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Getting rid of ants in your house
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Ants don’t generally bother us, after all, they are relatively harmless insects that are not known to spread disease. HOWEVER… when a trail of ants appears inside your property, across your kitchen counter, or along your living room floor, then you know it’s time to take action.
How do you get rid of ants in your house and kitchen? Good sanitation will stop ants from marching in, but if they are already through your kitchen door, natural remedies such as vinegar can disrupt their trail. If you continue to have ants in your house, toxic repellents will kill them for good.
Why do I have ants in my house and kitchen?
It’s late spring/early summer and you have started to spot ants everywhere. Crawling around your backyard, wandering up your walls, and grappling with your garbage – they appear to be taking over the world.
Most ant infestations take place from April onwards, due to weather-triggered mating and feeding patterns. Having spent the winter hibernating, the queen is ready to meet a mate and sends her colony of worker ants to forage for food.
Ants tend to head straight for our kitchens, bathrooms, and pantries as these are places that provide them with the essentials. They are attracted to sugary, starchy food substances and the odd drop of water.
Freestanding water such as sinks, bathtubs, kettles, and even undrunk glasses offer easy access for ants. Small in stature, they don’t need much water in order to survive and can cross, what feels like desert distances, just to quench their thirst. The same goes for sugary and starchy food, a mere crumb from underneath the toaster, pinched from a plate or smeared off a pan will seem like a feast to a colony of ants.
Natural ways to get rid of ants in your house
The most important thing you can do to prevent these pests from entering your house and kitchen is to maintain good sanitation in the fight against ants. So here are some preventative measures to keep ants at bay:
- Make sure that you wipe down all surfaces where food has been prepared in your kitchen and cover up any leftovers.
- Empty dish bowls and basins of water as soon as they have been used.
- Seal up gaps, holes, and small openings in floorboards, roofing, vents, and around pipes.
- Rotate your garbage bag as soon as it becomes full.
- Shut windows and doors wherever possible.
There are also a number of natural remedies you can try to get rid of ants in your house:
- Spray vinegar in problematic areas as its strong smell will deter ants, disrupting their pheromone trail and ultimately, confusing them. For this to be effective you need to apply it multiple times a day over an extended period of time.
- Apply warm liquid soap around doors and windows to prevent more ants from crossing. You can also pour this directly onto any ants you see crawling around.
- Wash your floor with strongly scented lemon juice as ants cannot stand the fumes of citrus fruit. Place lemon wedges and cucumber peel around door frames and window panes to stop ants from coming in.
- Plant mint around your home or wipe down surfaces with a few drops of peppermint oil.
- Sprinkle some cayenne pepper as ants hate the taste, smell, and texture.
- Scatter some talcum powder or use crushed-up chalk to create a line that ants won’t cross. Ants hate these substances as they interfere with their ability to follow pheromone scent trails left by other ants.
- Diatomaceous earth also works well as an ant repellent. This powder is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton and the microscopic razor-sharp edges of the powder cut through the ants’ exoskeletons, causing their bodies to dry out.
How do you treat an ant infestation?
If an ant infestation is too established within your house and kitchen and does not appear to be affected by natural remedies, you may want to seek a more toxic solution such as:
- Ant dust. Shake a light dusting along the perimeter of your home or in known problem areas. These strong commercial powders have the power to kill ants on contact whilst also emitting a sharp, poisonous odor that deters other ants from crossing.
- Ant repellent sprays. This spot treatment when sprayed directly onto a line or nest of ants has the ability to kill immediately.
- Ant bait. This is a form of sugary sweet liquid, that interferes with the ant's digestive system and works slowly enough to allow the worker ant to get back and share the bait with the rest of the colony. As the ants travel to and fro, they drop a pheromone trail which lets other ants know that a food source has been found. The ants hungrily follow the trail to the bait and the process starts all over again until the whole colony has been depleted.
- Pest control expert. There are a number of different types of ants commonly found in America and each species requires a different form of attack. If you are struggling to clear an infestation, then we strongly suggest you seek assistance from a pest control expert.
How to identify different types of ants in your house
When looking to get rid of ants in your house or kitchen, it is important to identify the specific type that you have invading your space in order to source the most effective treatment. Here we give a short description of the most common ants found in America, their behavior, food preferences, and the best solutions for getting rid of ants in your house.
Little Black Ants
Also known as Odorous House Ants, these ants are small in size and dark in coloration. Black ants are the most common type of ant found throughout the United States and are particularly prevalent in eastern regions such as southern California and San Francisco Bay.
These ants have an earthy smell that is pungent, especially when marching in a large group as they leave a chemical pheromone trail. Sent out to forage for food by their queen, they will be seeking sugary or starchy food from within your home, which they take straight back to their colony outside.
The best form of attack against these ants is to try and eliminate them with soapy water. This will not only kill some of the ants but destroy their pheromone trail in the process. However, this will only stop them in the short term, so it is strongly advised that you wipe out the colony using ant bait. This tempting sugary substance will have them running back and forth to their nest passing on this toxic solution and eventually killing all ants inside and out.
Red Imported Fire Ants
These ants are not only pests but have the ability to inflict a nasty bite and painful sting. These dark red ants are an invasive species and have been found throughout Southern America including Texas, California, and New Mexico.
Although Red Imported Fire Ants nest outdoors in soil, they have been known to access buildings through air conditioning units or in plant pots and shrubs and enjoy a cheek feast or sip of water.
It is strongly advised that you steer clear of a red ant’s nest, in order to remain sting-free. Instead, apply some ant dust or spray in the areas you know they are infiltrating. If the infestation starts to get out of control, seek some expert advice from a pest control officer.
Carpenter ants get their name from their nest building skills, as they dig and scrape tunnels inside of wood. Commonly found in North America, these black and red ants cause the most severe infestations as they burrow deep into the structures of your home, decking, floors, and beams.
As these ants live outdoors, they will only venture inside for food and water. Therefore, the best remedy for Carpenter ants is Diatomaceous Earth, which can be sprinkled in known ant access areas.
Whilst we don’t consider ants to be pests in the same way we do rodents or bed bugs, it is advisable to keep an eye on any signs of an ant invasion. What can at first appear as one lonesome ant wandering into your home, can soon escalate into a marching colony. By implementing good sanitation and hygiene, especially in your kitchen, sealing up entry gaps, and using preventative remedies such as lemon, vinegar and mint should avert the need to use more toxic repellents.
Get rid of ants in house infographic
(Click infographic to enlarge.)