Although popular media has depicted ants as being adorable, thoughtful creatures, they’re not very cute when they’re infesting your home. Some people may keep ants as pets; however, when they’re out of their cage and wreaking havoc on your home's foundation, they can be a force to reckon with. If you want to know how to get rid of ants in your house or around your property, keep reading!
What Are Ants?
If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of ants, you’ll first want to know more about them. To start, there are more than 10,000 species of ants on the planet and scientists are finding more and more species every year. Depending on the type, ants can live anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.
Believe it or not, ants are most closely related to the bee and wasp insect family. They are characterized by their distinctly shaped body parts and antennae. It is most common for ants to live in large groups; some colonies contain millions of ants at a single time.
What Types of Ants Do You Have?
As we mentioned above, there are thousands of species of ants out there, so it can be hard to know what type of ant you have. Without knowing what type of ant you have, you won’t be able to eradicate them properly. However, luckily (if you can still consider it lucky) there are only roughly twenty-five species of ants that infest American homes.
The ants that cause the most damage are pavement ants, Argentine ants, odorous house ants, and carpenter ants. It is imperative that you identify the type of ant you have so you can understand their motivation. All ants are motivated by food, but which type of food is the ultimate question that will ultimately lead to our answer of how to get rid of them.
A pavement ant is a very small species of ant that is typically brown or black in color. Their name comes from their desire to make their homes under the pavement. However, unlike many of the other ant breeds, pavement ants aren’t known for doing any severe structural damage to homes. That still doesn’t mean they’re welcome in our homes, though.
Argentine ants are also a smaller species of ant breed that are primarily brown in color. Argentine ants often prefer to live outside near food and moisture. You may find Argentine ants around potted plants, sinks, and even pipes.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants are aptly named for their odor. Odorous house ants, when squished, give off a rotten coconut smell that is unlike any other insect. These ants also go by the names sugar ant, stink ant, and coconut ant.
A carpenter ant is one of the worst ants you could have infesting your home. If you’re looking up how to get rid of ants and see that these are the ants you have, you may want to call a professional. Carpenter ants quite literally destroy your home by eating through the wood and foundation. Keep an eye out for debris near walls that looks like sawdust, this is called frass, and it’s unfortunately, a disgusting combination of chewed wood, feces, and deceased ants.
What Causes an Ant Infestation?
You may have seen or heard the famous phrase “this is why we have ants” humorously spread across the internet and on television. It’s a funny phrase because of how truly accurate it is. If you want to know how to get rid of ants, you should know ants are always motivated by food. The ants you may have spotted stealing crumbs from your kitchen floor are called worker ants.
Worker ants are the ants in the hierarchy that are required to go out, search for food, and bring it back to the nest. It is most likely that if an ant is by themselves, they are out scavenging for food. Ants, depending on the species, are drawn to foods that are sweet, starchy, and greasy. If an ant is in your home, it is being motivated by food within your home. It’s now your job to figure out what type of ant it is and what they are eating to take next steps.
What Kinds of Methods Are Available to Get Rid of Them?
Natural products are available to get rid of ants depending on the type of ant you have. It’s a common misconception that chemicals are required to get rid of ants. Items such as flour, lemons, oranges, and pepper can all be used as effective repellents.
You may not even have to run out to the store to stop your ant infestation. Every day household products, such as masking tape, chalk, Tupperware containers, and more can all be used as an inexpensive and equally effective alternative to store-bought traps or chemicals.
There are hundreds of products on the market that advertise ant eradication. However, it’s important to note that not every spray or ant-be-gone trap is safe for humans or pets to breathe. It’s also imperative to know which sprays may stain, or if you need to spray outside, that the spray doesn’t harm your plants or local wildlife.
Tips on How to Get Rid of Ants
Keep Things Clean
It can be hard to figure out where ants are coming from and where they’re going if you have a lot of clutter. Remove decorations and debris that may be lining the walls or covering large spaces in your home. It’s also imperative that you regularly clean your home.
A dirty and messy house is an ideal house for an ant. Make sure you always clean up any crumbs, spills, or garbage. It only takes a few minutes for worker ants to start sniffing out potential food sources. If ants are bothering your pets food bowls, try spraying a mixture of water and vinegar around your feeding station to deter ants.
Stop Ant Trails
We know what you’re thinking, an ant trail? Yes, believe it or not, ants leave behind an invisible scent trail wherever they go. This scent trail is so that other ants can follow the worker ant to potential food sources.
If you see ants tromping around your house, you’ll want to clean precisely where you’ve seen them walking. Unfortunately, a little bit of soap and water won’t do the trick for this one. To erase ant trails mix one part vinegar with three parts water and spray it in the traversed area. However, it’s important to note that if the ants have made a nest inside your home, this will not stop them. Your next steps will be to bait them and find the nest.
Figure Out The Bait
If you’re concerned that ants are making or have already made a nest in your home, you’ll want to start taking immediate action. It can be tempting to squish and kill any ants you see walking around but keeping them alive is a much better, strategic move. Having the ability to follow an ant to their hiding place or source of food, is what will garner you the most success.
If you don’t know which types of ants you have right away or what will attract them, test out a few different foods. Additionally, ants’ taste buds change each year so a bait may begin to become less effective if you’ve been fighting your ant battle for a long while. Ants usually prefer protein in the spring times and fatty foods in the summer.
It’s finally time to wipe out the colonies. You can do this a number of ways and with a few different methods. Make sure you know what type of ant you have so you know how to properly poison or deter them.
When setting out toxic bait or traps, don’t be concerned when you start to see more and more ants making their way out of the woodwork. This is a good sign and means many worker ants are either taking back the toxic material to poison the nest from the inside out or that they will be trapped inside and most likely perish due to starvation.
Find The Nest
If the methods above still aren’t working or you’re not seeing any steady progress, it’s time to find the nest. Seeking out an ant nest is the key in knowing how to get rid of ants. Try the bait methods above and quite literally follow ants to see where they disappear to; this should give you a pretty clear idea of where the nest might be.
If you’re still stumped trying to find the nest, you may have nests in the walls, which more often than not means you have carpenter ants. If this is the case, we suggested calling an exterminator as soon as possible. Believe it or not, professional pest control spends, on average, 80% of their time locating nests and the remainder eradicating it.
If you want to know how to get rid of ants you always want to start by determining which ant you have. Only once you’ve understood the species of ant you’re dealing can you begin to understand how to get rid of ants, and your ants in particular. Luckily, there are natural and safe ways to eradicate these persistent pests.