Ants may not be the most dangerous insect pest out there but they are also far from harmless. Depending on their exact species, some ants can cause significant structural damage to our homes, they can ruin our gardening efforts, and they can even carry certain diseases and contaminations. Yes, some types of ants can also be beneficial insects depending on the environment and can be as much of a help to your garden as a danger to it, but that’s why you should be able to assess the situation and know how to act.
At the end of the day, ants are a significant nuisance pest that can sometimes be ignored but is often best taken care of. To help you learn just how to do that we’ve compiled this extensive article filled with everything there is to know about ants and how to get rid of them.
In this article:
- About ants
- Ant control steps
- Primary control steps
- Products for killing the ant colony and their queen
- Products and methods for destroying the ant nest
- Things or methods you should not be using
- Call a pest control company
The colony of ants
Ant colonies are enormous and complex systems that are astonishing with their complexity and smooth operation. Knowing how to kill ant colony systems is predicated on understanding how an ant colony functions, so let’s delve into that first.
How are ant colonies started?
Ant colonies are made up entirely by the offspring of a single queen ant. The colonies get started when the queens set them up at a certain location and start laying eggs. The flying ants we sometimes see during the spring or the summer are often these queen ants, flying off from their birth colony and searching for a new place for themselves. The other type of ants with wings are the ant males who usually fly off together with the queens and then try to mate with them.
Ant hierarchy explained
Ant hierarchy is actually pretty simple, despite the complex nature of their colonies. The queen ant is the one that gives birth to everyone else and that the ant workers keep tending to. The queen ant is the most important entity in every colony and she’s the one that everyone else would gladly give their lives for. Below her are the worker ants who are all infertile females and who do all the work. The males are a small minority in ant colonies and their only task is to fly off the nest and to look for new queens to mate with before they die. Some ant species have ant soldiers who are meant to protect the colony and fight off intruders, although in many species the worker ants simply double as soldiers.
The lifecycle of ants
The ant lifespan and lifecycle is actually pretty similar to those of other insects. The stages of an ant’s development are as follow:
- Adult ant (Queen ant, worker/soldier ant, male ant)
Depending on the species and the environmental conditions, the maturing process from eggs to adults can take from one to several weeks. Again, depending on the species and the conditions, the lifespan of a worker ant can range between several months and a couple of years. Males typically live for only a couple of weeks while queen ants can survive anywhere from several years to even more than a decade. The general lifecycle of ants is described by many great scientific sources such as this Arizona State University article, but for more specifics, we’d have to look at each type of ant separately.
More about carpenter ants
Carpenter ants are among the most popular and troublesome ant species because of their unique nesting habits. Many ants can cause mild structural damage with their nests, but carpenter ants can outright destabilize a building with their colonies. Granted, they are not as damaging as termites (who are a type of cockroach and not ants at all), but if carpenter ants are left alone for long enough they can still cause a lot of significant damage.
The easiest way to spot an existing carpenter ant habitat in your home is by finding the tiny holes they leave in your floor, baseboards and other wooden surfaces, as well as the small piles of sawdust next to them. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat the wood they dig through so they are dumping it outside of their tunnels. Ignoring these sawdust piles for long is a grave mistake as carpenter ants can have multiple queens per colony or establish multiple colonies in the same house, resulting in catastrophic damage to your property.
Carpenter ant tunnels can stretch for meters inside a wall before the nest itself is reached and can form intricate labyrinths inside your home’s walls and floors. Outside, carpenter ants form their colonies in tree hunks and wooden sheds. Outdoors they are not much of a problem for humans but if you have them near your home you should still get rid of them because they can quickly spread to your home during their next nesting season. If you notice a lot of flying ants in your home during springtime, there is a huge chance that these are queen carpenter ants looking for nice moist wooden boards to dig in.
How to distinguish ants from termites?
Ants and termites are often mistaken for each other because of their small size and similar body structure. Termite swarmers and flying ants, in particular, are very often hard to distinguish, especially during flight and for the naked eye. It is very important to tell them apart, however, because they can cause very different types of damage to your home and can require different prevention or control methods. Termites are typically much more dangerous to your home’s structural integrity even than carpenter ants – termites will eat through your home’s foundations much quicker and as they actually consume the wood, they leave fewer traces around their tunnels’ openings.
And this is the first difference between termites and carpenter ants – the ants leave piles of sawdust near their tunnels while termites don’t.
Secondly, termites usually make much more noise as they are chewing through your walls although carpenter ants can sometimes be heard as well.
Next, there are some key physical differences as well:
- Flying carpenter ants and other flying ants have longer front wings and shorter hind wings. Termites have equally long sets of wings.
- Ants have 3 easily distinguishable body regions – head, thorax and abdomen. Termites have a mostly uniform body width.
- Ants have kinked antennae while termites have straight antennae.
And there you have. Interestingly enough, carpenter ants are actually known to prey and feed on termites so the two species are actually natural enemies. This, of course, doesn’t change the fact that you want them both away from your property at all times.
Ant control steps
Ant control steps and ant treatments come in many different forms. Different ants require different control solutions so knowing what type of ants you’re dealing with will lead you to the best way to get rid of ants. Either way, whether you’re trying to get rid of ants outside or you’re looking into how to get rid of ants in the house, it’s always vital to be thorough and to eliminate the entire infestation.
Indoor vs outdoor ant control
Finding ants in the kitchen or living room settings doesn’t always mean that you have an indoor ant problem on your hands. It could be so but they could also be outdoor ants that are raiding your closet for food to drag back out. This is an important distinction so you can know what ant removal steps to take.
Also, keep in mind that having a couple of ants wondering from outside isn’t an immediate cause for concern – there are plenty of outdoor ant species that are considered “beneficial insects” as they have beneficial effects on the entire ecosystem in your yard. They feed on other insects that can be damaging to your plants, they can enrich the soil while building their nests, and so on. So, as long as these ants stay mostly outside there is no point in looking into what kills ants. Instead, you can simply use an indoor ant spray repellent to keep the occasional ant scout away from your kitchen.
If you have an indoor ant presence, on the other hand, immediate control steps must be taken to eradicate these pests. Alternatively, if your garden ants are not just straying into your kitchen but are raiding it continuously and posing health hazards to your food storage, immediate control steps may also be necessary.
Two particular types of outdoor ants should be eradicated on sight – carpenter ants and fire ants. The former can easily and quickly infest your home while the latter is too much of a nuisance and a danger to be left in your yard or in your vicinity as their ant bites can cause serious harm even to an adult human being.
Kill the queen ant and the entire colony
A lot of natural ant killer or homemade ant killer solutions fail to account for one of the most important steps of ant control – killing the queen. Most of the best ant traps, the best ant baits, and overall best ant killer products are created exactly on the idea of killing the ant queen.
Depending on the species of the ants, as well as the current environmental conditions, ant queens are capable of laying up to several hundred or even over a thousand eggs per day. This essentially means that killing worker ants is completely useless unless you can kill over 1,000 workers per day. Instead, using products that kill the ant queen inside her nest are often the way to go.
Residual ant killer sprays or ant baits are usually the way to do this as they don’t kill the workers immediately but instead poison them slowly, giving them enough time to return to their colony and poison many more ants as well. This chain contamination usually has a high chance for not just killing many worker ants with a single bait/spraying, but it also makes it very likely to contaminate the queen’s eggs and larvae, and potentially – even the queen herself.
There are a few examples where this is an inefficient strategy such as nomadic ant species with multiple queens such as the Argentine ants. Their colonies include so many different queens and are so mobile, that baiting them is simply ineffective. In these cases, it’s much more efficient to use repellent products that will just keep them away from your property. Nevertheless, these are more of an exception to the rule and more often than not it’s much smarter to attempt and bait the workers into killing the queen with residual insecticides.
Destroy the nest
Another often ignored control steps is the act of simply physically destroying the ant nest. There are various ant hill killer products as well as simple physical methods such as fire. This method is usually applicable for outdoor ant colonies as destroying an indoor ant nest will usually mean destroying a part of the building’s interior.
You can also use standard residual ant baits or ant killer sprays to destroy a nest by “mining” everything around it, thus guaranteeing that you’ll poison and exterminate the entire colony. Knowing and seeing the exact location of the nest is very beneficial as it leaves no room for mistake and no need for guesswork.
Another alternative is to simply remove the nest. This will usually require heavy machinery as some ant nests can grow to very large sizes but often you can do it with a shovel and a metal cart. Moving an ant nest to a different location is mostly done with non-harmful ant species that can be beneficial for the ecosystems they are in but are just being a nuisance to you.
Lastly, it’s important to consider exactly that – are the ants in your yard, garden or property an actual nuisance or danger, or are you trying to kill/remove them just because they are ants? Remember that many ant species can be very beneficial for the flora and the fauna in a garden, especially if they don’t have a symbiotic relationship with aphids. If you want what’s best for your garden or farm and if the ants in it are beneficial and aren’t harmful to you – leaving them alive can be the best choice.
Primary control steps
Aside from using actual insecticides or natural repellents to deal with an ant infestation, there are several primary control steps that should be done at all times. These are equally important both to deal with an existing infestation as well as to prevent the spread if future ant colonies.
Indoor primary control steps
As with any other indoor pest, ants invade our houses for 3 reasons – food, water, and shelter. Of these reasons, food is the most prevalent one as ants are typically more than capable to find or build their own shelters outdoors as well as to remain hydrated. Food, however, is something that’s especially easy to find in most homes, especially for ants who are omnivores. Even ant species that have certain diet preferences are still omnivores and can feed on a lot of the things people have in their kitchen cabinets.
That’s why sanitation is one of the primary control steps. Making sure that there is no food leftover left in the sink or on the counter, that there are no pieces of food and dirt at the edges of your kitchen, as well as that whatever food you’re storing in your kitchen is well-sealed are all essential steps to preventing an ant infestation. And if you do have an ant problem at the time, sanitation becomes even more crucial as you want the ant workers to be feeding on your baits and traps, and not on your food leftovers.
Clean up all the trails ants leave to find their way back to the colony
This step shouldn’t be done while you’re trying to exterminate the colony but afterwards. The benefit of removing and cleaning ant trails is that it prevents new ants from finding their way into your home. This is a good prevention method to make sure that your garden ants will stay where they belong – outside.
Watch your houseplants for evidence of aphids and other plant-feeding insects who produced honeydew
Many ant species have a symbiotic relationship with aphids – the ants feed on the honeydew that the aphids produce and, in turn, the ants kill the natural predators of aphids such as ladybugs, earwigs, and others. Having aphids on your potted plants will not only be disastrous for the plants but can also attract ants which would only make matters worse.
Outdoor primary control steps
Another important thing to do is to make sure that ants don’t even get a chance of entering your home. Keeping them outside is good enough as long as they aren’t harmful to your garden but making sure that they stay away from your home is vital.
Keep the area around your house clean
Ants nest and thrive in tall grass, under rocks, pieces of wood, and dirt piles. This means that if you have a lot of clutter around your home’s outside walls you’re essentially inviting ants to become your immediate neighbors. And since the trip from the outside of your wall to its inside is a short one, this is clearly a bad idea. Instead, making sure that there are at least several meters/yards of clean space around your home is a good way to minimize the ant presence and raids into your home.
Weatherize your home and block all entry points
As with almost any other unwanted pest, sealing up all the entry points into your home is always recommended. Cover all the holes around or under your doors and windows, seal up all cracks and openings in your walls and insulation, and make sure that you’ve properly sealed the spaces around pipes, AC units, and other things that go inside your walls and inside your home. Screening the windows you tend to leave open is another good step as it will prevent flying queen ants from entering your home that way.
Doing all this perfectly can all but guarantee that you’ll never have an indoor infestation to deal with. Of course, it’s practically impossible to do all this perfectly, but the better you secure your home, the fewer problems you’ll have.
Products for killing the ant colony and their queen
When it comes to trying to kill the ant queen and thus wiping her entire colony, there are two general types of products you should use – ant killing baits and residual ant killing sprays. The former are designed to attract the ants to themselves using edible but poisonous bait while the latter are just sprayed over surfaces that ants frequent and are meant to attach to the ants’ bodies.
Ant killing baits
- Identify the ant type – pre-baiting. Knowing what do ants eat is vital for proper baiting. If you are not certain of what type of ants exactly you’re dealing with, it’s smart to first set up non-poisonous baits in key locations and see which are preferred by the ants. This way you’ll know what to use for your actual baits. Keeping the space free of other food sources (good sanitation) makes all this much easier.
- How do ant baits work? Ant baits include powerful but slow-acting insecticides as their active ingredients. Once the ant workers consume the baits or carry them back to their nest, they will start contaminating other ants with the insecticide. This chain reaction can kill anywhere between several dozen and several hundred ants with a single bait. More importantly, it can also poison the ants’ eggs and larvae, as well as their queen.
- Active ingredients in ant killing baits explained. There are thousands of different active ingredients that can be used in ant baits. Some are naturally derived while others are synthetically created. Both types can be more or less toxic and both types can produce pet safe ant killer baits or highly toxic baits. Some of the more popular active ingredients include Bifenthrin, Cypermethrin, Pyrethrin, Hydramethylnon, Cypermethrin, Borate for the famous Borax ant bait products, and others. Some of these insecticides are broad-spectrum killers that will work against most types of ants while others target specific ant species.
- Best places to put ant baits. Properly placing the baits is vital for their effectiveness. Ants tend to wander around but they still mostly follow specific trails that ant scouts have located and marked for other ants with pheromones. Indoors it’s best to place the baits near such ant trails, near known food sources (that you’ve now sealed), and near water sources. Outdoors, you can put the baits near the entrances of the ant nests or near the entrances to your own home. Don’t place the baits right on top of an ant nest as there they’ll often get ignored.
- When to use ant baits instead of residual ant killing sprays? Ant baits are more useful than residual sprays in most situations as they don’t just poison the ants but also attract them to the bait in the first place. The drawback is that they are riskier to use in households with pets and small children but you can just hide the baits inside bait stations to protect your kids or pets from accidentally swallowing or licking them.
- Can you use ant killing baits together with other ant control product? You can use baits together with residual ant killer sprays or ant killer powder products but that’s often redundant. More importantly, do not use ant killer baits together with kill-on-contact sprays or with repellents as these will counteract each other – you want to ants to take the baits and to die slowly from them.
- What should you watch out for when choosing your ant killing bait? There are several things to consider when choosing your ant bait:
- What type of ant do you need the bait for?
- What type of food are these ants attracted to?
- Do you need the bait for indoor or outdoor use?
- Is the bait safe for pets and kids or not?
- Is the bait effective in moist conditions?
- Is the bait designed to work in large or small areas?
- Safety tips for using insecticide baits. The most important thing to remember is that the ant baits should be kept away from the reach of pets and children. Even bait insecticides that are low on toxicity shouldn’t be ingested so place them only in places that neither pets nor kids can reach. Using bait stations is advisable in these situations but even that doesn’t guarantee 100% protection. Also, with highly toxic insecticides it’s always advisable to use personal protection such as rubber gloves, face masks, and goggles – even accidentally touching your eye once can lead to unpleasant consequences.
Gel baits are consumable gems, typically coming in tubes that include a powerful, slow-acting insecticide.
- How to use gel baits indoors and outdoors? Whether indoors or outdoors, gel baits should be applied to key areas near ant trails or ant entry points. Circling a hole ants crawl out of is a good example of that. When using gel baits indoors it’s important to remember that kids or pets might try to lick them. When using gel baits outdoors keep in mind that rain can wash them away and sunlight can dry them off quickly.
- In what cases can/should you use gel baits instead of other types of baits? Gel baits are ideal when you want to target specific areas without leaving the ants the opportunity to pass around them. Gels are easy to apply evenly on entire flat surfaces or around objects such as food sources.
- Pros and cons of using gel baits. Gel baits are great for creating preventive barriers but they lack the flexibility of powders and sprays. They are also risky to use in households with pets or children.
Liquid ant killer baits typically come with their own bait stations as that’s how they are meant to be used.
- How to use liquid baits indoors and outdoors? These baits are essentially sugar water with an active insecticide ingredient in them. Usually, they are straightforward Borax ant killer baits. They work best when placed near ant trails, near ant entry points into your home or near ant nests outdoors. The ants are attracted to the bait, climb the bait stations and drink as much as they can before they return to their nest.
- In what cases can/should you use liquid baits instead of other types of baits? Liquid baits are a good stationary option that’s easy to just set up near trails and entry points. They are quicker and simpler to use than other bait types.
- Pros and cons of using liquid baits. Liquid ant baits are very easy to use which their main advantage is. Their drawback is that they are still dangerous to pets and kids despite being in a bait station, as well as that they can’t be spread around over wide areas or behind certain inaccessible places.
Granular ant baits are the typical go-to option for outdoor ant baiting.
- How to use granular baits indoors and outdoors? Granular baits are best used when you’re trying to create a barrier around your home. They are simply spread near the outside walls of your home so that they can either repel ants, kill them on contact, or contaminate them with a slow-acting insecticide.
- In what cases can/should you use granular baits instead of other types of baits? For most outdoor situations granular baits are the best solution.
- Pros and cons of using granular baits. Granular baits are resistant to most of the outdoor elements such as rain or sunshine, they last a long time, and just need to be spread around your home’s walls. Their main drawback is that they don’t have very many uses indoors.
Powder and dust baits
Powder and dust ant baits are great for when you want to apply a slow-acting insecticide bait in otherwise inaccessible places such as inside walls, behind baseboards, etc. These can be either natural powders such as Diatomaceous Earth (DE) that are almost harmless to mammals unless inhaled in large quantities, or chemical powders and dust which can be significantly more toxic.
- How to use powder and dust baits indoors and outdoors? Ant killer powders and dust are usually “puffed” using a powder puffer (never with your mouth!). This allows you to apply the dusts behind baseboards and inside walls through even the smallest opening. Once puffed, the powder will spread evenly inside the wall or the floorboard and will bait and poison all ants nearby.
- In what cases can/should you use powder and dust baits instead of other types of baits? Ant powder and dust baits are best for hard-to-reach places that need to be thoroughly baited.
- Pros and cons of using powder and dust baits. Ant bait powders and dust have many pros – they work effectively to ant species that have hairy bodies, they can be applied to many hard-to-reach places, and when applied there they usually remain outside the reach of pets and kids. On the negative side, powder and dust baits can’t be applied in open areas the way gel or liquid baits can.
DIY ant baits
DIY ant baits are often not recommended as there are plenty of great commercial products that can do the trick with a very little chance of failure. Still, creating your own ant bait allows you to customize the bait to your exact needs if you know what you’re doing.
- Most efficient ingredients and recipes for homemade ant baits. As we said, there are literally thousands of insecticides, both artificial and natural, that can be used in ant baits. For some of the best examples, the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management site has some good suggestions. But the key principles are simple – you need a good bait, either sweet (sugar water works great) or high on protein (grease is excellent for protein-loving ants), and you need to add an insecticide to it. You can use Borax, Fipronil, Hydramethylnon, or another good insecticide. We’d personally advise against ingredients such as baking soda, dish soap, lemon juice, etc., as this will either repel the ants, kill them on contact, or not work at all.
- How to use DIY ant baits indoors and outdoors? As with commercial ant baits, the effectiveness of your DIY ant baits depends on whether their ingredients match the ant species you’re trying to target and whether you’ve placed them adequately (near ant trails, near entry holes, etc.)
- In what cases can you use DIY ant baits instead of buying a bait. Usually, we’d recommend just buying the right commercial bait for the situation you’re in. A lot of people try to make their own ant baits in an effort to make them less toxic but that can lead to making ineffective baits, plus there are non-toxic commercial ant baits. Still, if you have a large area to cover, you want to save money on buying a large number of commercial baits, and you know what you’re doing – DIY baits can save you some cash.
- Pros and cons of using DIY ant baits. DIY ant baits allow you to customize them to your needs – whether you need a less toxic bait, a larger quantity of the bait, or a better-targeted insecticide. On the other hand, making your own baits comes with a significant risk of making an ineffective bait.
- What are ant bait stations? Ant bait stations, or as you can also call them – ant traps – are simple small contraptions to put the poisonous bait in. They are usefully in that they keep the poison or the bait contained, preventing it from being washed down by rain, eaten by a pet, etc.
- How can you use ant bait stations for more successful ant control? Ant bait stations allow you to use liquid ant baits, they allow you to put multiple different baits in the same location, thus attracting all ants, they can prevent pets from eating the bait (as long as the station itself is pet-safe), and they are generally easy to set up.
- Is there a difference between indoor ant bait stations and outdoor ant bait stations? Indoor ant bait stations are usually just small rectangular containers for you to put the bait in. Outdoor bait stations can vary much more in their size, shape, and application. Often, they are designed to be dug into the soil with just their top piece sticking out. This is great as it allows the bait station to attract ants under the soil as well, while still being easy to restock with bait.
Residual ant killing sprays
- How are ant killing sprays used and how do they work? Residual ant killing sprays work in a similar way to ant baits – they contain slow-acting insecticides that give the ants enough time to return to their nests and contaminate their “co-workers”. Instead of baiting the ants, however, residual sprays are just applied on surfaces that ants often traverse and are meant to attach to the ants’ bodies. From there, they enter the ant’s system either through the exoskeleton or by being ingested while the ant is cleaning itself.
- Why should you use only non-repellent and residual sprays for killing an ant colony and the queen ant? The main advantage of residual sprays over repellents and kill-on-contact sprays is the same as that of ant baits – they can poison large portions of the colony, including the eggs, larvae, and the ant queen herself.
- Active ingredients in ant killing sprays explained. The active ingredients in residual killer sprays are very similar to those in ant baits. Some of the most used ones include Carbamates, Bifenthrin, Hydramethylnon, or Pyrethrins, and Pyrethroids.
- Where best to spray the ant killing spray? Indoors you should apply the residual ant killing spray to any surface, crack, hole, nook or edge that you know ants frequent. You shouldn’t spray the ants directly, just target their preferred terrain and let them walk over the dried up spray. Places such as known ant trails, entry points to your home, edges, and corners of rooms, exits to an ant nest, etc., are all good choices. Be careful not to use a toxic spray near food sources, however, even though that’s where you’ll often find ants. Instead, try to simply remove the food sources altogether. As for outdoor uses, when you spray for ants outside you can spray your whole lawn, spray near the outside walls of your home, or directly around the ants’ nest.
- When to use ant killing sprays instead of ant killing baits? Sprays’ benefits over baits are that they are more residual – they can stay up and do their work for weeks even in bad weather conditions. They are also less dangerous to kids and pets once they’ve dried up. They are an especially good choice if you’re going to leave your home for a while but you want the war against ants to continue in your absence.
- Can you use ant killing sprays together with other ant control product? Residual sprays can work well with ant baits although using both can be a bit redundant. You shouldn’t use them together with repellents or with kill-on-contact products, however, as you want to ants to live long enough to return to their colonies.
- What you should watch out for when choosing the best residual ant killing sprays? The main factors to consider are:
- whether the spray is for indoor or outdoor use,
- whether it’s residual and non-repellent,
- which ant species it’s best against,
- whether is it odorless,
- how effective it is in moist conditions.
- Safety tips for using insecticide sprays. Most residual sprays become harmless to humans and mammals once they’ve dried up but some of the more toxic ones can still be dangerous even then. Always follow the product’s instructions to the letter, keep it away from kids and pets, and use precautions such as rubber gloves, goggles, and a face mask.
Insecticide sprays can come in various forms. They are usually divided into three categories – aerosols, liquid sprays, and foams.
- How to use insecticide sprays indoors and outdoors? Outdoors insecticide sprays can be used rather freely as they are meant to just cover a wide area. Of course, depending on the particular insecticide spray you should be careful not to spread it over plants and vegetation it might harm. Again depending on the spray, it will often be advisable not to let kids or pets play on the sprayed area before the spray has dried off. Indoors, sprays should always be kept away from kids and pets, and they typically shouldn’t be used near stored food.
- In what situations is it better to use sprays, aerosols, and foams? Foams are intended to be applied on cracks and holes, liquid sprays are meant to be sprayed over large areas such as lawns, while aerosols are designed mostly for direct use on living insects.
- In what cases can/should you use insecticide sprays instead of homemade ant sprays? This depends greatly on the sprays in question. Typically, insecticide sprays are highly toxic and are meant as a desperate measure against severe infestations. Homemade ant spray solutions are usually natural and non-toxic which makes them safer to use but it also relegates to a strictly repelling role.
- Pros and cons of using insecticide sprays. These sprays, whether in liquid or aerosol form, are usually quite strong and are meant as a last resort measure. They can wipe out large quantities of ants at once, as well as be very effective when applied directly to an ant nest. However, they are also highly toxic and should be used with a lot of care.
DIY ant sprays
DIY ant sprays can take many shapes and forms. If you want a simple DIY repellent spray you can use dilute things such as soap, vinegar or lemon juice in water and spray it all over the standard ant entry points into your home. If instead, you want to make your own insecticide spray you can simply use any insecticide active ingredient and dilute that. Things such as boric acid are completely natural and work great against most types of ants.
- Most efficient ingredients and recipes for homemade ant spray. Boric acid would be our first and main suggestion for an effective homemade ant spray. Of course, there are countless other options but those can be more difficult to manage and quite toxic to use.
- How to use DIY ant sprays indoors and outdoors? Outdoors, as long as the spray you’ve concocted won’t damage your yard’s vegetation you can just spray it all over the place. Remember not to let your pets or kids run around the yard before the spray has had the time to dry off. Indoors, it’s smarter to use the spray on key target areas such as known ant trails and entry points. Remember to keep it away from kids and pets, as well as from your food storage.
- In what cases can you use DIY ant spray instead of buying an insecticide spray? Generally, we’d always recommend using a commercial spray. These are typically well-made and come with a full set of instructions. If you’ve made your own DIY ant spray than you should use it in accordance with the active ingredient you’ve added in it.
- Pros and cons of using DIY ant sprays. Making a DIY ant spray gives you the freedom to customize it to your situation and your preferences. It also presents the risk of simply making a mistake and either end up with an ineffective solution or spraying an overly toxic concoction all over the place.
Products and methods for destroying the ant nest
Slowly baiting and poisoning an entire ant colony can be a time-consuming endeavor. If you happen to know where the ant nest is – or if you’ve used baits to figure out its exact location – you can instead target the nest directly. Once that’s been done and as long as the nest is outdoors or in a safe-to-operate location, you can apply certain methods to the nest itself.
DIY ant nest destroying methods
There are many ways to destroy an ants’ nest – you can engage in a full-on chemical warfare with the little critters or you can set fire to the whole thing. If you’re fond of watching Animal Planet or Discovery Channel, you may even feel the urge to pour hot lead into the thing.
However, most of these methods are a little too extreme than what’s usually necessary. So, before we get to the more heavy-duty approaches, let’s go over some simpler solutions.
Pouring hot water
Pouring hot water in an ants’ nest is a quick and easy way to kill many ants at once, as well as have a huge chance of killing the queen herself. This is a very safe method when used outdoors as there’s little to no downside. As long as you remember to keep away from the ants themselves – especially if they are fire ants – everything should be 100% safe. Indoors, this is obviously a much riskier solution as you need to know what the exact geometry of the ants’ nest is – you don’t want to flood your own house’s foundations. Also, keep in mind that “hot” is the key word in “hot water” – pouring cold water in a nest is not going to do much other than disrupt it.
Digging and moving the ant nest to another place
Digging up and removing an ant nest is a great solution to ant colonies that aren’t inherently harmful and are instead just a nuisance. This description actually fits the vast majority of ant species out there. Keep in mind, however, that this solution is only applicable when the nest is situated in soft soil or in mulch – harder soil or most indoor situations can’t be solved this way. The only indoor ant colonies you can relocate in such a manner are nests in potted plants, in which way you can just move the pot outside.
As long as the ants’ nest is outdoors and in the right type of soil, however, a simple shovel and a metal cart can be enough to relocate the whole thing. Just remember to dig deep as ant colonies can stretch surprisingly deep into the ground – you don’t want to leave a queen hanging a couple of inches below the surface and let it start a new colony all over again.
Chemical ant nest destroying products
There are literally thousands of chemical ant nest destroying products just like there are thousands of ant killer baits, residual killer sprays, and so on. In fact, a lot of them use the same active ingredients and insecticides. Using any of those, however, should be done in compliance with their guidelines, especially indoors.
Liquid and aerosol insecticide sprays can be used against ant nests quite easily by simply spraying them into the nest directly. Foams can’t fit as deep as sprays and aerosols but they too can squeeze in all entrances and slowly poison the whole thing. Obviously, when using such a drastic method you should exercise extreme caution. You can accidentally spray outside of the nest, on your skin or in your eyes, or you can apply too much of the product and make the whole area dangerous to your pets or kids.
Outdoors, applying such a solution can damage the soil or the nearby vegetation, while indoors it can render a whole room unusable for a while and in need of careful cleaning. Simply put, insecticide sprays should be handled with care, usually accompanied by rubber gloves, eye goggles, and face masks. Not to mention that if you can’t spray them deep enough into the nest they can still leave the queen intact.
All that being said, when insecticides are insecticides, so applying large enough quantities of them is bound to have an effect.
Insecticide dusts and powders
Just as insecticide dusts and powders are great for puffing in inaccessible locations such as walls, floorboards, and behind baseboards, they are also a great way to deliver insecticides deep into an ants’ nest. Again, the same precautions apply – use a face mask, goggles, and rubber gloves, and be careful not to apply the product to places that might harm the soil, nearby vegetation, pets or kids. Aside from that, however, puffing insecticides with a handheld puffing device is an easy way to deliver high doses of insecticide deep into an ants’ nest.
Things or methods you should not be using
As with anything else, there is a large number of products, chemicals, solutions, and tools that are often advertised as effective but aren’t always so. This doesn’t mean that they are 100% ineffective – they may have some uses, but they are far from effective enough to be worth it.
Bug bombs and foggers
Bug bombs are a controversial tool for most situations but they are especially ineffective when it comes to ants. Where bug bombs can work against certain flying or crawling insects, ant colonies are usually dug up so deep into our home’s foundations and walls that a fogger is very unlikely to reach the ant queen and her eggs or larvae. Yes, the fogger will likely kill quite a few worker ants but there’ll likely be more than enough left to irritate you afterward. Add to that how unpleasant foggers are to use and they definitely aren’t a method we’d recommend against ants.
We mentioned several times that there are some ant species that are less affected by ant baits and residual sprays. Argentine ants are a prime example because they have so many queens and their colonies are so mobile, that a slow-acting poison is almost never able to wipe out an entire colony system at once. In such situations, or when you simply have some harmless garden ants that you want to keep away from your kitchen, repellents can find some use.
However, even in those situations, using a granular ant bait outdoors is still a more effective solution to the problem. The simple fact of the matter is that ants are smart creatures and spraying some lemon juice on your window’s frame isn’t going to be enough to stop them from breaking into your kitchen. If you want to ant-proof your house using outdoor ant baits and insecticides is significantly more effective.
Introducing predators to a pest-infested area is a method that people have been trying against all manners of pests for millennia. In the case of insects such as ants, you may be inclined to use birds or lizards in your garden to reduce their overall numbers. And don’t get us wrong – this can be useful to an extent. But at the end of the day, the predators aren’t going to kill the ant queens in the hearts of the colonies and aren’t going to destroy the nests themselves. They’ll just feed on a percentage of the ant workers that are being pumped out of the colony every day.
Call a pest control company
Ants may be considered a nuisance pest, but there are situations when they become an outright danger to your home, your garden or even your family and pets. Knowing when the situation has gotten out of hand as well as making sure that it doesn’t get that far is done precisely by knowing which signs and symptoms you should look for.
Nevertheless, if you’ve determined that an ant infestation is beyond your capabilities to deal with or that a professional exterminator company will be more effective and efficient than you, it may be a good time to call them.
- If you’ve discovered a severe carpenter ant infestation in your home’s foundations, either because you’ve been away for a while or because you’ve been unlucky to have most of the signs remain out of sight, it’s often smarter to call in the professionals in order to deal with the problem quickly.
- If there is a large colony of fire ants near your property or just inside of it, it might be smart to contact a pest control company instead of risking some of your family or pets being heavily harmed while dealing with the infestation.
Also, keep in mind that different pest companies specialize in different problems. Ants are a much different type of pest than cockroaches or termites, so contacting a pest control company that specializes in ant infestations is strongly advisable.
Ants are unique insects in a lot of different regards which means that the can be trickier to deal with than other insects. Additionally, different ant species can vary quite a lot from one another. Nevertheless, the key principles usually remain the same: seal off your home or property to deny them access to it, remove any easily reachable food sources by maintaining good sanitation, use preventive repellents to dissuade any worker or scout ants from getting in, and use effective ant baits and residual ant spays to exterminate entire nests at once when need be.