One of the surest signs of spring and the approach of summer is an infestation of ants in your house.
How do you keep ants away? It may feel like a fruitless effort, but you can learn how.
In this guide, you'll learn:
- The difference between ants and termites
- What attracts ants
- How to keep ants away
- How to get rid of ants
Weather has a lot to do with ant infestations. If the weather is too wet, too cold, or too hot, you'll likely find ants in your home. That is, unless you ant-proof your home.
How can you do that? Keep reading to find out.
Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Exterminator For Your Ant Problem?
What Do Ants Look Like?
Before you jump into action, make sure your problem is ants, not something else.
Ants can look similar to termites, but treating these two pests is the difference between night and day.
The easiest way to tell ants from termites is their waist.
Once you’re sure they’re ants, it’s time to figure out how to keep them away from your house or become your own DIY exterminator.
What Attracts Ants In The First Place?
Ants want the same thing any other living creature wants; water, food, and shelter. Once they have all three, they turn their attention to reproduction.
Water and Food
When the weather turns hot and dry, water sources outside may become scarce in your area. Ants will begin foraging for water and their foraging will lead them into your home. They will also forage for a food source.
Ants normally eat fats, meats, starches, sugar, sweets, and vegetables. Pet food, whether for dogs or cats, is also known to attract ants. Some ant species, such as pavement ants, also feed on honeydew produced by tiny insects called aphids.
Ants can gain entrance to your home through cracks and crevices around entry points such as the window sills, door frames, laundry vents, gaps around water pipes, A/C vents, tree branches and utility lines touching the house, and through the chimney.
Any crack that is wide enough for a piece of notebook paper to fit into is wide enough for ants to use it as a superhighway.
Ants normally make their nests outside under the ground.
During periods of heavy rain, the ground will become soaked, forcing an ant colony to look for higher ground to avoid drowning. At times like that, your house will be a perfect safe haven for them.
They can make their nest in wall voids in your house, in the basement or attic, or in the crawl space under your house if you have a pier-and-beam foundation.
If you have large potted plants in the house, they make their nest in the plant soil.
This video contains helpful tips for locating and getting rid of an ant nest in your house.
Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Exterminator For Your Ant Problem?
5 Ideas To Keep Ants Away
Pest control to get rid of ants is an all-or-nothing endeavor. You’re either in it to win it or you’re going to lose. There aren’t any halfway measures.
That means keeping ants out of your house requires you to use more than just one method.
Methods to get rid of ants include:
- Bait traps
- Essential oils
Let’s look at each one individually and what they can do in the event you’re faced with an ant infestation.
Ant exclusion describes the process of physically preventing ants from entering your house and removing attractions.
Make sure there aren't any food or water sources that ants are attracted to. This involves keeping the kitchen counter clean, as well as the counter tops in the bathrooms. Store food in airtight containers or in the refrigerator.
Additionally, make sure the lids are tight on all your trash cans, both inside and outside. Don’t leave anything to chance. Hose down the area around the trash cans at least once a week to wash away the pheromones ants leave behind. Without that pheromone trail to guide them, the ants will be lost and have to randomly forage the area all over again to find the trash.
Once all the possible odor attractants are eliminated, seal any openings that could allow ants to enter your house. Silicone caulk can seal these openings better than regular caulk, which ants can chew through.
Go around the entire outside of your house with the caulk, sealing all the cracks and crevices around the window sills and door frames so they don’t have any entry points. Seal the drier vents, around any water pipes or outdoor faucets, seal around any electrical, telephone, or cable TV wiring entry points too.
Seal all the cracks and crevices under the eaves, around any lights in the soffit, the chimney, and vents on the roof.
After that, consider cutting any tree limbs that touch your house. Carpenter ants often build their nests in trees and are notorious for using them to gain access to houses and buildings.
Insecticides are one of your best friends when used properly. Different products pose different levels of risk to pests, pets, and humans. When using an insecticide, read the directions carefully.
Granular insecticides are particularly effective at eliminating ants outside in the yard before they get to your house. One that is known to be a highly effective method of ant control is Talstar PL Granules. The granules come in 25-pound bags and need to be spread around the yard with a hand spreader.
Fill the hopper on the spreader and set the size of the opening on the bottom to three. There’s a sliding switch on the handle with numbers from one to six, with one being the smallest opening and six being the largest.
Start at one corner of your house and walk around it at normal walking speed while turning the handle to spread the granules. Using a spiral pattern as you circle the house, getting further away from it on each lap around it. The spreader will cover 8-10 feet on each lap.
Make sure each band overlaps the previous just slightly so you have a solid, unbroken field of granules.
What makes these granules so nice is that they’re water activated. As water touches insecticide granules, they melt and spread out to form a continuous band of insecticide.
For best results, spread the granules about once a month during the warm months of the year to provide continuous protection.
Insecticide sprays are useful for targeting entry points of your home. If you know where ants enter your home, spray insecticide in those areas to help prevent ants from entering.
Read more: Best insecticide sprays on the market
However, if you have ants in your house, bait traps are the most effective option.
Unlike bait used for other pests, ant bait doesn't lure the pests into a trap.
Instead, the bait is toxic. It's attractive to ants on its own, or is combined with food. The bait is eaten by worker ants, who perform a process called trophallaxis. They return to the ant nest and regurgitate the partially digested food and feed it to the larva, other ants, and the queen.
Properly used, ant bait will wipe out the entire colony.
We recommend using Terro Liquid Ant Bait. This ant killer smells like food to them. Since it is a liquid, they also are drawn to it as one of their water sources.
The active ingredient, the one that kills the ants, is sodium tetraborate decahydrate, otherwise known as borax. It will kill odorous house ants, black ants, pavement ants, carpenter ants, fire ants, and more. Any ant that eats it will die.
Read more: Our recommended top 5 best bait traps
Put the bait traps on the trails you’ve seen the ants using, near their entry points, and if you can trace them back to their nest outside, put some near their ant hill too. Some ant baits are contained in a trap-like station, so they won’t be ruined if it rains.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an all-natural method of repellent that can be used to control ants. It is made from microscopic marine plants known as diatoms. They have razor-sharp edges that slice open the carapace on any ants or insects that cross them. The end result is death.
In powder form, DE needs to be spread as finely and evenly as possible across the trails you’ve seen them using, around their ant hill.
The one we recommend is the food-grade Harris Diatomaceous Earth, which comes in a 21-pound bag with a powder duster. You can use the duster to puff out a fine cloud of DE across the ant trails around your house and inside it without making a big mess.
Essential oils are natural plant extracts produced by squeezing, grinding, or steaming plants to release the helpful chemicals in their fibers. The resulting distillate is concentrated and sold for use in household cleaning products, aromatherapy, and for pest control.
Essential oils can be diluted and used in a spray bottle to disrupt the chemical trail of pheromones ants leave behind. The sharp scent of the oils can also drive the ants away.
Final Thoughts on Keeping Ants Away
Of the five methods we listed above, the best ones for long-term ant control are preemptive. It's much easier to keep ants out than to get them out and keep them out.
Insecticide granules in the yard and silicone caulk in the cracks and crevices around the house are your best defense.
Needless to say, proper sanitation should always accompany whatever method you wind up using, especially if your cleaning products contain essential oils.