Spring is here! In fact, it's downright summer-y out there! As a homeowner, there are responsibilities and issues that shift with the seasons. Many of us are focused on our yards and gardens this time of year. We are also paying attention to the types of insects that come out of the woodwork in the warm weather. In the Northampton area, for instance, we tend to see ants inside our homes in the springtime. I don't like having ants inside my home any time.
I went up to my husband's office on the third floor the other day, and noticed a large number of squished ants on the rug. "What's going on?" I asked. "Oh, I've been killing ants up here for a week or so". "Interesting", I replied. My kids since mentioned the ant infestation at various meal times; and I even found my dog pawing at a rather large black ant on the floor the other day. My husband and I have different approaches to problems like these. He killed the ants nearby, I got out the big guns. And the ants have started falling for it already! (I'm referring to ant traps, of course). However, I'm not sure I've really solved the problem yet. I decided to do some research on the best ways to get rid of an ant infestation, and came across this article on Wikihow.
Read on below for everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-getting-rids-of-ants, and then some!
Most ants are beneficial, killing real pests such as fleas and bedbugs, but that's no consolation when they start streaming in under your doors and crowding your kitchen cabinets. Ants come inside because they're attracted to your food, but you can also use food to repel them; for example, one of the best ways to kill ants is by spraying them with lemon or peppermint-flavored water. If these lightweight measures don't do the trick, you might have to declare war by using bait traps and chemical insecticides.
- Block off ant entrances with caulk, or sprinkle with salt. See pictures and details.
- Vacuum ants and sprinkle with talcum powder. See pictures and details.
- Spray with rubbing alcohol and soap. See pictures and details.
- Poison ant trails with borax and peanut butter, keeping away from pets and children. See pictures and details.
- Fumigate as a last resort. See pictures and details.
- Pour boiling water down the anthill if absolutely necessary. See pictures and details.
- Keep your home as clean as possible to discourage future infestations. See pictures and details.
The best way to get rid of a house pest is to prevent it from even considering your home an easy target. Hence, deterrence is a prime focus for every homeowner potentially susceptible to an ant invasion.
- 1Barricade your home. Since ants are tiny, they can find thousands of tiny doorways into your residence. Some of these are easy to identify, while others will only be discovered when there's a parade of ants marching through the chosen ant doorway.
- 2Use caulk. Seal windows, doors and any cracks the ants crawl through with caulk. An additional benefit of doing this is better temperature control and lower energy bills. Plus, it's one of the least risky methods when kids or pets are involved.
- Line suspected entryways with deterrent substances. Salt, chalk, baby powder and talc can be spread under doors, near windows and walls.
- Keep in mind that there are concerns about the potential carcinogenicity of talc.
- 4Apply scents and substances that ants don't like. Vinegar, peppermint oil, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne pepper, whole cloves, and bay leaves are all examples that have varying claims of success. However, some of these might be harmful to pets and irritants to curious children.
- 5Create a landscape buffer. Ants often enter homes through nearby shrubs, vegetation, or overhanging trees. To eliminate this problem, create a dry, plant-free border by trimming or getting rid of overhanging trees, cutting back vegetation that is touching your home, and laying down a perimeter of gravel or rock.
Killing ants is sometimes a necessity when you have an infestation and there is no end in sight. It's the least desirable option but it must be considered when you have them in the home constantly.
- 1Consider going from least harmful to most harmful approach first. Not only is this better for your health but it's also kinder for the environment.
- 2Kill off the ant trail. A line of ants can be dealt with effectively and quickly so as to kill those in the line and deter any others from continuing to follow the trail. It is recommended to begin with locating the entry point first and creating a barrier straight away, such as a line of petroleum jelly, upturned duct tape or talc, so that the ants outside stop using the entryway. Then, try one of the following methods to deal with the ant trail:
- Dip a sponge into soapy water. Simply wipe the sponge down the trail, collecting ants. Rinse them down the drain. Rinse and repeat as often as required until all ants in the trail have been removed.
- Spray the trail with all-purpose cleaner or a bleach solution. Wipe it up with a wet paper towel. Spraying the nest can be effective, but you really want to make sure you get them all, otherwise killing part of the colony can simply encourage certain species to establish new colonies, which is counter-productive to you..
- 3Squish the scouts. Colonies regularly send out lone ants to check for food sources. If you see an individual ant strolling across your coffee table, don't let it make it back to the nest alive. It'll tell the colony where you spilled the apple juice. If the scout made it back to the nest and brought back some friends, they'll be following a scent trail, single file. Unless you're ready to bait them, kill them all quickly.
- 4Root out the ants already well entrenched in your pantry or other cupboard space. You'll need to use an attractive poison bait to get the ants scurrying home with new "treats" from their food hunting missions. Mixing boric acid powder or borax with water and sugar is the most common bait. Boric acid affects ants both externally (when in powder form; similar to diatomaceous earth) and internally (when ingested).Make a mixture of 1 cup water, 2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons boric acid.
- Wait for the ants to show up. Don't lure new ants with the bait because you could attract new colonies. Once there's a trail, place the bait next to it (not on it, or else you'll interrupt their march home). You can also place it in a safe part of the pantry where ants appear to be congregating.
- If you have pets and/or children around (see Warnings below) use the bait in a jam jar where ants can go to seek "food". Screw the lid tightly and seal with adhesive tape. Pierce the lid with two or three small holes large enough for ants, and smear the outside with a little bit of non-poisoned bait to advertise the contents for ants. If you're concerned about the jar getting knocked over and the poisoned bait spilling out, loosely pack the inside above the bait with cotton balls.
- You can mix peanut butter as well. Ants' cravings vary depending on the needs of the colony (sometimes they want sweets, sometimes they want something oily),  so providing both will increase the likelihood that they'll take the bait. Once they've had their fill, remove all bait which may lose its poison when weathered, but still attract ants. You don't want to attract a neighboring colony.
- 5Consider using a borax bait made at home. Use 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of borax, 1 teaspoon of water. Mix well. Place a small amount on little pieces of cardboard where the ants are active. Watch them swarm it and carry back to nest.
- If it kills them too quickly, try 1 1/2 teaspoons of borax. You want them too carry it back and kill the colony and the queen.
- 6Vacuum up the ants. Sprinkle and vacuum a little talcum powder or diatomaceous earth to finish them off in the vac and in the trash where you dispose of it. This second step is important to make sure that you don't provide the ants a new home inside your vacuum cleaner.
- 7Make a mixture of rubbing alcohol, dish soap and water. Get a spray bottle, making sure to wash it out very well, and place about a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and about a teaspoon and a half of dish soap. Then fill the spray bottle with water about an inch (2.5cm) away from the top and close it up tight. Shake the solution until bubbles start to appear and then you're ready to spray! Because of the alcohol in the solution, the ants will stay clear away from it.
- 8Get a "Deep Reach" fumigator (aka "fogger"). These are reported to kill ants for 6 to 8 months, with the downside being that you may have to stay out of the place you fumigate for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Search online for product reviews and inquire at local home improvement stores. Make sure you know the volume of the place you need to fumigate. If you're concerned about the use of potentially harmful chemicals in the home environment, this is not the approach for you and should not be used, if you have children, whose immune systems are still developing.
This is the least recommended option--ants have an important place in the ecology of your garden and general ecological health--they destroy a good many garden pests. Removing all ants completely can disturb the delicate balance, let alone deranging the "live and let live" stewardship human beings would do well to live by. However, should ants seek food or take up residence in play areas of your yard or inside your home, you'll need to remove them. Here are some suggested methods.
- 1Locate the nest. If you can find the source, carefully dig/puncture the soil and dump several gallons of boiling water into the nest. That should take care of the entire colony.
- 2Try a homemade solution. Mix one part camphor oil with 9 parts denatured alcohol (ethyl alcohol that has a chemical added to stop humans from enjoying it), may be methylated spirits containing poison non-drinking alcohol. Pour over the anthill.
- 3Kill the queen. The best way to get rid of ants is to destroy their source: the ant queen. She produces a large number of ants and killing her will exterminate them; if you can, find and kill the queen inside the ant nest. She's rather shy and will hide in the bottom. This method is not recommended, if the ants are aggressive and/or sting.
Do your bit to discourage ant re-entry by keeping the house free of ant attractants. Cleaning up food and other attractive residues is an important part of getting rid of ants from the home and keeping them out.
- 1Put food in airtight containers. This also has the added bonus of keeping your food fresher. Also, should bugs that come in egg form in the foodstuffs hatch, they're caught inside the container, making their disposal easy and preventing their spread through the entire pantry. It's definitely worth the initial outlay on good storage containers.
- 2Wipe down all surfaces. Tables and countertops should be regularly sprayed and cleaned with a mild bleach or vinegar solution.
- 4Keep the sink clean. Avoid leaving dirty dishes and standing water for ants to drink and do not put food in the drain. Remove all in-sink disposal scraps as soon as added.
- 5Put pet food bowls in a slightly larger bowl. Add some water to the larger bowl, creating a moat around the pet food that the ants can't easily cross. Refill regularly.
- If there are flying ants, there probably is a new colony nearby; you can't follow the flying ones, but they indicate some are leaving the old nest to reproduce a new colony. If you see an ant that's a little larger than all the rest in its group, it might be a new queen produced by a large colony, looking to establish a new nest. Queens are usually two to three times larger than workers, possess wings before mating, and have very large abdomens.
- Many resources around the web suggest using cornmeal to kill ants; while anecdotal accounts sometimes refer to success with this method, other accounts suggest it's only effective in disrupting the trails and nests of the ants, not in actually eradicating them.
- Sprinkle grits in tiny mounds. They eat them which causes them to swell, and they die.
- If you're in need of a quick, temporary fix, an all-purpose disinfectant spray such as Lysol or Windex does a great job of poisoning and killing ants in a matter of minutes. However, be ready for a relatively lengthy and possibly wide-spread cleanup. This generally only works on visible/or surface ants in easy to reach places, and will not do much to harm the colony itself beyond dwindling its numbers.
- Clean up after yourself and your pets. Make sure no empty soda cans are left out and keep rooms tidy.
- Pour ant powder in damp and dark holes, edges of walls or cabinets around your house. Note that you should only apply ant killer powder in areas that humans will not be in contact with. (Read the instructions on the bottle of powder, if you are unsure.).
- Do not use any repellent products, sprays or materials near areas where ant baits have been applied. The ants will not go near these areas and this will render the ant baits useless.
- Bay leaves are a possible natural solution for killing ants
- If the ants are in your trash, make sure you keep the trash outside.
- Ants love aphids and scale, or more specifically, the sweet, sugary substances these insects produce. Treat outdoor plants for aphids and scale during the spring and summer months (when they are abundant) and ants will have less to hang around for.
- If more than a teaspoon of boric acid is swallowed by an adult, drink two glasses of water and seek medical attention.
- Contact with boric acid or borax can have negative effects. It can be irritating to your eyes; so if it comes into contact with them, rinse and seek medical attention, if symptoms persist for more than 30 minutes.
- Planting mint around your house and garden may deter ants, but mint can be invasive, so speak to a knowledgeable garden center before planting it directly in the ground.
- Use gloves and a breathing mask, if using any ant-deterring substances. At best, they're irritants; at worst, they're poisonous. It's also advisable, if using sprays to wear safety goggles. The most effective substances are the ones that seal up against the face (not just ones intended to stop projectiles such as wood chips when sawing, although those would be better than nothing).
- Boric acid poisons may be less effective in warmer weather; rely on these more during spring.
- Keep all ant-deterring substances and poisons out of the reach of children and pets. Many of the materials are highly toxic. They should be kept neatly in a distant cupboard or any heightened place. Follow labeling/instructions.