There are many species of ants and some are considered pests. Identifying ant species is important to effectively control an infestation because each ant has unique food preferences, foraging behaviors, and nesting habits.
For example, acrobat ants may invade homes in search of jelly drips or syrup. Trimming all tree branches and shrubs that touch the home can prevent these ants from entering.
Look for Ant Trails
Ants often seem to appear everywhere at once, and are a huge irritation to homeowners. These pests are constantly on the move, foraging for food and carrying it back to their colonies. The first step in eliminating ants is to track their trails and identify the source of the invasion.
Ant trails often appear in the kitchen and bathroom, but they can also be found in laundry rooms and living spaces. This is because most ant species are attracted to water and can thrive in moist environments, such as inside cabinet doors, floor drains, and wall cracks.
The best way to stop ants from invading your home is to keep them out in the first place. Start by observing ant behavior, especially in the evening when scout ants are most active. These ants are searching for food to bring back to their colonies and will leave a trail of pheromones behind them. If you see a pheromone trail, follow it to find the source of the ant activity.
Many ant species, including ghost ants and pharaoh ants, prefer to establish their nests in high moisture areas. They are masters at hiding in wall voids, under floorboards, and behind baseboards. This is a major problem in bathrooms, where excess moisture can attract these pests.
Clean up spills as soon as they occur and wipe up water puddles in the bathroom. Create a routine for regularly cleaning cupboards and pantries, and make sure pet food bowls are empty and cleaned on a regular basis. Also, remove plants that attract aphids, as these insects are the favorite prey of many ant species and will draw them into your home in large numbers. If you cannot get ants to stay away from your house, consider spraying the entrance points with an ant repellent. Pepper, lemon, neem, and thyme oils are all excellent ant repellants and can be applied around the foundation of your home, in the cracks and crevices around windows, and behind baseboards.
Clean Up Spills
Ants are industrious creatures and will take advantage of even the smallest cracks. That’s why the first line of defense against ants is sanitation. Sweep food crumbs, wipe up spills and take out the trash regularly to keep ants from finding easy meals. Create a schedule for wiping down cabinet and pantry shelves, especially the corners and backs of appliances. Remove plants that attract aphids, the favorite hosts of red imported fire ants, and make sure the garbage is sealed.
Argentine ants can be a particularly troublesome house guest. They nest in moist areas near food and, like other ants, are very hardy. Often, a colony of Argentine ants will invade a bathroom, notably around the sink and toilet tank. They also love piles of dirty laundry, perhaps because the pheromone trails from the invading aphids will lead them right to the sweet treats inside.
Carpenter ants also pose a significant problem for homeowners. Their name suggests that they’ll eat wood, but their true goal is to hollow out spaces for nests. They often attack houses in search of rotting or damaged wood for this purpose. This can cause structural damage and must be addressed quickly.
In addition to caulking and sealing, spraying with a pesticide containing the ingredients bifenthrin, permethrin or deltamethrin will repel ants from entering your home. Follow the product label to see where it is safe to use, such as around the perimeter of your home or at entry points such as windows and doors.
If you suspect that you have an ant infestation, contact your local university extension service (enter your state and “university extension service” in a search engine) for help. A specialist can identify the species of ant, tell you where it nests and recommend steps for eradication.
Seal Entry Points
If ants find a way into your home, they can access food, water, and shelter. They are highly industrious, and they can exploit the smallest cracks and crevices. Sealing these entry points will eliminate the ant problem.
Insecticide sprays are a great way to kill existing ants, but they won’t keep them from coming back. Modern pest control services use a multistep process that involves identifying food and water sources and monitoring colony activity. They then utilize industry-proven methods to destroy the entire colony, including the queen.
Keeping your home clean and dry is one of the best ways to prevent an ant infestation. Wipe up spills immediately, and store condiment jars inside gallon plastic bags. Keep pet bowls cleaned frequently, and wipe and empty the crumb tray of your toaster or toaster oven after each use. Keep indoor potted plants a few feet away from the foundation of your house, and clean gutters and downspouts to eliminate standing water that attracts insects.
Another important step is to remove fire ant mounds that appear in your yard and landscape. These eyesores are an annoyance, but they can also trigger painful stings. Apply an outdoor insecticide that contains the active ingredient bifenthrin to ant mounds, bushes, and trees to kill them. Learn more on the hyperlink about things like “Does salt kill ants?“.
Pharaoh ants often enter homes, and they are especially difficult to get rid of once inside. This species of ant has been known to crawl through electrical switches and sockets, between sheets, and inside the cracks of hot water pipes. These ants leave pheromone trails that other ants follow, and they have even been known to follow wires into walls and attics. Sealing these entrance points with caulk is an effective way to stop them.
When a foraging ant locates a food source, it leaves behind a trail of scent particles called pheromones that proclaim the find to other members of the colony. This is how ants communicate with each other, both to warn of danger and to share news about the location of food.
In a kitchen, this means that a spill of sugar on the counter is a signal to many hungry foragers to march toward the treasure. You can limit ant activity in the kitchen by promptly cleaning up any food spills. You should also create a routine for regularly checking kitchen cabinets and pantries for signs of ant activity. A good rule of thumb is to set out a bait where you see ant activity, but not so close as to contaminate the food in the cabinet or attract curious children, pets or wildlife.
Ants entering your home are usually seeking two things: food and moisture. Water sources include leaking faucets, pipes and roof leaks. Food sources include any crumbs, scraps and sweet liquids that ants are attracted to.
Generally, a pest control professional will use multiple methods to eliminate ants and stop them from coming back. This includes identifying and sealing entry points. For example, in the case of odorous house ants, which frequently invade homes, a multistep process may involve spraying an insecticide around exterior entry points, along and under the first course of siding and into cracks in foundation walls. It may also involve trimming shrubs and bushes that brush against your siding or roof.
In addition to pesticides, there are natural ant repellants that can be effective. Ground black pepper, neem oil, citrus peels, lemongrass oil and eucalyptus or thyme oil can deter ants from entering your home.
Treat for Ants
Ants are industrious insects and will scavenge whatever they find, but you can help keep them away by keeping your home clean. Sweep up food crumbs, wipe down kitchen surfaces and take out the garbage regularly to eliminate the pheromone scent that attracts them. Store foods in containers with tight-fitting lids and keep pet food bowls firmly sealed. Check your home for cracks or crevices that need sealing and treat them with a commercial product such as caulk, sealant or Don’t Bug Me spray to prevent entry from outside. Also, be sure to seal the area where pipes and cable wires enter your home to discourage ants from crawling up and into the house.
There are a number of natural products that can repel or kill ants without the use of chemical pesticides. Vinegar is a common one and can be used in various ways, from wiping down kitchen surfaces to pouring it into ant holes. Borax, the powdered substance that grandmothers used to add to loads of laundry, is another effective ant killer. Ants ingest Borax, take it back to the colony and spread it to other ants until it wipes out the entire colony.
You can also try sprinkling citrus or peppermint essential oils in areas where ants are frequenting or lining your cabinets and drawers with talcum powder and petroleum jelly to block them. If the ant problem persists, contact an ant exterminator for professional assistance. An expert can identify the species of ant, create a treatment plan and help you prevent them from returning. They can also give you tips on preventing future infestations and provide solutions for removing any ant colonies that have taken root in your yard.