How to Get Rid of Ants

There is only one reason you are seeing ants inside of your home - food. Once a scout has located a viable food source, it takes the shortest route back to the nest and alerts the others. To get rid of ants, this ant trail must be traced back to the source. This path may cut through bedrooms or bathrooms, but most infestations take place in the kitchen. The initial response of most homeowners is to unleash on an ant trail with a bottle of Windex or Raid, but this does more harm than good. The chemicals in household products are detectable by ants and can cause the colony to split into two or seek an alternate route, forcing them to spread to other parts of the home. In severe cases, a colony can establish itself within the walls of the home, but this is rare. A combination of non-repellent insecticides, boric acid, baits, and other natural solutions can be combined to get rid of ants.

Between 9,000 and 10,000 different ant species are believed to exist. Identification of the infesting species plays an important role in the efficacy of bait programs. Ants produce hormone trails or pheromones, undetectable by the human nose. These trails designate specific routes to a food source, the same reason many find ants marching in a line. But only 20% of an ant colony will ever venture outside of its nest. Learning how to get rid of ants is not too difficult if you remember that killing the queen is top priority.

Common Types of Ants

Sometimes knowing the type ant you are dealing with is better for treatment. Each type of ant has a unique diet and knowing which baits work best for each ant can prove beneficial. Fire ants, for example, prefer protein based baits over anything else. For more information, view our identification guide on the different types of ants. Regardless, nearly all species are attracted to sweets, which might explain the trail of ants leading into your sugar supply. If you have any boric acid on hand, consider making your own bait with the instructions below or use any of the natural remedies listed.

Getting Rid of Ants in the House

Focus your efforts on locating the source of the ant infestation. In some cases, the ants may be disappearing behind a wall outlet, a gap in the counter top, or behind the baseboards. Take time to walk around the outside of your home paying special attention to the foundation and any cracks or window sills. It's very likely you will find them trailing from the lawn up the side of your home. Pick up any splash blocks and pull back landscape bedding far enough to reveal the colony. Ants have a hard time regulating their body temperature; if you have an infestation, consider inspecting the sunnier side of your home, where it's warmer and lighter. Ants also prefer to take the path of least resistance - check around accent lights (notorious for housing dead moths) and driveways for activity.

  • Inspect the perimeter looking for ant trails. Check beneath rain catchers, around fence lines, windows, decking, and pavement. Be sure to trace any trails back to the source.
  • Use preferred ant bait as directed by label. Terro is the most popular - it's a slow acting bait designed to eliminate the queen(s).
  • Don't taint the bait. If you apply bait in areas you have sprayed, the bait will be ineffective. Ants will ignore the bait because of the smell of other chemicals.
  • If you have to kill ants, do so with water and a wet paper towel or else you risk having them spread. Sometimes homeowners will use boiling water or gas to drown out an ant mound, but this doesn't guarantee elimination of the queen. Bait is typically a more efficient option.
  • Eliminate waste around the home. Sanitation is crucial, as you don't want any of the baits to have competition with other food items. Garbage bins should be emptied and cleaned. The floors should be swept and mopped, counters wiped, and food kept out of reach.

If the ants are trailing to a food item on the interior, consider replacing it with ant bait. This bait will be taken and shared with the rest of the colony. The ants should take on to the bait within 15 minutes. Nearly all baits lose their effectiveness if they get wet, so they should not be placed in areas where you have sprayed. Structural modifications, like improved sealing will help to prevent future reoccurrence. The colony may not always be close either - they can travel the length of a football field just to find food, making them difficult to locate and control. But without an idea of the source, killing ants is next to impossible. That's what makes baits so favorable - they take the bait to the source for you!

Natural Ant Control

Boric acid is just one of many natural solutions to getting rid of ants. This powder is derived from a naturally occurring mineral, sassolite. To get rid of ants using boric acid, the dust can be sprinkled in areas like cabinet voids and any gaps along windows or baseboards to aid in the efficacy of an ant treatment. Dusts and other repellents should only be used as a last resort, as it causes some colonies to spread out to other areas in search of food. It's usually applied with a bellow duster, a device that uses air pressure to direct the flow of dust. It can be lightly sprinkled on top of ant mounds as well, but will lose its potency if applied in wet conditions. Remember, getting rid of ants using boric acid and other repellent insecticides is only recommended in severe situations and should always be done wearing gloves.

Professional Ant Control

Termidor SC is a commercial product designed specifically to get rid of ants and termites. It's used by all of the major pest control companies because of its effectiveness and is somewhat of a trade secret because it gets the job done. It's sold in concentrate form and mixed with a gallon of water - the gallon is sprayed around the foundation of the exterior and points of entry. Termidor is a non repellent insecticide, meaning the ants cannot detect the spray so they are not afraid to walk across it. The product spreads like a disease and kills the queen far quicker than any other product available, including baits. One bottle should last anyone a couple of years. To get rid of ants using Termidor, it should be applied along ant trails and the perimeter of your home. The ants will disappear within three days.

Get Rid of Ants in the Lawn & Garden

Unsightly ant mounds can be treated without ever having to purchase insecticide. If you only have a couple of mounds, boiling water can prove to be a safe alternative to chemicals. Simply pour onto each mound to drown them out. An alternative to this method would be broadcast baiting, where a granular bait is placed into a spreader and dispersed in affected areas. Amdro bait is a popular choice for broadcast applications. Boric acid or diatamaceous earth are natural solutions for the elimination of ants and can be sprinkled on individual mounds. The Termidor SC product mentioned above is also an excellent choice. Ants in the garden should be treated only with organic products like Sevin (or any product containing carbaryl), which contains a natural insecticide commonly found in tree sap.

Many people ask if there is a way to keep ants out of the yard for good. The answer is yes - a product called Top Choice is known for its long residual ability to keep ant mounds out of the yard year round. It's used by golf courses all over the country and comes in a 50 lb bag for broadcast applications. Its popularity in the South is directly tied to its ability to quickly eliminate fire ants.