid of ants in your house for good. Patience is key to getting rid of this incredibly persistent pest.
Of course, you can quickly clean them out of your house in a day but know that this is temporary—without the proper steps and processes, the ants will likely be back in your kitchen the very next day.