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How to Get Rid of Ants in the House

By The Old Farmer’s Almanac

  1. Use soap and water to wipe up ant trails or chemical paths. As ants explore, they leave behind a trail of pheromones, which helps their fellow ants know where to go. Destroying this trail will prevent other ants from finding their way in.
     
  2. Dust around infested areas with diatomaceous earth. DE is an abrasive material that will dehydrate any ants that come in contact with it.
     
  3. Find where the ants are entering your home and mark the area with chalk. Chalk contains calcium carbonate, which ants dislike.
     
  4. Find where the ants are entering your home and cover the area with ground black pepper, salt, peppermint, or white vinegar. Ants do not like bitter tastes and strong, sour smells.
     
  5. Borax, a boron compound, is an effective method of controlling an ant infestation. It’s a natural substance that is non-toxic to humans when used properly and poisonous to them when ingested. But ants are not attracted to Borax itself, so you have to mix it with something tempting to ants such as sugar. 
     
  6. Alternatively, use liquid ant bait traps, which are specially formulated to attract ants. Place baits close to visible ant trails but outside the reach of pets and children When the ants carry the bait food back to the nest, the other members of the colony ingest it.The bait will work most effectively if you keep other surfaces clean so that the bait is the only sweet substance available to attract the ants.
     
  7. Avoid the temptation to use pesticides inside the home. They may eliminate a few visible ants, but the queen ant (sheltered inside the wall) will quickly make more work ants to replace them. Also, pesticides are chemicals that also kill helpful insects, such as bees and predatory insects.

How To Prevent Ants From Entering Your Home

Once you’ve stopped an infestation, it’s time to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

  • Be diligent about picking up crumbs and cleaning up spills, especially sugary, sweet liquids like lemonade, juice, and soda.
  • Keep floors swept, rugs vaccuumed, and all counters clean.
  • Keep food sealed. Use food bags tightly closed or consider using hard, sealed storage containers that can’t be easily chewed through, like glass or plastic.
  • Store ripe fruit in the refrigerator.
  • Clean up pet food as soon as pets are done eating.
  • Empty and clean garbage cans and recycling bins frequently.
  • Vacuum up ants when you see them and dispose of the bag as soon as you are done.
  • Seal cracks and crevices that ants may be using to enter your home. Seal around windows and doors and all cable, pipe, and wire entry points.
  • Keep firewood stacked at least 20 feet away from your home, as ants may see this space as a perfect place to put their colony!

How to Identify Ants

Though ants are familiar insects, in the home, they are sometimes confused with termites. If you look closely enough, you can tell an ant by its slim middle and curved antennae. Termites have thick middles and upright antennae.

The body of an ant is divided into three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen. An ant’s middle may have one or two segments, or “nodes.” This feature divides ants into the aptly named groups of one-node and two-node ants.

As with bees, ants’ colonies are largely female. Wingless adult ants are the colony’s workers, who are in charge of gathering food, feeding larvae, sustaining the nest, and protecting the colony. The colony queen’s only job is to lay eggs. Male ants have wings and mate with the queen.

Common House Ant Species

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are large, ranging from 1/4-inch to 5/8-inch long. They are dark brown or black, but some species may have red or yellow coloring.

When carpenter ants build their nests, usually in damp or decaying wood, they dig out tunnels which weakens the wood from the inside. You’ll know you have these pests by the appearance of small holes on the surface of wood and by the debris they produce from tunneling.