Insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth, with over ten million described species. There are about 1.4 billion insects for every human on Earth.
Insect diversity is evident in their various shapes, sizes, colors, and behaviors. They can be found in almost every habitat on Earth, from the ocean’s depths to the highest mountains. Insects play vital roles in many ecosystems, including pollination and decomposition, and they are a food source for other animals. Common insects include bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, and grasshoppers. However, no other insect is as common and more impactful as ants.
Ants are the most plentiful insects on Earth, with over 12,000 known species. They can be found almost everywhere except Antarctica. Ants are social insects that live in colonies and have specialized roles. Although these colonies benefit the environment by aerating the soil and dispersing seeds, ants are also known to be pests to humans. They can invade homes, destroy crops, and even cause structural damage. Here’s everything you need to know about ants, how to get rid of them, and when to call an exterminator.
I. What Attracts Ants?
Ants are outside your home for a variety of reasons. Here’s an in-depth look at common ant attractants and why they attract ants.
A. Food Particles
Ants are primarily attracted to food particles left unattended, particularly those high in sugar or protein. Their keen sense of smell allows them to detect even the tiniest morsels from a distance. Common food sources for ants inside homes include crumbs on the floor, unwashed dishes, unsealed food containers, and residue in trash bins. Regular cleaning and proper food storage can significantly reduce the chances of an ant infestation.
Ants are also drawn to moist environments, requiring water for survival. Leaks in plumbing systems, condensation on pipes, and damp areas in the home can attract ants seeking a water source. Fixing leaks and drying out moisture-prone areas is essential to prevent ant infestations.
Just like humans, ants seek shelter to protect themselves from the elements. Small cracks and crevices in a home’s walls, floors, and foundation can serve as entry points for ants looking for a place to nest. Regularly inspecting and sealing any potential entry points can help keep ants out.
II. How To Spot Ant Colonies in Your Home And Yard
Recognizing the presence of ant colonies in your home and yard is the first step toward dealing with an ant infestation. Here are a few indicators:
A. Ant Trails
Ants are very social creatures and often travel in designated paths known as ‘ant trails.’ These trails aren’t random; ants release pheromones as they move, leaving a chemical trail for other ants to follow. This explains why you often see ants moving in a straight line. If you spot a line of ants in your home or yard, this is an obvious sign of an infestation. Following this trail might even lead you directly to the colony. However, it’s crucial to remember not to disrupt the trail until you’ve identified the colony or called a professional exterminator.
B. Visible Nests
Some ants build visible nests on the ground’s surface, while others prefer to nest in walls or under floors. If you see a pile of dirt with a small hole in the center, it could be an ant colony. Another tell-tale sign is tiny piles of sawdust-like material near your home’s foundation, which indicate that carpenter ants are burrowing into your wood.
C. Sawdust Trails
Carpenter ants, unlike termites, do not eat wood but create their nests within it. As they carve through the wood, they leave behind a sawdust-like material called ‘frass.’ This frass often forms distinctive trails leading from the nesting site. Seeing these trails or small piles of frass inside or outside your home strongly indicates a carpenter’s ant infestation. Besides being detrimental to your home’s structure, carpenter ants can also bite, causing discomfort.
D. Rustling Noises
Another indicator of an ant infestation is the presence of rustling noises. These sounds can often be heard during quiet times, especially at night when other household noises are minimal. Ants within your walls or flooring can produce a faint rustling sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane. These noises could signify a significant ant colony within your home’s structure, with the sound being produced by their movement or wood excavation as they build their nests.
III. How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Yard
If you see some of the signs above, there’s a good chance you have an ant colony in your home. Thankfully, getting rid of ants isn’t too hard if you know what you’re doing.
A. Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants
Dealing with ant infestations doesn’t always require professional intervention. Several natural methods can effectively deter ants from your yard and home:
- Use of Essential Oils: Certain essential oils, like peppermint, tea tree, and citrus, can disrupt ant trails and deter them. Mix a few drops of these oils with water in a spray bottle and apply them to common ant entry points.
- Diatomaceous Earth: This natural powder from tiny fossilized aquatic organisms can be sprinkled around ant nests and along their trails. It works by causing dehydration in ants, eventually leading to their death.
- Vinegar Solution: A 50/50 solution of water and vinegar can disrupt their scent trails. Simply spray it around the infested areas. Once you get rid of the nest, this is considered the best way to get rid of ants.
- Boiling Water: Water is a natural ant killer for your yard. If you’ve located the ant colony, pouring a kettle of boiling water directly into it can kill most ants and disrupt their colony. This method should be used cautiously, as it may not eliminate the colony and can potentially harm beneficial insects or plants in your yard.
Remember, while these methods can help deter ants or reduce their numbers, they may not fully eradicate a large or persistent colony. In such cases, professional pest control services may be necessary.
B. Ant-Repelling Plants
You might be looking into how to get rid of ants in the garden naturally, considering it’s the healthiest option for your family and plants. Thankfully, you don’t have to look further since there are plants that can repel plants. Planting these around your yard or keeping them in pots near entry points can help keep ants at bay:
- Mint: This aromatic herb dislikes ants and can deter them from invading your property. However, mint can be invasive, so it’s best grown in pots.
- Tansy: Tansy is a perennial herb and one of the best ways to eliminate ants in your garden. The strong aroma of Tansy is known to repel insects, including ants.
- Citrus Peel: Ants dislike the scent of citrus. To deter them, you can scatter citrus peels around areas where you’ve seen ants.
- Cinnamon: Like citrus, ants dislike cinnamon. Sprinkle it in areas of ant activity to deter them.
- Pepper: Both black and cayenne pepper can deter ants. Scatter the pepper at entry points or along ant trails.
In addition, many other plants, such as lavender, rosemary, and marigolds, are known to be ant-repellent. However, it’s important to remember that these plants alone may not be able to completely rid your property of ants if there’s an established colony.
C. DIY Ant Bait Recipes
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can attempt to control the ant population using homemade ant baits. Here are a few simple recipes:
- Borax and Sugar Bait: Mix one part borax with three parts powdered sugar. Ants are attracted to the sugar, and the borax will kill them. Place small amounts of this mixture in areas where you’ve seen ants. It’s also an effective way of removing ant hills if applied near the colony. However, be cautious when using borax around children and pets, as it can be harmful if ingested.
- Honey and Borax Trap: Dissolve one teaspoon of borax into three tablespoons of honey. Soak cotton balls in the solution and place them where you’ve noticed ant activity. The honey’s sweetness lures the ants, while the borax eliminates them.
- Peanut Butter and Borax Bait: Mix two tablespoons of peanut butter, two tablespoons of sugar, and two teaspoons of borax. This bait works well for ants attracted to greasy and sweet foods.
- Baking Soda and Powdered Sugar: You can use baking soda if you don’t have borax. Mix it in equal parts with powdered sugar, and place it in small containers or lids where you’ve seen ants.
Remember, while DIY solutions can be effective for minor infestations if the problem persists, it’s best to seek professional help. Always use caution when handling borax and other potentially harmful substances, keeping them out of reach of children and pets.
D. Effective Ant Traps
Purchasing pre-made ant traps can be a convenient and effective solution to your ant problems. These traps often use a food bait to attract ants, which carry the poison back to the colony, thereby killing off the ants at the source. Here are a few commercially available options:
- TERRO Liquid Ant Baits: These pre-filled, ready-to-use bait stations attract ants fast and contain a liquid formula that ants can carry back to the colony to kill the queen and other ants.
- Amdro Ant Block Home Perimeter Ant Bait Granules: Ideal for outdoor use, these granules are spread around the perimeter of your home to kill ants outside before they come inside.
- Combat Max Ant Killing Gel: This gel can be applied in areas that are hard to reach or see. It attracts ants quickly and kills them at the source.
- Raid Ant Baits III: This bait lures ants in with food and then kills them with a child-resistant insecticide, providing a safe and effective way to eliminate ants.
Remember, while these traps can be effective, they are most valuable when used with regular cleaning, proper food storage, and other preventative measures. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and disposal, and keep these products out of the reach of children and pets.
IV. When to Call an Exterminator
Several signs indicate it may be time to call a professional exterminator to deal with an ant infestation. If you notice the following, it’s highly recommended to seek professional assistance:
A. Persistent Infestations
If you continue to see large numbers of ants despite employing various DIY methods and commercial ant traps, it’s time to call an exterminator. Persistent infestations often indicate a large, established colony that may be difficult to eliminate without professional help.
B. Carpenter Ants
If you’ve spotted carpenter ants or evidence of their activity, such as sawdust-like frass or damage to wooden structures, you should contact an exterminator promptly. Carpenter ants can cause significant structural damage if not addressed quickly.
C. Multiple Colonies
When you find multiple ant colonies or nests on your property or notice ants of different sizes and types, it strongly indicates a severe infestation.
D. Infestations in Hard-to-Reach Areas
DIY methods may be ineffective if the ant colony is located in hard-to-reach areas such as inside walls, crawlspaces, or beneath concrete slabs.
Remember, dealing with ant infestations can be tricky, and there’s no shame in seeking professional assistance. An experienced exterminator can accurately identify the ant species, locate their colony, and employ targeted strategies to eliminate them. Furthermore, they can provide advice and services to prevent future infestations, maintaining the health and safety of your home environment.
Q1: Does vinegar kill ants in the yard?
Vinegar does not kill ants but can help disrupt their scent trails. Ants use these trails to navigate and communicate with other ants in their colony. A 50/50 solution of water and vinegar can be sprayed where ants are present to disrupt these trails, making it harder for them to find their way back to your home or yard. However, vinegar should be a deterrent rather than a solution to an existing ant infestation.
Q2: What smell do ants hate the most?
Ants detest the smell of certain substances, including peppermint, cinnamon, and citrus. Essential oils from these substances can act as natural deterrents. Ants also dislike the smell of vinegar, which can disrupt their scent trails. However, while these smells may deter ants, they are unlikely to eliminate an established ant colony.
Q3: What smell kills ants instantly?
No specific smells are known to kill ants instantly. However, certain substances with strong odors, such as vinegar, cinnamon, and essential oils like peppermint and tea tree, can disrupt ant trails and deter them. It’s more effective to use substances like borax, diatomaceous earth, or commercial ant baits that poison or dehydrate ants, leading to their eventual death.
Q4: Will salt kill ants?
While salt does not kill ants directly, it can deter them. Ants prefer to avoid salt and will not typically cross a salt barrier. Therefore, sprinkling a line of salt near entrances or areas where you notice ant activity may help keep them at bay. However, this will not eliminate an existing ant colony, and other more effective methods, such as bait traps or professional extermination, may be necessary for larger infestations.