How To Get Rid Of Ants (A Quick Guide)

Ants are insects like wasps and bees. They are on every continent except Antarctica, and they become pests when they invade homes and businesses. 

The best DIY approach to getting rid of ants is by first eliminating food sources through sanitation measures. Then, it's crucial to incorporate targeted baiting to avoid splitting their colonies. Next, you should employ mechanical exclusion to seal them out of your home long-term.

Ant Control

If trying to exterminate ant on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best trained professionals that are able to use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods. 

For Terminix quotes you can reach them at 866-577-5051, or with this form.

For quotes from Orkin, call 866-701-4556, or fill out this form.

For a free quote from Aptive, call 855-521-7075 or visit the company's website.


In this article, you'll find an extensive guide for dealing with ants. You'll learn how to identify, eliminate, and help keep ants out of your home. We'll also answer the most common questions you may have concerning ants. 

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How To Identify Different Types of Ants

Ant colonies break down into two major castes: workers and reproductives. However, most are female since males typically live only a few hours after mating. Each worker category has its own size and characteristics, depending on the species. 

Ants sometimes get confused with termites. However, termites have a rectangular thorax, whereas the ant's thorax is shaped like an hourglass. 

There are thousands of species of ants worldwide, and here are some of the common ones you're likely to encounter:

Fire Ants

Scientists first discovered the red imported fire ant around the turn of the 20th century. The insect is originally from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. 

Fire ants are typically dark red to black, with the abdomen lighter than the head and thorax. It ranges in size from two to six millimeters in length. However, the workers may vary widely.

Fire ants build large mounds that they defend by biting or stinging the trespasser. For humans, that means a large welt on the skin at the site. 

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants get their name from their mistaken identity as one of the ancient plagues of Egypt. However, their scientific name is Monomorium pharaonis.

As a household pest, pharaoh ants are probably the most common. In the U.S., you can find them primarily in the Southern States. However, they can also survive in some Northern States under the right conditions. 

Pharaoh ant workers are about two millimeters long and are typically yellow to light brown or reddish in color. Their eyes are unusually small compared with other species. 

Argentine Ants

Argentine ants are one of the most widespread invasive species in the U.S. They originated in Northern Argentina and were first discovered in California in 1907. Since then, they have been spreading rapidly throughout the U.S. 

Argentine ants are dark brown to black and are 1.6-2.8 millimeters long. They typically invade homes searching for sweet foods. However, they prefer to nest outdoors under concrete slabs, within tree stumps, or lawn mulch. 

Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are a native species to North America. They are about 2.5 millimeters long and are brown to black in color. 

Odorous house ants enter homes looking for sweet foods. They mostly nest outside under rocks. However, they sometimes will find a home within a structure if there's food nearby.

Carpenter Ants

One of the largest ants worldwide, the carpenter ant is also one of the most unique. Although its size varies, it's generally about 1/4-1/2 inch in length and is mostly dark brown to black.

Carpenter ants prefer to nest in damp wood. That's why they sometimes invade homes that have plumbing leaks. Also, they forage for mostly sweet food sources.

Unlike other ants, carpenter ants chew through wood to build large galleries. They use these areas for nesting and reproduction. Due to the extensive damage they cause, carpenter ants are pests of considerable economic importance in the U.S. 

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Signs & Causes of Infestation 

Worker ants leave pheromone trails to signal the rest of the colony. They send messages that there is food, nesting, or danger present. You can see evidence of this behavior when hundreds of ants crawl on your countertops, single-file. 

Another way you can tell you have an ant infestation is by noticing their presence around food. For example, if you see hundreds of workers devouring a dropped piece of candy, you know there's a colony nearby. 

There are several causes for ants to appear in your home. Here are a few:

Abundant Food Sources

Ants can establish colonies around your home by discovering an ounce of food. When that happens, workers branch out to find even more food sources. Before long, the colonies split, and you have tens of thousands of ants around your property. 

Moisture

All insects need some level of moisture to survive, and ants are no different. As a result, they often seek out the most available water sources, such as leaky plumbing around your home. 

Safe Harborage

Ants almost always nest outside under rocks, in the ground, or within vegetation. However, some species develop satellite colonies that prefer to invade wall voids. That's because these areas offer protection from predators.

Ideal Environment

Your home may offer advantages for colonies to thrive in if the right temperature and humidity levels are present. This is especially true during the scorching summer months. 

Instead of having to move underground to avoid the hot pavement, they can enter your home. After all, there's plenty of food, and it's a nice, comfortable temperature inside.

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How To Get Rid Of Ants

One of the worst things you can do is spray ants with insect repellents. This is because the queen is very protective of her colony. 

When you kill her precious workers, she will split the colony and make a new one. So now you have even more ants to control. 

Still, there are times when spraying and drenching are the only options. Here, we've provided most of the possible solutions to eliminate ants from your home. They are listed in order of preference by most professional exterminators.

Granular Baits

It may seem absurd to start outside when you have ants inside. However, applying granular baits around the perimeter of your home will help draw insects away from indoor spaces. Also, granules are more likely to remove an entire colony since the material volume is higher than most bait applications.

Granular baits usually come in a convenient shaker container. Just sprinkle some around shrubs, rock gardens, and other outdoor landscapes. You can also use a lawn spreader to get a wider surface application. 

When baiting ant mounds, try not to throw granules directly on them. This is because they may fall on some workers and will think they're being attacked. Instead, carefully place the granules at least a foot away from the mound to keep this from happening. 

Bait Gels

Ant bait gels can be a bit tricky to apply. First, you have to make sure you place them in the right spots. If not, the queen may sense danger, and the bait becomes ineffective. 

Instead of placing the gel at the entrance hole, try applying it 6-12 inches away. This will ensure the ants will sense the bait's presence without being threatened. 

Bait Stations

Use ant killer bait stations to gain long-term control. Place them near electrical outlets, water sources, and under sinks. Most come with an adhesive backing, so they'll stick firmly to walls. 

Glue Traps

You typically use glue traps for monitoring insect activity. However, they may also be useful to get rid of foragers that remain after a colony has been eliminated. Set some up in dry areas out of reach of children and pets. 

Aerosol Spraying

Aerosol ant sprays are sometimes useful for taking on picnics or as an emergency measure for outdoor cookouts. However, they should not be sprayed indoors. Instead, use a mixture of dish soap and water to clean ant trails. Or utilize an all-natural spray containing essential oils. 

Drenching

There are times when drenching an anthill with an insecticide spray is the only option for quick control. Most of these products provide residual management as well. 

Just be sure to read the directions carefully when drenching an ant mound. That's because each product has a different active ingredient, and they all require their own application procedure. 

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How To Prevent Ants 

It's not good enough to remove ants from your home and then forget about them. It's vital to make sure they don't show up again. 

Preventing ants from coming back involves three techniques:

1. Sanitation Measures

Be sure to remove any uncovered food sources that ants can find. Also, clean all garbage and soda spills promptly, and be sure to close and seal pet food containers. 

Consider more air-tight containers as trash cans because ants forage for any food they can find. Garbage and refuse are their favorite sources.

Water leaks are another problem to fix. After all, ants need water to survive. One of the best ways to discourage them is by making water hard to find. 

2. Mechanical Exclusion 

Caulk foundation cracks to keep ants out of your home. Then, inside, use foam or steel wool to seal pipe entry points. 

Caulk around window sills and door jams as these areas are the most prone to ant trails. 

Before sealing cracks and crevices, it's sometimes useful to inject a pesticide into them using a bellow duster. Either boric acid or diatomaceous earth works the best. These natural, eco-friendly materials offer excellent residual protection from most ant species. 

3. Chemical Barriers

Use a non-repellent spray to form a chemical barrier between the outside and inside of your home. The best method is to utilize the fan spray setting on the nozzle. Be sure to get the foundation wall, around the windows, and also the doors. 

However, it's best not to spray indoors for ants. If ants are killed inside, it may trigger a defensive response from the queen. The colony may split off, triggering a satellite colony to form deep into the walls. 

Top Recommended Pest Control Companies 

The majority of pest control providers in the U.S. handle ant management. However, not all companies are the same when it comes to quality and value. Here are three of the best: 

  • Terminix trains its technicians to use an integrated approach to ant control. First, it starts with the correct identification. Then, it moves onto a strategy of indoor and outdoor treatments that work for most types of ants. 
  • Aptive Environmental solves your ant problem by utilizing the latest techniques. It involves the use of targeted bait placements to ensure all colonies are eliminated. After that, Aptive's technicians perform perimeter sprays, so insects stay outside where they belong.
  • Orkin has been a leader in the pest control industry for over 100 years. Its technicians know how to get rid of ants for both residences and businesses, and it back all of its services with a solid guarantee in writing. 

When shopping for a qualified pest exterminator, be sure to ask who your neighbors use. Also, check with your local Better Business Bureau to find out which companies are highest rated in your area. Finally, make sure the pest management provider you hire is licensed, bonded, and insured in your state. 

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Ant Removal FAQs 

Are ants dangerous to people?

Ants do not pose a threat as disease vectors in the U.S. like mosquitoes. However, there is an estimated five percent of the U.S. population allergic to ant stings. If left untreated, many of those cases end up in the emergency room. 

How long does it take to get rid of ants?

While you can't eliminate them completely from your property, you can keep them out of your home. This process can take as little as a few days or as long as several months. Because of that, it's best to use an integrated approach, similar to how professional exterminators control ants. 

What do ants hate the most?

Some of the best insect repellents are all-natural. For example, try using peppermint oil in a spray bottle. White vinegar, cayenne, and lemon juice are also common home remedies for killing ants. They help kill ants while leaving a nice smell on your floors, baseboards, and countertops. 

Some people use coffee grounds to repel insects. However, there is no scientific evidence that it works. Also, sprinkling coffee grounds around your entire home is not practical. 

Can carpenter ants destroy a house?

One of the most fearsome pests for homeowners is carpenter ants. There have been no reported cases of these pests bringing down an entire house, but they can cause severe damage to any wood structure if left untreated.

How can I get rid of carpenter ants?

If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation in your home, you first need to identify it correctly. It could possibly be a termite problem, which would then require a completely different treatment strategy.

To eliminate carpenter ant nests in your walls, it's best to inject boric acid using bellow dusters or other suitable equipment. This technique will kill most of the ants within the void. It will also provide a lasting, residual deterrent against future infestations.

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