Ants

How to Get Rid of Ants in the House

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Crumbs moving independently across the kitchen floor? A line of small black things crawling in and out of your trash bin? Looks like you have an ant infestation. Here’s how to identify, get rid of, and prevent ants in your home.

Are Ants Bad?

Ants play an important role in nature, but they don’t belong in homes. Ants are among the most frequent household pests. There are about 1,000 known ant species in North America and over 12,000 species worldwide.

In the outdoor world, ants are beneficial insects. They help to reduce the numbers of other pests such as beetles, caterpillars, chiggers, and ticks. Ants are part of the insect order Hymenoptera and count bees and wasps among their relatives.

Identification

How to Identify Ants

Though ants are familiar insects, in the home, they are somtimes confused with termites. If you look closely, you can tell an ant by its slim middle and curved antennae. Termites have thick middles and upright antennae.

The body of an ant is divided into three sections: its head, thorax, and abdomen. An ant’s middle may have one or two segments, or nodes. This feature divides ants into the aptly named groups of one-node and two-node ants.

Wingless adult ants are the colony’s workers. These females are in charge of gathering food, feeding larvae, sustaining the nest, and protecting the colony. The colony queen’s only job is to lay eggs. Male ants have wings and mate with the queen.

Common Ant Species

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are large (in ant size) and can be anywhere from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch long. They are dark brown or black, but some have red or yellow coloring.

When carpenter ants build their nests, usually in damp or decaying wood, they dig out tunnels which weakens the wood from the inside. You’ll know you have these pests by the appearance of small holes on the surface of wood and by the debris they produce from tunneling.

Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are only about ⅛-inch long and have beehive-shaped abdomens. They are dark brown or black.

When threatened or crushed, odorous house ants give off a smell of rotten coconut, hence their name. While these ants do not pose a public health risk, they can contaminate food.

Fire Ants

Fire ants are ⅛-inch to ¼-inch long. They are dark reddish-brown.

Fire ants are aggressive when bothered and inflict painful bites and stings.

Little Black Ants

Little black ants are 1/16-inch long with two-segmented abdomens. They can be dark brown to black, but usually very dark black. These ants are shiny.

While little black ants don’t pose a public health risk, they can contaminate food.

Control and Prevention

What Attracts Ants To Your Home?

The best way to get rid of ants is to figure out why they came into your house in the first place.

The most common reason for ants to venture inside is in search of food. They love it when you leave dirty dishes in the sink, don’t wipe up sticky countertops, and leave crumbs on the floor. They also enjoy pet food as much as your dog or cat. What starts with a few ants feasting on the juice that never got wiped up off of the floor can turn into a real pest problem.

Though most ants rarely cause significant damage, their abundant numbers can become a nuisance.

How to Stop an Ant Infestation

The first step in stopping an infestation is to determine where the ants are invading from—perhaps a poorly sealed window, a crack in the baseboard, or a gap in the doorframe?

  • Use soap and water to wipe up ant trails. As ants explore, they leave behind a trail of pheromones, which helps their fellow ants know where to go.
  • Dust around infested areas with diatomaceous earth.
  • Find where the ants are entering your home and mark the area with chalk. Chalk contains calcium carbonate, which ants dislike.
  • Find where the ants are entering your home and cover the area with ground black pepper, salt, peppermint, or white vinegar. Ants do not like bitter tastes and sour smells.
  • Borax, a boron compound, is an effective method of controlling an ant infestation because it is poisonous to them when ingested. But ants are not attracted to Borax itself, so you have to mix it with something tempting to ants such as sugar. When the ants carry the Borax back to the nest, the other members of the colony ingest it.
    • NOTE: If children or pets have access to the area, use caution and common sense when using Borax. Always follow instructions on the box.

How To Prevent Ants From Coming Into Your Home

  • Pick up crumbs and clean up spills, especially sugary, sweet liquids like lemonade, juice, and soda.
  • Keep food bags tightly closed or consider using hard, sealed storage containers that can’t be easily chewed through, like glass or plastic.
  • Store ripe fruit in the refrigerator.
  • Clean up pet food as soon as pets are done eating.
  • Empty garbage cans and recycling bins frequently.
  • Wash garbage cans and recycling bins regularly.
  • Vacuum up ants and dispose of the bag as soon as you are done.
  • Seal cracks and crevices that ants may be using to enter your home.
  • Keep firewood stacked at least 20 feet away from your home.

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