How to Control Ants
Control ants in your home by learning how to identify signs of an infestation.
For such tiny pests, ants can pose a giant nuisance for your home. While ants serve their purpose in the outdoor environment by eating other potentially harmful pests, these pests serve no purpose indoors. Typically, they will enter your home in order to search for food or locate shelter. Ants spend their lives foraging for food and water; chances are, if they get inside of your home, they'll discover a veritable jackpot of materials that suit their basic needs for survival.
Learning how to identify ants and understanding their habits is important, but the key to controlling an ant problem is to follow tried-and-true steps to kill them in your home and prevent them from coming back.
How to Identify Ants
In the United States, there are more than 7,000 types of ants. Some of the more common ants found in the United States are carpenter ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, fire ants, and pharaoh ants. Ants can be easily identified by their three-part bodies, which include a head, thorax, and abdomen. Ants have notably thin waists and elbowed antennae. Some ants even have wings, but it's important to distinguish these flyers from termites. It’s worth noting that flying ants that appear to be swarming on the exterior of your house aren't interested in getting inside but in mating, which is why they are released by their queen at certain times of year.
Where Do Ants Live?
Ants live in colonies that can range considerably in size. A small colony might include a few hundred individuals while a large, well-established colony might include several thousand ants. Ants typically establish colonies underground or inside trees; however, they can also establish them within the walls of homes or behind baseboards. Each colony will have its queen as well as ants that perform specific tasks that depend on their station. The first ants that enter your home are scouts. They scout out the scene in search of food and water. If they like what they find, they can return with hundreds more.
What Are Signs of an Ant Infestation?
One of the most obvious signs of an ant infestation is seeing ants crawling around in areas of your home. Ants typically make their way to the kitchen or pantry in search of food, but it's not uncommon to find them in bathrooms or laundry rooms because they may be attracted to the moisture. If you have an infestation, you might find ants congregating around a pile of crumbs, near your indoor trash receptacle, or even in your dog's food bowl. Aside from live ant sightings, you might detect an infestation by noting the presence of frass (ant waste) and tunneling debris, which appears as brownish powder. Spotting ant mounds just outside your home's exterior should also give you cause for concern.
Problems Associated with Ant Infestations
Untreated ant infestations can lead to increased colony size, resulting in more damage and food contamination. Carpenter ants, for example, can actually damage the structural integrity of your home because of their tunneling and nesting activities. Some types of ants (like fire ants) will actually bite or sting, especially if their nest is disturbed, so their removal is especially important. What’s more, ants contaminate food and may even introduce harmful bacteria. Once ants have contaminated a box of cereal or a bowl of fruit, you'll have to throw those items out, leading to food waste and extra expense. It can also be incredibly frustrating to try to keep ants out of your food, as they can be quite determined.
How to Repel Ants
If you've spotted ants on your countertop, use a 50/50 spray of water and white vinegar to wipe down your counters. Not only do ants hate the smell of vinegar, but the vinegar will destroy their scent paths, which temporarily disrupts food-hunting efforts. This won't kill them, of course, but it will buy you a bit of time so you can spray to control them.
Other aromatic materials that can help keep ants away include cinnamon, cloves, baby powder, peppermint, coffee grounds, and citrus peels. You can place these materials outside foundation cracks in order to dissuade ants from venturing inside your house.
How to Treat Ant Infestations
To kill ants already inside your home, there are several highly effective options. Remember to always read and follow the label directions.
- Kill the ants you see crawling around your home with Ortho® Home Defense® Ant, Roach & Spider Killer2 or Ortho® Home Defense® Ant & Roach Killer with Essential Oils.
- Use Ortho® Home Defense® Liquid Ant Bait to kill hidden ant colonies (including the queens) around your home.
- To kill ants hiding in nooks and crannies, use Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices. The Foamguard™ in this product spreads deep into hard-to-reach places and keeps killing carpenter ants for up to 30 days when used on non-porous surfaces.
The best tactic is to bar ants from entering your home. Use Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Lawn & Landscape to get rid of any visible ant nests in your yard. Then, use Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter2 to treat points of entry (like doors and windows) to help keep ants from entering your house. Indoors on non-porous surfaces, it will continue to kill ants for up to 12 months.
Ants can be a nuisance at any time of year, but they are especially active in spring, when they come out of their winter hibernation in search of food, and in fall, when they're in search of shelter. While ants can be a major problem, you can fight back—and win. The key is not to wait too long before controlling them both inside and outside of your home.