How to get rid of ants using poison baits, sprays and powders

How to get rid of ants using poison baits, sprays and powders

how to get rid of ants using gel, sprays and dust
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There’s a lot to love about ants. For example, they work well as a team, ventilate our soil, eat other garden pests and in turn provide a food source for birds.

In fact, it’s no wonder some of them have made celebrity status starring in films such as ‘A Bugs Life’ and ‘Antz’. But whilst ants might appear inconspicuous when they are in your backyard, when they are marching through your pantry, they are incredibly obtrusive!

Our informative DIY guide to getting rid of ants

An ant scout will leave the nest to look for food, water and shelter. Once it has found supplies it directs the rest of the colony straight to your door. If you have an infestation in your home, take a look at our informative guide to getting rid of ants.

Usually driven in from the cold and rain, ants enter our homes in search of food, water and a place to rest. Incredibly social insects, ants live in colonies ranging from a couple of hundred to hundreds of thousands – and that’s a lot of dinner guests! Sticking together (like good mates do), it doesn’t take long for an army of ants to be camping out in your kitchen.

So just how do you get rid of an ant infestation? Take a look at our informative D-I-Y guide to getting rid of ants for good.

How to identify different types of ant

Although ants may, at first glance, look identical, a closer look will reveal that each species has different characteristics and habits. It is important that you identify which type of ant is invading your space in order to work out the most effective pest control solution.

Below 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.

Odorous House Ants

Little Black Ants

These little fellows are known as Odorous House Ants. They are small in size and dark in coloration – hence their name. 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 due to the clement climate found here.

Like most ants, the black ant leaves a chemical pheromone trail for others to follow. This trail can give off an earthy smell which is pretty pungent, especially when they found marching in large groups. Sent out to forage for food by their queen, these ants seek sugary or starchy food sources and aren’t afraid to step into your home to obtain it. From your kitchen, sideboard or plate, they take their crumbs 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 other forms of pest control such as poisonous bait (see Combat Ant Killing Bait Strips review). These tempting sugary substances will have them running back and forth for more, passing on this toxic solution through the nest and eventually killing all the ants on the inside and out.

red imported fire ants

Red Imported Fire Ants

Most ants are not aggressive; however, the red imported fire ant has the ability to inflict a nasty bite and painful sting. These dark red ants are an invasive species having arrived in South America in the 1930s, reportedly entering via ports in the Panhandle coming in from Brazil. They have since been found throughout Southern States of the USA including Texas, California and New Mexico.

Although red imported fire ants prefer to nest outdoors in soil, they have been known to access buildings via air conditioning units or in plant pots and shrubs.

We would strongly advise that you stay away from a red ant’s nest, if you want 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, you should seek some expert advice from a pest control exterminator.

carpenter ants

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants get their name thanks to their extraordinary nest building skills. 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, digging and scraping tunnels inside the wood.

As these ants enjoy living outdoors and are not affected dramatically by the weather, they choose only to venture inside when they need food and water. Therefore, the best remedy for Carpenter ants is Diatomaceous Earth, which can be sprinkled in known ant access areas.

Preventing Ants from getting into your home

Dealing with ants can be very frustrating – no matter how many times you show them the door, they just come back for more. So rather than having to deal with an ant infestation, look at ways in which you can stop them occurring instead. Prevention is key to prevent ants having access to your house.

How do ants get into your home?

Like most pests, ants don’t just suddenly appear, they have to figure out a way to get in. The key to ant deterrent success, therefore, is finding their entry point.

Like a queue of kids at Disneyland, Florida, ants like to stand in line, shuffling forwards at a steady pace. So, if you take the time to watch them for long enough and follow their readymade trail, you’ll doubtless end up near an open door, cracked window frame or small hole in the wall. Ants are brilliant are locating the tiniest of holes in which to squeeze their little bodies through.

Seven ways to ant proof your home

There is no point attempting to ant proof your home without treating the main cause which is often sanitation. Ants are attracted into your home for food and water sources. Therefore, a well-kept property, both inside and out, is the best way to keep ants at bay. Below we list some simple solutions for ant proofing your property.

(1) Tidy up the yard

A well-maintained property helps deter ants from moving inside. It is important to keep an eye out for any overhanging branches, shrubs or bushes that touch your house. In order to encourage ants to remain outside you could also place food sources in your backyard. These include plants that aphids (little insects) live on. As aphids excrete honeydew, this sweet substance provides a good meal for ants to enjoy.

(2) Seal any entry points

Odd jobs often get left off the list, but make sure you find time to caulk, cover and seal cracks and crevices that lead from the inside to the outside of your house. You should even plug holes around cable wires with copper mesh or other suitable materials. Even a small stream of heat escaping from around a window, a jarred door or hairline crack can be enough to encourage an ant to step inside.

(3) Put the sweet stuff away

Like kids in a candy store, ants are drawn to sickly sweet food. Sugar, honey and syrups should be placed in cupboards in airtight containers and groceries who can be torn off to carry – such as bread, cereal, pastries and fruit, should also be locked away. Ants are particularly clever and can rip through cardboard, paper and even thin plastic in their plight for supplies.

(4) Keep on top of the chores

You don’t need to leave your house gleaming but by making sure that you regularly wash down surfaces and floors where foods are consumed and crumbs like to hide will help to prevent an ant infestation. If you have pets, then make sure that their bowls are emptied after each feed and clean them thoroughly between meals.

(5) Ditch the trash

Make sure that your bins are not overflowing and once full, make sure that they are well sealed and placed inside a garbage can.

(6) Get rid of easily obtainable water sources

Ants need to drink in order to survive so will look for leaky taps, dripping showers and leftover dishwasher in order to quench their thirst. Make sure you drain your sinks, wipe surfaces dry and empty any pet water dishes. Also check any damp areas throughout your home, such as basements, as these tend to offer ideal conditions for setting up new colonies. Carpenter ants particularly like water damaged materials as it makes them easier to tunnel through.

natural methods to get rid of ants

Six Natural ways to get rid of ants

Not everyone wants to turn to toxic solutions in order to get rid of ants. If you have animals or children in the house or living nearby then you might want to try a more natural approach. Below we list our top 6 organic remedies and bust any myths surrounding them.

(1) Sticky tape

If you have seen a constant stream of ants marching towards your cookie jar or looking for something sweet to savor in your pantry, then you could try getting rid of them using sticky tape. Simply create a trench around the tantalizing food source, making sure the adhesive tape is sticky side up. Once trodden upon, the ants are unable to move their legs and eventually starve to death.

(2) Hot water

Another solution to getting rid of ants is to wash them away using hot, soapy water. Once you’ve located the nest, you can pour boiling water mixed with a little washing liquid straight over the ant hill or down the hole. The only problem with hot water is that it cools quickly when it hits the soil. Therefore, you are unlikely to kill all of the ants, and you may end up singeing your grass and destroying plants in the process.

(3) Chalk

Chalk can be effective in getting rid of ants due to the substance it contains called calcium carbonate. Chalk is made up of ground-up and compressed shells of marine animals which interferes with an ants ability to follow a scent trail. By simply drawing a chalk or talcum powder ring along the ground is enough to repel a colony of ants from crossing it.

(4) Lemon

Lemons are actually more powerful than you think in the fight against ant invasions. Their strong acidic smell is enough to disrupt an ant trail and discourage them from starting a new one. Simply by squeezing a few drops in known ant areas or down holes could be the solution to stopping them from entering your home.

(5) Essential Oils

Apparently peppermint or lavender oil are two scents that ants hate, causing them to go running back to their colonies and causing them to stay there. Many people choose to grow lavender bushes and mint, but the scents that emanate from these often seem to make little or no difference to the number of ants seen patrolling back yards. In order for peppermint and lavender to work effectively, you need to mix some essential oils with water and spray them directly onto windowsills and doorframes.

(6) Vinegar

White vinegar, when added with water, creates a natural pesticide. This solution can be used to repel ants, by spraying this concoction near their colonies and on their scent trails as it neutralizes the natural pheromones that ants secrete in which to communicate.

how to get rid of ants using spray

How to get rid of ants using ant spray

Although most natural remedies are often effective in repelling ants away from your home, they will not get rid of ants for good. If you are plague with the same ant problem season after season, then we would recommend investing in some chemical products which eliminate ant infestations for good.

When it comes to choosing the best type of ant killer to use around your home, you should decide if you prefer a spray, self-enclosed bait or gel or a powder. Some of these insecticides are only effective at targeting the ants you are able to see, while others will target the source (i.e./ the nest) directly.

How does ant spray work?

Ant sprays come in an aerosol can and are great for dealing with ant problems that you can easily see and locate. As the chemicals found in these sprays tend to continue to work for a number of days, often weeks, not only can you use it to spray foraging ants directly but also squirt it around trash-cans, windowsills and door frames to create a protective perimeter into your property.

Most ant sprays come with a straw applicator which enables you to apply it straight into cracks and crevices, along skirting boards and around cables and wires.

An ant spray offers a short-term solution for getting rid of ants and works well for smaller infestations. As these sprays contain chemicals, you need to make sure that the areas you apply it too are well ventilated and not accessible by children or pets.

What are the best ant sprays?

When looking for the best ant sprays, look for those that work both on contact and via residual effects. Here are our recommendations for the 3 best ant sprays available to buy on the market.

(1) Raid Ant Spray

Best ant spray for indoor and outdoor use

Raid is probably one of the most well-known brands for killing bugs and because of this, it is an incredibly popular choice for getting rid of ants. It is extremely easy to use and acts as both a contact killer and residual spray lasting for up to four weeks. And, the great thing about these cans are that they target other pest insects too.

This spray can be used throughout your house, as well as outdoors, and is lemon scented so leaves no lingering odors. But be warned, most of the ingredients used have not been updated for a while and are therefore still highly toxic. Care should be taken when applying this spray and you should not use it if you have children or animals in or around your property.

Pros

  • Cost effective and can target more than one insect
  • Kills ants fast
  • Continues to work for up to 4 weeks
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Highly toxic
  • Leaves a thin layer of residue when applied
  • Does not come with a straw applicator

(2) Terro Ant Killer Spray

Best long-lasting ant spray

Terro ant killer spray can be used both indoors and out and can kill ants in a matter of minutes. This spray can kill ants on contact whilst its residue mist means that it continues to exterminate for up to 6 weeks, targeting those that are out of sight.

Although powerful this ant killer does pong and the scent itself can be harmful to pets.

Pros

  • Kills ants fast
  • Continues to work for up to 6 weeks
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Unsafe to use around pets
  • Strong smelling scent
  • Does not come with a straw applicator

(3) Eco Defense Organic Pest Spray

Best ant spray for use around children and pets

If you have animals or kids and are worried about using pesticides, then the Eco-Defense is made from plant oils, so is an environmentally friendly ant contact killer. It also good for those with allergies or a strong sense of smell as this spray is odourless.

This contact and residual ant spray is more expensive than others currently on the market and is not as effective against chronic infestations.

Pros

  • Safe to use around children and pets
  • Odour free
  • Comes with a 60 day money back guarantee

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Takes longer to work than other chemical ant sprays
  • Does not come with a straw applicator
using baits and gels to get rid of ants

Using baits to get rid of ants

Ant baits are a very effective form of ant control which can be used both inside and outside the home. Designed to attract scavenger ants, these baits come in either liquid or gel form. The gel solutions come in a squeezable syringe that you can you use to target particular areas around your home where ants regularly enter.

Initially ant baits can attract more ants into your house as their curiosity and hunger gets the better of them. This is generally only a short-term problem, and it doesn’t take long until ant numbers start to deplete as they take the bait back to their nests.

Once the bait has been consumed by the ants, the active ingredient slowly starts to affect their digestive system. The best ant baits provide a long-term solution to killing ants which can happen within a few days. This is then followed by a two week wait until the queen and the rest of the colony starts to die off as the infiltrates the nest.

Ant baits are easy to use and tend to come pre-packaged with the insecticide and food attractant confined within a plastic, child-resistant container. Ant bait is generally safe to use around pets and children as they are made of ingredients that don’t arouse suspicion. If, however, they are mistakenly eaten, there is a chance that they could cause health complications, so you should always use them with care.

How to use baited ant poison

Before laying actual toxic ant bait we would recommend setting up some pre-bait to attract large numbers of ants. This should be a plate of something sweet and sticky such as sugar, honey or syrup. Because you want as many ants as possible carrying poison back to the nest, you shouldn’t be alarmed by the sudden spike in ants entering your house.

Once your pre bait has attracted the ants attention it is time to set your poisonous bait in the same place. In order for this to be as effective as possible you should ensure that other food sources in the area are not easily accessible to ants.

Leave it a few days before observing the ant behaviour. Ideally ant numbers will have reduced, but you may need to experiment with different types of bait depending on the different species you are trying to target.

Best ant poison to buy

Ants are a common nuisance throughout the United States and a deceptively intelligent pest, so it is important to fight against them with the best ant baits. Below we review the top DIY ant bait products that are currently available to buy.

(1) Terro Liquid Ant Bait

Best fast working ant bait

Terro is a highly respected name in the word of insect pest control, and they have a number of products dedicated to eradicating ants. These liquid ant bait stations can be placed anywhere indoors and act as a trap for ants to enter, consume and return to their nest.

The liquid ant bait stations do not leak and are designed to prevent the bait from drying out. The main ingredient in the bait is boric acid, which is derived from borax. Borax is a pesticide approved by the EPA for general use and is a moderately toxic substance and depending on the size of the ant infestation, may only take up two weeks to control.

Pros

  • Liquid bait that is easy to administer
  • Highly effective taking only a matter of weeks to kill a colony
  • Good value for money

Cons

  • Can leave you with dead ants scattered throughout your house
  • Ants can become wise to this bait and start to avoid

(2) Advion Ant Bait Gel

Best for targeting multiple types of ant

The active ingredient in this ant bait is indoxacarb, which is an insecticide that acts through ingestion by ants. The gel bait is pre-packaged and comes safely housed within 4 syringes. One syringe can cover quite a large area and the small nozzle makes it easy to apply into small cracks and hard to reach places.

What we particularly like about Advion, is that it targets more than one species of ant including black and red fire ants, although it is not effective against carpenter ants.

Pros

  • Kills multiple types of ant
  • Gel bait that is easy to administer
  • Highly effective

Cons

  • Mild odor once applied
  • Not weatherproof so best for indoor use only
  • Difficult to remove excess gel

(3) Raid Max Double Control Ant Bait

Best long-lasting ant bait

There are 8 tablet baits in this box of Raid Max, which claims that its dual technology can kill ants for up to 3 months. Designed to be placed by walls and areas of easy access, it attracts ants to feed and take back to their nest.

The potent ingredient in this poison is Avermectin B1 which works in a similar way to other baits and is easily digested.

Pros

  • Can continue to kill ants for up to 3 months
  • Liquid bait that is easy to administer and store
  • Highly effective
  • Child resistant and tamper proof

Cons

  • Ants can become wise to this bait and start to avoid
  • Adhesive backing often doesn’t stick

(4) Siesta Fire Ant Bait

Best for getting rid of Imported Fire Ants

We thought that the Siesta Insecticide Fire Ant Bait was worth including as it has the active ingredient metaflumizone, which specifically targets and control fire ants. This active ingredient is long lasting and has fast control over imported and native fire ants whilst also targeting black and other species of ant.

Siesta is recommended to be applied when temperatures are above 60 degrees in the early morning or late afternoon as this is when fire ants are at their most active. This bait is not for outdoor use as it will not work in wet conditions.

Pros

  • Specifically targets Imported Red Fire Ants
  • Kills ants within 72 hours
  • Highly effective

Cons

  • Can not be used in wet weather conditions

Getting rid of ants with powder

Otherwise known as ant dust or granular, ant powder is another effective way of controlling ants at the source, letting you target their nest as well as dealing with them inside your home.

Ant powder comes in a can that you shake around infested areas. The active ingredient tends to be deltamethrin, which is a pyrethroid. This works by killing ants the minute they come into contact with it as it interferes with the operation of their nervous systems.

What makes ant dust so effective is that it is waterproof and won’t wash away in the rain.

Best ant powders available to buy

Ant dust can act as a barrier to your home as well as protecting it from the inside out. Here we recommend the best 2 ant dusts to purchase and explain what makes them so effective.

(1) Terro Ant Dust

Best for being effective

This bottle has a cap that allows homeowners to use it as a shaker or to draw out measured amounts of the ant killer through a larger opening. This waterproof dust works by setting up a barrier in places where ants are known to wander and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
This dust has the ability to work on all types of ant, including carpenter ants, and not only works on contact but for up to 8 months post application.

Pros

  • Can be used on a variety of different types of ant
  • Kills on contact and continues to be effective for up to 8 months
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Can stain as leaves a white waterproof residue

(2) Delta dust

Best for being waterproof without leaving residue

Delta dust provides a quick solution to getting rid of ants. Just like other ant powders it can continue to eradicate these insects for up to 8 months as well as killing on contact. What is so good about this ant dust, is that it doesn’t clump or absorb moisture so you can scatter it throughout your home without worrying about staining. This dust is also odorless so it ok to use indoors.

And the good news is that the Delta dust won’t just rid you of ants but other pests too such as bed bugs, cockroaches and silverfish.

Pros

  • Can be used on a variety of different types of ant and other pest insects
  • Does not stain
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to administer

Cons

  • Does not come with an applicator

Using Diatomaceous Earth to get rid of ants

If you prefer to steer clear of toxins and chemicals but still need something strong enough to get rid of ants, D-I-Y products that use diatomaceous earth are a great choice.

Diatomaceous earth may look like inconspicuous white talcum powder to the untrained eye, but when viewing it on a microscopic level, this powder looks like millions of small glass shards. And just imagine being the size of an ant and having to walk across a pathway of shattered fragments (ouch).
What diatomaceous earth actually consists of are the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. 

How does diatomaceous earth kill ants?

Diatomaceous earth kills ants in two ways:

  1. When the ants walk on the powder, it sticks to their exoskeleton and causes them to dry out.
  2. Its rough and sharp textures cause physical harm to the body of an ant.

As a simple, fine powder, diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in any problematic areas where you want to kill ants and prevent them from going in the future. This can be doorways, holes in the baseboards and floors, in cupboards, around bins or just about anywhere else indoors. It can also be used outdoors as a barrier to stopping ants from coming in or dusted liberally around your garden to keep ants out for good.

Unlike bait, however, diatomaceous earth will only attack the ants that come into direct contact with it and will have no effect on the overall colony.

Best Diatomaceous Earth for ants

We recommend the best 3 diatomaceous earth products to buy online.

(1) Harris Diatomaceous Earth

Best for easy application

If you want a product that is environmentally friendly, then this one has it in spades. Harris diatomaceous earth has no additives or fillers and 10% of profits from the sale of each bag are used to support the local Etowah Valley Humane Society. Plus, not only is this organic product ethical but really efficient in eradicating ants too.

We particularly this product as it comes with a powder dust applicator, making the distribution of the diatomaceous earth simple and mess free.

Pros

  • Free from additives
  • Includes a handy dust powder applicator
  • Trusted company – established in 1922

Cons

  • Bag does not seal well
  • Costly in comparison to other brands

(2) Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade

Best value for money

If you have a large area that is infested with ants, then this bag of diatomaceous earth is well worth the money. 100% organic, it is safe and free from additives and offers a generous quantity from a “food grade” source. Some people even use it as a natural health supplement.

Incredibly versatile this product comes in a well packaged bag and is waterproof, so can be used both indoors and out.

Pros

  • Generous quantity
  • Safe and free from additives
  • Can be used for numerous purposes

Cons

  • Not as effective as some other products

(3) Safer Diatomaceous Earth

Best overall product

This product has been specifically designed with insect eradication in mind. It is odourless, non-staining and claims to work within 48 hours. What’s more, because there are no chemicals in Safer Brand Diatomaceous Earth, insects cannot grow immune to it – so ants don’t stand a chance.

The only downside to this product is that it doesn’t come with any applicators, making it rather messy to apply.

Pros

  • Specifically produced for insect control
  • Kills within 48 hours

Cons

  • Messy to apply

Using professional pest control for ants

If you have identified the type of ant that is invading your home; removed any sources of attraction; erased their trails; eliminated easy access points and treated them accordingly; but are still finding more, then you should call in an ant exterminator.

Ant colonies can be difficult to eliminate, especially if you have carpenter ants, which over time can cause significant damage to the structure of your home or business. A professional pest control expert can help you find the nest, obliterate the colony and get rid of nuisance ants in your house.

In summary

Whilst ants typically aren’t known to pose any serious health risks, when they come crawling into your home in steady numbers you know you have a fight on your hands. They may be small, but like any good army, ants can be fiercely protective when it comes to food and feeding their queen.

Preventing ants from finding food, shelter, and water is the easiest method of avoiding an ant invasion. But, if it’s too late to stop ants infiltrating your home then this guide shows you a number of natural and toxic remedies that you can use to “stamp ants out” for good.

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Mike Henderson
Mike Henderson

Mike (AKA 'Pest Control Mike') is a pest control operator from New York with over 15 years experience dealing with a wide range of pests. He shares his knowledge on this blog and provides useful information to help you combat pests on your own.

For severe infestations and professional advice you can also request a free pest control quote here.

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