Ants are tough creatures that can carry huge amounts of weight considering the size of their body. They are also pests that can cause a lot of damage to a home and even threaten your own health. That’s why knowing how to get rid of ants is knowledge that every homeowner should have.
What Are Ants?
There are more than 10,000 different kinds of ants in the world today. These insects are small, colony-based creatures that typically live under the ground. They are close relatives of bees, which means their ability to sting doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Ants may or may not have wings, but can be easily identified by their six legs and triple-segmented bodies.
Despite the thousands of different ant species that are in the world today, there are only about two-dozen that will actually try to invade a home. The insects will eat anything, but they particularly love foods that are rich in glucose. They are very social pests within the context of their colony and have a specific hierarchy that makes them difficult to eliminate at times. There is the queen who rules the colony, of course, but there are also soldiers, workers, and caretakers.
It is estimated that there are over 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human. Just one acre of property might host several colonies of ants for a total number of 4 million pests. That’s why knowing how to recognize where ants are congregating and entering a home is so important. It doesn’t take long for an infestation to start causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Signs of Ants
Ants are usually active during the twilight hours, so the best time to inspect a home for infestation is around sunrise and sunset. Ants may appear at any time of day, however, so if you suspect an infestation is present, keep your eyes peeled. There are three basic signs that will let you know if these insects are causing problems.
- You can see them. The first ants that are typically seen in a home are the worker ants. These can be up to 0.5 inch in size and they’re looking for leftover food. They will come in through any entry point, so exterior window and door frames will often have insects moving back and forth from the home to the colony. Carpenter ants of the worker variety are even larger, sometimes at 1.5-2.5 inches in length.
- They leave debris. Ants leave behind something that is called “frass.” This can be the waste from their feeding habits, but it can also be any leftovers from their activities. Ants that are digging a new colony in sandy soil, for example, will leave a pile of frass around the surface entrances of their colony.
- You can hear them. If there is a colony of ants taking up residence within a home, then the sounds within the walls, floors, or foundation is similar to the rustling of Autumn leaves on a windy day. The sound comes from the way ants communicate with each other. Tap on a wall or floor and then listen. When a colony is disturbed, the rustling sounds become much louder.
Once you’ve determined that you’ve got an ant infestation, you’ll be ready to get rid of it once and for all.
How To Kill Ants
You don’t have to locate the presence of a queen ant or find out where a full colony of ants happens to be. There might be multiple colonies involved with the infestation. Because these insects are colony-based and typically bring food products that are located back to the colony, homeowners can use the natural behavior cycle of the ant against them.
The most common method of eliminating an ant colony is to use a system of baiting. The best ant baits are slow acting and allow the worker ants to carry the bait back to the colony so that all of the insects can have some dinner. Many of these baits will work in less than a day.
Another bait option is to use an item that is so sickeningly sweet to the ants that it forces them to come and want to get a taste of it. This will cause all of the workers of the colony to come toward the bait, but many of these products cause instant death. In practical terms, it means you’ll eliminate the workers, but you won’t eliminate the colony. It also can create a large mess of insects that must be cleaned up.
Stubborn ant colonies do need to be located so they can be eradicated. Look for exterior evidence of the ant colony by the piles of frass that are out in the yard. Then you can apply an ant removal option directly into the colony. You may need to repeat this several times for it to be effective.
Sometimes you can actually get rid of the ants without killing them. If you’ve been able to find the entry points where the ants are coming in, then you can eliminate the pheromone signals that the insects use to create paths from their colony and into your home. Use 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water to clean the entry points. Then seal them up using an ant-resistant substance. The ants stay outside and you have a pest free interior.
Ants also really hate being around strong smells. Strong smells interfere with the pheromone trails that they are following and it confuses them. Certain oils can disrupt patterns enough that the ants will move on to a new location because there is so much interference. Peppermint oil is the best option for this, but eucalyptus products can also be disruptive. In a pinch, rubbing a product like Vap-o-Rub at an entry point can buy you some time to use another elimination method.
DIY Ant Killer
Most homeowners will find a lot of success with a series of ant bait products. At least one baited station will be required at every entry point to eliminate the infestation. Here are some of the best DIY ant killer products that you can pick up right now to stop the problem now.
Terro Liquid Ant Killer Baits
You’ll get 6 bait stations with each package of Terro liquid ant baits, so two or three packages can be all that is needed to quickly eliminate an ant infestation. They’re ready to use straight from the box and work slowly to create trails that the worker ants leave to show others where the bait station happens to be. Terro baits interfere with the digestive system of the ant and eventually the slow kill features eliminate the entire colony. There’s no smell and the only mess to clean up are the leftover ants.
Combat Ant Killing Gel
Not only is this killing get able to get rid of an entire colony of ants in just 3-5 days, the product is also child resistant so that you won’t have to worry about the little ones using the bait before you apply it. This bait comes in syringe form so that instead of bait stations that pets might want to eat, you can apply the bait directly into the cracks where the ants are coming into the home. It has a high water content so that the bait is attractive, yet its thick enough to stay where applied. If you want to avoid stations, get this product.
Advion by DuPont
This product from DuPont is designed to eliminate the most difficult ant infestation: the carpenter ant. These massive black ants will eat into a home, live in the walls, and not be attracted to the sugary sweet bait stations and fluids that most ants enjoy. It will also work on those stinging, biting fire ants that can be very problematic in a home. All you’ve got to do is leave the Advion out where the carpenter or fire ants are coming in and they’ll keep showing up to grab some. It’s a little more expensive but effective on ants that can be tough to kill.
Ant Exterminator Cost
Most DIY ant treatments will cost less than $10. At that price point, you’ll be able to receive a package of 4-6 bait traps that you can leave out around the home. With most homes needing around 18-20 bait traps in total, the average cost of treatments is around $30.
If you have carpenter ants, fire ants, or a colony that isn’t attracted to the cheaper baits, then a more expensive treatment may become necessary. For around $25 per application, you’ll be able to remove these difficult ants. 2-3 treatments may be necessary, so the total cost is typically less than $75.
In comparison, a professional ant killer may charge up to $40 per application and ask to set up a 1-year contract. Total cost: $480.
Preventing Ants and Ant Repellent
Stopping ants from coming in can be a difficult task. Unlike other pests, ants aren’t really restricted by how far they’ll dig their colony. It is entirely possible for them to dig underneath a foundation and then come up through a crack that might be in the floor or wall of the basement or slab. Ants will also come through small uncaulked areas of a window or door frame. They’ll even crawl under the small gaps that exist between the floor and the bottom of a door.
This means the best way to prevent ants and ultimately repel them is to be proactive in looking for them. Ants will come into a home at any time, but they are more active when the weather unexpectedly turns. If you’ve had warm weather that suddenly turns cold, you may see an increase in ant activity at sunrise or sunset. Apply your preferred repellant or elimination method at that point in time.
Using treated wood for any exterior item can also help to prevent ants from coming into a home. The pressure treatments interfere with the ant’s pheromone trails. Instead of getting huge trails of ants coming in, you’ll find a few stragglers instead that are pretty easy to handle.
Natural Ant Repellant and Organic Ant Killer
If you don’t like the idea of bait stations or poisons killing the ants because you’ve got pets and kids, then you’re not alone. The good news is that there are some natural ways to kill ants that are safe for you, your family, and your environment. If you’ve got some sidewalk chalk, then tracing an outline around your concrete areas with the chalk really can prevent many ant intrusions. The chalk interferes with the ant’s ability to walk and create a trail.
You can also take a medium saucepan, fill it up about halfway with regular tap water, and then bring it to a full boil. Then take the water off of the heat, stir in some dish soap, and then pour the boiling water down into the surface entrance holes of the colony outside. You may need to repeat this method several times, but the scalding water and soap combination is a tried and true method of eliminating a colony over the course of 2-3 days. Do this in the middle of the day when ants are the least active.
Sometimes a distraction for the ants is a better solution to keep them out of your home. If you have some honey in the house, then just place some on a paper plate outside of the surface entrance to the colony. The worker ants will sense the food source and use it instead of the food sources inside of your home. Then just keep moving the food source further and further away from your home once the ants have discovered it.
Most importantly, seal up all of your food in your home. Ants will eat virtually any food product.
If you want to know how to get rid of ants, then be sure to use this guide to select the best option that works for your needs. Trace the trails, locate entry points, and then get to work.