Is there a trail of ants slowly crossing your kitchen countertops and disappearing somewhere in your cupboards? Did you go to take out the trash and noticed a bunch of annoying little ants creeping around? If so, you might have an ant infestation in your home.
But where did the ants come from? More importantly, how can you stop them? When it comes to removing ants from your home, which products work best?
If these questions have been keeping you up at night, you’ve definitely come to the right place.
What Causes Ants in Your House?
Just like any living creature on this planet of ours, ants are looking for food, water, and shelter. Sometimes, when they can’t find those things outside, they’ll go inside your home.
Ants in Your Kitchen
If you don’t want ants in your house, cleaning your kitchen on a regular basis is key. Since ants are attracted to both food and water, you should never leave your dirty dishes to soak overnight. Also, clean your kitchen counters immediately after preparing food or if you’ve spilled something on them.
Don’t forget to remove crumbs from your cupboards and move or throw away any containers with open food. You’ll also need to take your trash out regularly because that’s the number one spot ants want to visit.
Ants in Your Bathroom
In addition to your kitchen, ants might find your bathroom particularly attractive because of the drains and the moisture. What’s more, they can sometimes be attracted to the smell of chemicals, courtesy of the cleaning products you probably use.
So, after you’ve sanitized your bathroom, make sure to go over everything one more time with a clean, water-soaked cloth. To reduce moisture, always turn your fan on when you’re showering. What’s more, try taking a colder shower to avoid creating a sauna in your bathroom on hot days.
Potted Plants in Your House
Potted plants can be really useful to have around the house because they can clean the air a bit, help reduce stress, and are just beautiful to look at. However, they also might be the reason you have an ant infestation in the first place. After all, ants are attracted to sap-sucking insects that live in plants.
To get rid of the ants, you first need to take care of the insects they’re eating. If you can, pick some of the sap-suckers off by hand and try lightly spraying your plants with a garden hose.
How Ants Get Inside Your Home
Most often, ants will invade your home through some cracks or gaps. What’s more, they can get inside if your doors or windows aren’t properly sealed.
If you find any cracks or gaps, you need to seal them with caulk as soon as possible to stop the ants from coming inside.
Another way they could be getting inside is if you have trees or tall plants really close to your windows and doors. These create the perfect bridge for the ants to cross and get into your home. Therefore, you need to clear the immediate area surrounding your home and get rid of any tall bushes and plants.
Most Common Types of Ants in Your Home
More often than not, pavement ants will appear in the hot months, like June or July, and nest in your walls, insulation, and under floorboards. They feed on pests, honeydew, sweets, and greasy food.
If you suspect that you have pavement ants in your home, try looking for them at night. You can search for their trail close to electrical wires and plumbing pipes.
Odorous House Ants
If you’ve ever stepped on or crushed an ant trail and thought you smelled rotten coconuts — you’ve probably found odorous house ants. These feed on a wide variety of foods, like sweets, fruit juices, meats, and pastries.
Odorous house ants move their nests almost once a month, so finding and destroying them can be pretty tricky if you don’t know where to look. Still, you can usually find them in insulation, walls, and window frames.
Carpenter ants will burrow and tunnel through wood to create their nests. Thus, even though they don’t feed on wood, they can cause significant damage to your furniture or any wooden structures found in your home.
Carpenter ants primarily feed on sweets, juices, insects, and arthropods. However, they can also eat meat, eggs, and any greasy food they find. They’re mostly active before dusk until dawn.
Pharaoh ants belong to the fire ant family, and they can be pretty dangerous. They’re attracted to moisture and thrive on humidity. What’s more, pharaoh ants love feeding on dead insects, fruit juices, and grease stains.
If they come into contact with your food, it’s key that you throw it away immediately. Pharaoh ants have been known to spread dysentery and salmonellosis. Most often, you’ll find them living in door and window frames, as well as walls and insulation.
Dangers of an Ant Infestation
Having an ant infestation in your home isn’t just annoying — it’s downright dangerous. Ants can cause structural damage to your home and destroy it slowly but surely.
For example, just like termites, carpenter ants can damage the wood structures and furniture found in your home. Even though they don’t feed on the wood, they will dig through it, making tunnels.
However, carpenter ants are pretty good at hiding, and it can be difficult to find their nest. A surefire sign that you’ve got an infestation is if you see wood shavings close to your furniture. Also, if you hear rustling sounds coming through your walls, doors, or windows — you probably have carpenter ants.
But ants aren’t just a huge threat to your house — they can damage your health as well. For example, pharaoh ants can deliver a strong and painful bite. Even though they aren’t venomous, the bite can be excruciating, and you might require medical attention. What’s more, pharaoh ants can easily contaminate your food and infect sterile equipment.
You should also get rid of ants as soon as possible because they can attract other pests and animals to your home. In fact, almost every carnivorous animal that can fit an ant inside its mouth will eat it. If you don’t take care of the infestation, problems with spiders, snakes, and lizards will follow pretty soon.
How to Stop Ants in the House: Step-by-Step
The ants you see lurking around your kitchen or bathroom are just scouts looking for food. Even if you kill them, it won’t make much of a difference because the queen is still alive. In fact, the only way to completely get rid of ants in your home is to destroy the colony.
1. Get to Know the Colony
Before you can successfully get rid of the colony, you first need to study the enemy. The easiest way to determine the types of ants you have is to see what kind of food they like. To do so, I recommend setting up three different food traps to see which one the ants prefer.
Take three scrap pieces of tracing paper and some peanut butter, jelly, and honey. For the best results, you can put the honey in the microwave to get it to a liquid consistency. Then, put a spoonful of each on the scrap pieces of paper. Leave them close to where you saw the ants.
2. Set the Ant Bait
Setting baits to destroy the colonies is the most effective way of getting rid of the ants. The ant scouts will collect the bait and take it to their nest for the other ants and the queen to feed on. The borax you’ll be using to make your baits will interact with the ants’ digestive system, killing them slowly but surely.
Now, depending on the size of the colony, it might take a few days up to a few weeks to see some results. If the colony is big or has two queens, it may take a bit longer, and you might even have to set new baits. Nevertheless, setting baits is still the most efficient way of getting rid of the ants inside your home.
Making a DIY Ant Bait
As you’ll see, depending on the types of ants, they’ll start gathering around one particular type of food. Once you’ve figured out which one it is, it’s time to make the ant bait.
First, you’ll need to head to your nearest hardware store to get some borax in either granule or powder form.
Even though borax is a low-toxicity pesticide, you should still be extremely careful when using it. Make sure to follow all of the safety instructions given by the manufacturer. Also, always keep the borax out of reach of pets and children.
Now, if the ants were attracted to the jelly, you’ll need to mix two tablespoons of it with a quarter of a tablespoon of borax. I recommend using mint jelly if you have it, simply because it attracts the most ants.
But, if they were attracted to either honey or peanut butter, you have to use a different mixture. Take two tablespoons of each and mix in half a tablespoon of borax.
If you’ve made the right bait and placed it in a spot where you last saw the ants, they should be swarming around it in just a couple of hours.
Commercial Ant Baits
If you don’t want to use the borax solution, there are a few commercial ant baits you could try. My two favorite products are:
- Attracts & Kills – Kills common household ants...
- Kills the Ants You See & the Ones You Don't – As...
- Works Fast – You should see a significant decrease in...
- Ready to Use – Place the bait stations, watch it...
Depending on how many ants there are, you might need to replace these after a month or two. Nevertheless, they work just as well as borax, are safe, and you can even use them outdoors.
3. Clean the Trail
Now that the colony is dead, it’s time to get rid of any stragglers that might have survived. To ensure that the ants don’t come back, you have to clean the pheromone trail they’ve left behind.
In a spray bottle, mix equal parts of water and white vinegar or lemon juice. Then, take your bottle and spray the mixture all along the trail the ants have been using to get to the bait. Once you’ve erased the smell, the ants won’t know how to return to the colony, and their numbers will be decimated.
You might also want to read: Can You Vacuum Ants?
4. Clean Your Home
Now that you are absolutely sure that there aren’t any ants left behind, it’s time to clean your house. You can start by getting rid of any open containers in your kitchen, disinfecting countertops, and cleaning up any crumbs or spills. Then, move on to your bathroom, once again making sure that there is no moisture or water damage.
Once you’ve done that, you should clean your entire home one more time, just to be on the safe side.
5. Prevent Ants From Coming Back
If you want to get ahead of the problem, you need to make your house an ant-proof fortress. Luckily, there are a few items you can use to deter ants from coming inside your home ever again.
My favorite remedy includes half a tablespoon of cinnamon essential oil and a cup of water. You can put the ingredients in a spray bottle and spray the mixture in places where you’ve seen the ants, as well as where you think they might be entering your home. Repeat this once a day until you’re sure you haven’t seen any ants for a week at least.
If you don’t have cinnamon essential oil, you can use white vinegar instead and repeat the same steps. Also, if you love using a diffuser at home, now is the perfect time to put some peppermint oil in. Since peppermint is a natural ant repellent, it’ll keep the ants away.
Having ants creep around your home is not only annoying but also potentially dangerous. They can contaminate your food, destroy your furniture, and bite you when you’re not looking — so it’s key that you take care of the problem as soon as possible.
The first step to keeping ants at bay is cleaning your kitchen and bathroom on a regular basis. Also, if you notice any water damage, fix the problem right away.
But if they still somehow find their way to your home, start setting bait traps immediately. Once the baits have done their job, you should get rid of the ant trails. Then, all that’s left for you to do is to tidy up your house one more time for good measure.