How To Keep Ants Away This Summer
As surely as summer brings warm weather and more daylight, it also brings pests. And while fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and other bugs are undoubtedly annoying, few other insects are quite as tenacious as ants. Ants can appear in your house seemingly out of nowhere (even despite your cleaning efforts), and boy, do they show up in droves!
Related: How To Get Rid Of Fruit Flies
There are as many as 20,000 known species of ant, and some queens can live an impressive 30 years. They’re vital to our ecosystem, but some species (like carpenter ants and fire ants) can cause a lot of damage and harm, not to mention how unhygienic it is to have them scuttling around on your countertops!
Related: How To Get Rid Of Gnats
The best way to get rid of ants is to apply a comprehensive strategy, including cleaning, repelling, and (if necessary) killing. We’ll cover all of that and more in this post, to help you get rid of ants and keep them out for good!
Related: Get Rid Of Silverfish The Right Way
4 Causes Of Ant Infestation
A slow trickle of ants can quickly turn into a full-blown infestation, and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what is attracting them. Here are some of the most common causes of ant infestations that should be addressed ASAP:
1. Improperly Stored Food
Ants are always searching for food, and it all starts with scouts who figure out that you left a box of cereal, sugar, grease, or some other tasty treat in a poorly sealed container. The scouts signal the rest of the colony using pheromone trails, and soon worker ants will be lining up to indulge in their newfound food source.
Related: How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants
2. A Dirty Kitchen
While most of us clean our kitchens on a more of less continual basis, we may not extend our efforts to the areas under or behind our appliances. Crumbs, spills, and other food residues can easily collect in those neglected areas and attract ants from far and wide.
3. Plants Growing Near Your House
Plant life provides ants with safety from the elements and predators, and plants growing up against your home can serve as a useful bridge for ants. When possible, create space between plants and your house, especially near doors and windows.
4. Cracks, Gaps, & Other Entry Points
Ants are so small that they can exploit even the tiniest cracks and gaps to gain entry into your home. Check entry doors and windows to ensure they close all the way and form an airtight seal. Also, follow ants back to the source when you can — you might find a crack in your wall or floor that you can seal up with caulk or putty.
How To Get Rid Of Ants
If they’ve already invaded your home, these measures can help you get rid of ants:
1. Clean Up
As mentioned above, this is the most effective and simplest way to get rid of ants. Ants aren’t complicated — they’re in your house because they’re hungry or thirsty and hope to take advantage of spills, crumbs, garbage, and anything else you might unwittingly have on offer.
For the exterior of your home, sweep up any crumbs, and use your hose to spray down spills. Inside the house, make sure all food is stored in sealed bags and containers. Also, make sure to clean your kitchen regularly, and wipe up any drips or residues on the sides of bottles and containers.
It doesn’t take much for ants to get the scent of food, so be sure to wipe down counters and tabletops daily. Other helpful measures including not allowing dirty dishes to pile up and cleaning behind appliances (both large and small) once in a while too.
2. Use Ant Repellents
Another way to get rid of ants is by to drive them away, and these natural solutions for repelling ants can help:
- Essential Oils – Lemon, clove, and peppermint essential oils deter ants, and all three are featured in Defend Essential Oil Blend. Add 5-10 drops of Defend to a small spray bottle of water, then spray it around your baseboards (or wherever you’ve spotted ant activity).
- White Vinegar – Ants don’t like the smell of white vinegar, and it masks the scent trails they rely on for directions. To use vinegar as an ant deterrent, just spray it anywhere you’ve spotted ants.
- Glass Cleaner, Dish Soap, & Liquid Detergent – All of these will disrupt the scented pheromone trail that ants leave behind to communicate with other ants.
- Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne is supposedly a well-kept secret among pest control companies. Ants hate the smell of cayenne and will go elsewhere.
- Neem Oil – Neem oil from the Indian neem tree may create an effective barrier against ants at windows and doors.
- Coffee Grounds – Instead of throwing your coffee grounds in the trash, use them to keep ants a bay. Personal accounts suggest that brewed coffee grounds have a repellent effect against ants.
- Chalk – Natural pest deterrents like chalk are handy to know about, because you never know what you might have on hand! Chalk contains calcium carbonate that can be useful in disrupting ant trails.
- Lemons & Lemon Peels – Ants don’t like the smell of lemon juice, and other sour or bitter foods may keep ants away if you don’t have lemon peels or lemon juice available.
- Salt – Table salt is one of the cheapest ways to get rid of ants naturally. Boil water and add a large amount of ordinary table salt to it, stir until the salt dissolves, then pour into a spray bottle and spray in areas of ant activity.
- Cream Of Tartar – Use cream of tartar to deter ants from their gathering places on your driveway or sidewalks. All you have to do is sprinkle a bit of the powder around the areas where they congregate.
3. Check Indoor Plants For Signs Of Infestation
Look for ant hills, disturbed dirt, or ants moving toward or away from your indoor plants. Indoor plants that show signs of infestation should be disposed of, as repotting them may preserve the queen.
If ants are continually getting into your indoor plants, try putting citrus rinds around the rim — some farmers use this trick to keep pests away from their plants.
4. Keep Up On Yard Work
When yard debris isn’t cleared away and plants are allowed to grow right up to the outer wall of your home, they can make your home an attractive destination for ants. So cut back ivy and other vines, and move landscaping a foot or so away from your home.
5. Cut Off Their Food Source
Check to ensure there aren’t any easily accessible sources of food inviting ants into your home. Check the cabinets and under counters, and ensure all food containers are clean and tightly sealed.
Pet food (as well as pets’ food and water bowls) can also attract ants. An airtight container like this one keeps pet food fresh while keeping pests out.
How To Kill Ants: 7 Natural & DIY Options
No one wants to have to resort to such desperate measures, but you don’t want to let ants have free reign over your home either! If it comes down to it, here are 7 options you can use to kill ants.
1. DIY Surface Cleaner & Ant Killer
Add 1 cup of vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of castile soap, and 5 drops each of lemon essential oil and peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle. Shake to mix, then use the ant spray to clean any surfaces where ants tend to congregate. Castile soap will start to dissolve the waxy exterior of the ants that come into contact with it, eventually killing them.
It’s important to note that only about 20 percent of a colony actually leaves the ant colony, so there are plenty of reinforcements relaxing at home, waiting to be called up for active duty. That’s one reason solutions like this can take some time to work.
Sprinkle cornmeal wherever you’ve spotted ants. They can’t digest cornmeal, so they’ll eventually die off. If you have pets or babies at home, this is an easy and safe solution to use.
Borax is another easy-to-find ingredient that will poison ants. Stir together a spoonful of peanut butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of borax, then stuff the mixture into a plastic drinking straw and cut the straw into 1/2 inch pieces.
Place the straw pieces near ant trails. The sweet peanut butter will attract the ants, then the borax in the mixture will kill them relatively quickly. With solutions like this, they may also return to their ant nests to kill ants and the queen there.
4. Baking Soda
Stir together equal parts of powdered sugar and baking soda, and sprinkle the mixture along ant trails or any crevices where ants are coming inside. The ants will be attracted to the sugar, but they’ll eat the baking soda too and die off.
5. Diatomaceous Earth
You can also use food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of ants. It compromises the ants’ exoskeletons, so they will ultimately die of dehydration after coming into contact with it. Sprinkle it along known ant trails, and along windowsills, baseboards, and other ant hideouts. Learn more about diatomaceous earth.
Liberally pour cornstarch over the entire group of ants, and add water on top. This will be messy, but the result will be lots of dead ants encased in cornstarch.
7. Ant Baits
Not all insecticides are created equal, but many ant baits use borax or other natural ingredients (typically sugar-based or protein-based) to attract and kill a variety of ant species.
The tips for getting rid of ants (as well as killing ants) mentioned throughout this post can be very effective, but if an ant infestation is severe enough, you may need the help of a professional exterminator in order to overcome it!
Also, keep in mind that many of the methods that naturally get rid of ants take some time to work, so be patient, and keep your home clean and free of crumbs and food particles in the meantime.
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Have you ever had to fight ants in your house?
How To Get Rid Of Ants
- Clean Up – Ants love to take advantage of spills, crumbs, garbage, and pretty much any mess that humans create. So the best way to keep ants away from your house is to practice cleanliness and avoid attracting them in the first place!
- Use Ant Repellents – Another way to get rid of ants is to drive them away. (See the notes section below for options!)
- Check Indoor Plants – Look for ant hills, disturbed dirt, or actual ants moving to and from the plant. Infested house plants will die, so it's best to just dispose of it. If you re-pot, you may preserve the queen. If this is a big problem at your home, try citrus rinds around the rim. Lemon or orange works great! Small organic farmers often use this trick to keep pests off their plants.
- Keep Up On Yard Work – When yard debris isn't addressed, or plants grow right up to the outer wall of your home, ants consider it a permanent living space and make their home there. So cut back the ivy and other vines. Move landscaping a foot or so away from your home.
- Cut Off Their Food Source – Make sure you have no sources of food just sitting there inviting ants inside. Check the cabinets and under counters. Make sure containers are clean and tightly sealed. The pet food and pet bowl can also attract ants, so check them as well.
- Essential Oils
- White Vinegar
- Glass Cleaner, Dish Soap, & Liquid Detergent
- Cayenne Pepper
- Neem Oil
- Coffee Grounds
- Lemons & Lemon Peels