Few things are more irritating than watching a seemingly never-ending line of ants parade through your house. From your vista, they all look the same. It's hard to be sure if the ants that have invaded your space are the harmless ones that lap up your leftover sweets or if they are the invasive kind that leave holes in your walls.
Sadly, with over 1,000 different species of ants in North America, there is no "simple solution" to rid your house of these insects. However, so long as you can identify the species that you are combatting, there are a handful of ways that you can easily eradicate them. Should you find yourself overwhelmed though, it may be time to forego the at-home remedies and start by calling in the experts.
Before we get too in-depth though, here's a quick ant-removal checklist to consult when you notice that you have a problem.
Identify the Ants
Carpenter ants are one of the largest species of ant whose size ranges from ¼- to ½-inch long. They will eat almost anything that you have in your kitchen but will nest in soft or moist wood.
If you spot these guys roaming around your home it is often a sign that you have some sort of leak that has damaged a section of your house. If you can identify the damaged spot and replace it, you can often eradicate your ant problem without having to use any chemicals.
Odorous House Ants
These ants are named as such because when you crush them they smell faintly of coconut. Teenie tiny, these insects love to snack on sugary foods and other dead insects and will generally nest in moist, warm areas.
A good indication of if they are living in your house versus just visiting is to look for wings. If you notice winged ants flying around then you will know that these pests will have made their home within yours and therefore you will need to combat the nest directly.
To get rid of this species, keep your food sealed, your countertops clean, and regularly use baits and sprays if the problem is serious.
You'll probably be able to identify these guys on site because you have seen them wandering everywhere since you were a child. While these ants are harmless, they are opportunistic eaters and will consume anything in their path.
The best method to rid your home of these pests is to use over-the-counter baits and barrier sprays.
Stinging Ant Species
Red Imported Fire Ants
If you live in the Southern United States, you know how to identify fire ants from a mile away. These ants generally live outdoors and build piles on your lawn that you want to avoid at all costs unless you are actively working to get rid of them.
Fire Ants and Harvester Ants
Similar to their South American cousins, these ants are generally found in dry desert areas where the soil is loose and they can easily build their nests. These ants eat seeds and generally will not enter or damage homes. The only threat they pose to humans is when you destroy theirs at which point they will try to swarm and sting you.
Walk into any hardware or grocery store and you will find a plethora of options for banishing ants from your home. In fact, the choice can often be overwhelming.
So, to help you break it down and understand what best serves your needs, you can start by breaking down ant prevention into six distinct categories: baits, contact sprays, perimeter sprays, foggers, glue traps, and lawn treatments.
You don't necessarily have to differentiate between brands because all manufacturers generally use a similar chemical formula. However, it is important to note the brand if it works for you so that you are able to purchase the same product again.
1. Baits and Gels
Bait is a poison that is made for ants to be able to carry back and feed to other members of their colony. It is essential that the intoxicant is slow-acting and contains less than 1 percent of the active ingredient so that ants have time to make it back to their nest and feed the others.
This solution would be ineffective if the insects died along the way. Therefore, do not use bait stations in conjunction with any sprays.
- Eliminates the entire ant colony
- Less chemical impact on home
- Effectiveness varies for each species
- Baits with 5.4 percent borate can kill the foraging ants before they reach the nest.
2. Contact Sprays
If you decide you'd rather have a fix as quickly as possible, contact sprays may be your ideal solution. Spraying a nest will essentially cover the colony in a poisonous haze and eradicate them. Just don't use in conjunction with bait!
- Kills the nest and some returning worker ants.
- Queen could survive if nest isn't fully saturated.
- Surviving members of colony could re-establish a new nest elsewhere in your house.
3. Perimeter Sprays
If you know that the ants are nesting outdoors and just paying you a visit to snack in your kitchen, a perimeter spray may be exactly what you need. To use, you'll need to line all of your windows, doors, and areas where utilities penetrate to the outdoors.
This is not, however, the fastest solution.
- Deters any ants from entering your house to forage for food
- Need to reapply often
Foggers are highly effective but also very poisonous and therefore take a lot of preparation before they can be used.
Before You Fog:
1. Open every cabinets, drawer, and closet in the treatment area.
2. Remove or cover any surface that will touch food or be touched by pets and children.
3. Turn off the air flow system to prevent circulation.
4. Close outside doors and windows.
4. Turn off all flames and electrical appliances.
- Kills everything
- Large amount of prep work before use
- Chemical residue is everywhere
5. Glue Traps
This simple solution is, unfortunately, not terribly effective. Glue traps are only able to pick up the insects that are unlucky enough to walk across them and thereby limiting the efficacy of this solution.
- No chemicals used
- VERY ineffective
- Will only trap a few worker ants
- Does not affect the nest at all
6. Lawn Treatments
If you find that your yard is overrun with fire ants, it is probably time to treat your lawn. Make sure you read the directions before you use this prevention method, but generally most treatments can be distributed through a seed spreader.
- Good at reducing fire ant populations
- Will help reduce the number of foraging ants entering your house
- Poisonous to fish