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How to Get Rid of Ants (And Keep ‘Em Away!)

How to Get Rid of Ants

Don’t you just hate it when you are so hungry in the morning and opened a box of cereals only to find out that ants are feasting on it already? We know that ants are hardworking and love that about them, but they can be irritating when they invade our homes. There are many reasons why ants would infest a place. If you want to know how to get rid of ants, you need to understand them first.

There are many ways to get rid of ants, and depending on how serious the infestation is, they will be gone in just a few days after you’ve dealt with them. If you have tried to get rid of them but failed, here are some of the most effective ways on how to get rid of ants.

Ant Facts

Ant Facts

Before we get down to the business of eliminating these tiny pests, let’s try to get as much information about them first. They may be pesky, but there are several interesting things about them too that are not known to most human beings. Here are some of them:

Ants Have No Ears

Though ants don’t have ears, they are not totally deaf and they do know when trouble is near through vibrations. They use vibrations when searching for food and as a warning. They have a subgenual organ located just below their knee that allows them to pick up vibrations.

Ants Have No Lungs

Another organ they lack is lungs. It would be hard to picture how lungs could fit in their small bodies but it is harder to comprehend how they breathe and stay alive without lungs. Well, they have a unique way of respiration and it is through spiracles. Ants breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide through their spiracles. These are holes that are found on the sides of the ant’s body. They are connected through a chain of tubes that help in distributing oxygen in their body. Through the ant’s movements, the oxygen is circulated throughout its body.

Ants Got Two Stomachs

Ants may not have ears and lungs, but they’ve outdone themselves for having two stomachs. But that doesn’t mean that they are gluttons or greedy. In fact, they have two stomachs so that they can share their food with other ants. One stomach is for storing food for their own use and the second stomach is to store food that they give to other ants.

This process is called trophallaxis. It helps keep an ant colony working systematically and efficiently. This lets the ants who hunt for food nourish the ants whose duties are to take care of the ant nest and the queen.

Ants are Super Strong

Don’t belittle these tiny creatures; they may be small but they have incredible strength for their size. Ants can lift around 10 to 50 times their own body mass. Some ants can even carry 100 times of their body weight like the Asian weaver. How much weight they can carry will depend on the species.

But how can they be so strong? The reason why they are incredibly strong is because of their size. This means that their muscles have a better cross-sectional area that allows them to create more force when compared to animals larger than them.

Ants Raise Other Insects, Too

Just like humans, ants also farm or raise other creatures the way we do with fish, pigs, cows, and chickens. They also protect other insects to reap food sources. One good example of this is with aphids. They protect them from predators and provide shelter for them to have a continuous supply of honeydew.

Some Ants are Asexual

Not all ant species believe that they need men to reproduce. This is true with some Amazonian ants because they prefer to reproduce through cloning rather than the traditional way of reproduction. It is still hard to understand how they do it, but it was revealed that some queen ants mimic themselves to genetically recreate their daughters without the help of male ants.

Some Ants are Swimmers

They are swimmers in a way that they can float on the water for a long time or have the ability to paddle through the water. But don’t expect them to do a breaststroke or backstroke; they haven’t perfected those strokes yet. While not all ant species can swim, most of them know how to survive when they accidentally get into the water. Aside from their ability to hold their breath in the water, they can also build a lifeboat so that they can float in floods.

Ants Have Been on Earth For a Long Time

Did you know that ants have been around since the Cretaceous period, which is more than 130 million years ago, around the same time that dinosaurs were brought to life? However, unlike the dinosaurs, ants were able to survive the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. Seems like these tiny creatures are survivors indeed.

Some Ants are Slave-Makers

It appears like there are wicked ants, too, like the Polyergus lucidus ants, also called slave-making ants. What they do is take over a nearby ant colony, capture its populace and force the entire colony to become their slaves by working for them. Slave-making ants come in two forms, the facultative slave-makers, and the permanent social parasites. The latter depends on the enslaved ants to work for them their entire lives while the other form does not.

Ants Have Almost Conquered the World

There are over 12,000 ant species that are known around the globe and an estimate of more than ten quadrillion ants alive. Ants can be found almost in the entire world except for some islands, the Arctic, and Antarctica. In every continent, you can find at least 1 native ant species.

Every Ant Has a Role to Play

Responsibilities in ant colonies are divided wherein the main role of the queen is to lay eggs; she is also the founder of an ant colony. Female ants are known as the worker ants. They carry much or almost all the responsibility to make sure the colony operates in a harmonious way.

Unlike male ants, whose main role is to reproduce, female ants are the ones who ensure that the queen and the young are all taken care of, waste disposal, and resolving conflicts within the colony. Male ants normally don’t live long as they die after mating.

Different Types of Ants

Different Types of Ants

We now know that there are more than 12,000 species of ants around the world, but not all of them are a threat. And don’t worry – we won’t be discussing all the different kinds of ants here. We will only focus on the most common ants and those that can cause serious damage to your homes. It is important that you know what these ants are first, so, you have an idea of how they look and you can address your ant problem the right way.

There are several ways to identify which type of ants has invaded your property. It can be through their appearance as ants vary in color, size, and humps, the location where you live, their habitat, and a lot more. So, here are some of the most common kinds of ants that you will probably encounter in your lifetime.

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are somehow similar to ghost ants in terms of appearance as they are very small, about 1.5-2 millimeters long, and their color. Both ant species are sometimes hard to see due to their size and color which is light yellow, almost transparent. Pharaoh ants nest mostly indoors as they cannot survive outside all year in the northern regions of the United States. They prefer sweet foods and are commonly found in industries that handle food such as grocery stores, hotels, and hospitals.

At home, they are mostly seen in the kitchen as they would take advantage of fallen foods, crumbs, grease, and spills. While their diet consists of different food varieties, these ants are attracted to sweets such as peanut butter, honey, and baked goods. However, they can also thrive in areas far from food sources like pipe chases. Pharoah ants normally get inside the house through poorly sealed windows and doors and damaged window screens.

Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are known for several names such as coconut ants, stink ants, or sometimes OHA. They can be very tiny with a length of about 1.5-3 millimeters and are usually black or brown in color. These ants can be found all over the United States, however, they are more common in Washington and Oregon. They earned their name not because they have an inherent smell, but because when crushed they release a scent like rotten coconut.

Like most ant colonies, they have a hierarchical system wherein a queen is responsible for producing the young, and workers and scout ants are in charge of taking care of the eggs, hunt for food, and provide food for the queen. Scout ants can easily get into a building or home easily because of their small size. When an odorous scout ant has found a food source, it will leave a pheromone trail back to its colony. This pheromone trail will be used by the other workers to get to the food source.

Field Ants

Field ants are usually found outdoors such as the greenery, dead woods, or soils. These ants may come in different colors, like mixed-red, brown, black, and yellow-brown. Their size can be from 4 to 8 millimeters in length. Field ants are more common in Midwest and Northeast United States. You need to be careful when dealing with these ant species as they can spray formic acid and they have stingers that can cause pain.

European Fire Ants

Unlike field ants, fire ants have two nodes. They also come in various colors but the most common is light reddish-brown. Its size is about 4-5 millimeters and they are very common in Canada, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine. Where fire ants nest usually depends on the weather. When the weather is warm, you can find fire ant nests outdoors such as shrubbery, lawns, and gardens. When the weather gets colder, fire ants may build ant nests indoors, usually in warm areas where there is moisture as well. This includes water heaters and beneath the bathtubs.

Similar to field ants, European fire ants have the ability to produce a sting that can be very painful. So, take extra precautions when dealing with fire ants as they can be aggressive.

Dark Rover Ants

Dark rover ants typically have a brown color that ranges from medium to dark and have one node. They are very small with a size of 1.6 millimeters. Infestation of dark rover ants is rampant in Southern Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada, Texas, and Arizona. While these ants don’t sting, dark rover ants’ large colonies can be bothersome when they start to infest your homes. They love sweet liquids such as maple syrup. They can build ant nests both indoors and outdoors, specifically in parking lots, grass edges, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Ghost Ants

As the name suggests, these ants can be difficult to see due to their size and color. Their size is around 1.3-1.5 millimeters long and are known to be tropical species. Ghost ants are commonly found in Hawaii and central and southern Florida. They love sweet foods but also feed on both living and dead insects. Ghost ants usually build their nests in crevices, cavities, under rocks, piles of leaves, and inside logs.

When indoors, they would create ant nests between cabinets, wall voids, potted plants, and behind baseboards. You can find ghost ant trails along patios, sidewalks, foundation walls, electrical wires, underneath carpet edges, or behind baseboards. They may also create ant trails on sinks, tubs, and shower stalls as they also love areas with water sources.

While they don’t sting, they can still be a serious burden when they nest inside the house. When crushed, they give off a coconut smell like odorous house ants do.

Crazy Ants

Crazy ants have one node and have a length of at least 2.2-3 millimeters. They have long antennae and long legs that are black-brown. They are known to form ant colonies in both dry and moist environments. Crazy ants love to build ant nests on areas with heavy vegetation, garbage, mulch, plants, wall voids, indoor plants, and beneath the carpets. They are probably called crazy ants as they tend to outburst when disturbed, which can be a nuisance even if they do not have the ability to sting.

They are very common in the Gulf Coast and throughout the United States. There are two other common species under this subfamily known as the robust crazy ants and Caribbean crazy ants which are both considered as primary home invaders in Florida.

Carpenter Ants

It would be hard to describe the physical attributes of the carpenter ants as they have several variations. Although their length is typically around 6-13 millimeters, these species are known to be the top structural pests. They earn their name carpenter ant because they burrow in wood to build their nests.

Carpenter ants prefer the outdoors such as lumber and trees, however, colonies of a carpenter ant can still live indoors such as roofs and other woodworks that have moisture. Those living in the woodlands are more susceptible to structural damage from carpenter ants. Some species of carpenter ants can be very aggressive and will sting when disturbed.

Asian Needle Ants

It is easy to identify Asian needle ants due to their dark orange mandibles. They have a brown-black color with one node and has a length of 5 millimeters. Compared to other ant colonies, they are not too aggressive to colonies near them. Asian needle ants prefer to nest outdoors in places that are shaded and with high moisture. These ants can sting painfully when trapped in clothes or if pressed into human skin. The sting can sometimes cause welt and can also be very painful. There have been cases where their sting have caused anaphylactic shock on humans. They are rampant in Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Argentine Ants

Argentine ants’ colors vary from light to dark brown and their length ranges from 2.2-2.8 millimeters. They can be found indoors and outdoors and would normally nest in voids and wall insulations. When summer comes, Argentine ants would build their nests in shadier areas. Argentine ants produce a musty smell when crushed or stepped on. Unlike Asian needle ants, they can’t sting. They are usually found in Hawaii and Southern California.

Acrobat Ants

Acrobat ants have two nodes are have a size of 2.5-3 millimeters. Color can vary from yellow-brown to brown and red-black to black. They prefer nesting outdoors typically inside wood structures that are damaged and moist. You may also find them in foam panel insulations. They may appear to be tumbling when they run since they lift their abdomen in the air, which is why they are called acrobat ants. When disturbed, they can be very aggressive and can sting. It’s very rare for these ants to invade inside the home.

Signs You Have Ant Infestation

Signs You Have Ant Infestation

So, you’ve seen one ant roaming around your home. Does it mean your home is invaded by ants already? It could be or they could just be passing by. Some people may not take ants seriously at first, especially if there’s just a few of them. However, a few ants at first can be a start or even a sign of a bigger ant problem. So, how would you know if you have an ant infestation? Here are some telltale signs.

Live Ants

Well, it’s obvious that you’ll be alarmed if you see some live ants around your home. But that doesn’t always mean an infestation right away. If they are scattered around and are only a handful, then there’s a chance that they are probably just lost. However, it is still best to keep an eye on them as they may be nesting somewhere around your home.

If you see a larger number of ants, especially in places where you eat or prepare food like the kitchen or dining, then that’s one sign you have an ant problem. You need to act fast and do something about it right away before it becomes more serious.

Ant Trails

Another sign you need to do ant control is when you see ant trails or pathways. Have you wondered why ants walk like they are falling in line? This is because ants leave a scent or pheromone trail to direct other ants to a food source. If you follow the ant trails, it will either lead you to the food source or their entire colony. Seeing ant trails inside and outside your home may mean a bigger ant infestation and ant control should be done immediately.

Ant Nests

Aside from ant trails, ant nests are also a sign. An ant nest can come in the form of a small pile of dirt or soil. You’ve probably noticed one of their nests inside your home and wondered where all this dirt came from. Well now you know, ants did that.

Outside the home, they may even build a bigger nest, usually called ant hills. An ant hill is like a small hill on the ground. Apart from that, there are also some ants that prefer to hide their nests. They usually build inside the walls or on darker and quieter parts of the home where it would be difficult to find.

Sawdust Trails

You’ll know you have a carpenter ant infestation if you see sawdust trails around your property. While carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they like to burrow into wood. You’ll probably see small or large sawdust trails, inside and outside of your home. Don’t think twice about learning how to get rid of ants as you surely have an ant problem to take care of. Since carpenter ants love wood, check for trails of sawdust near window ledges, wood flooring, wooden beams, and skirting boards.

Crumbling Wooden Structures

Your wood structure may look fine from the outside, but try to touch it or poke it with your finger. If it crumbles then you are in for some serious ant problem. It is not only the carpenter ants that love wood, almost all types of ants may find refuge in woods or feed on them.

Since ants love dead trees, if there’s one in your property that is close to your home, they will easily find a way inside your outdoor structures until they find a way inside your home.

Discarded Wings

There are some ants that have wings for a period of time and they are active during summer. This is the time when the queen of flying ants will leave the nest and start its own colony. You may find discarded wings on window sills or doors. The good news is, seeing discarded wings around your house is not a sign of serious infestation. It will also help you take the right ant control method.

Rustling Sounds Within the Walls

Ever experienced walking by a wall and suddenly hear rustling sounds inside it? You may probably think that you’re losing your mind, but don’t worry you’re perfectly sane. More likely you’re just hearing ants. While ants can live within the walls, they can also move from a wall and on the wallpaper on it. So, it’s best to check your wallpaper if there are any small rips, as they can possibly be entry points for ants.

How to Get Rid of Ants

How to Get Rid of Ants

Identify the Ant

The first step on how to get rid of ants is to identify them. This will help you decide which ant control should be used to kill ants. You can easily identify them now since you have an idea of how they look and what their nesting habits are, as mentioned earlier. Since these ants can be very small, you can take a picture of them for a closer look.

Find Ant Nests

Once you have identified the type of ant that invaded your home, the next step is to find their nests. If you have carpenter ants at home, you will mostly find their nest where there is wood and has moisture. Carpenter ants are known to cause structural damage which is why it is important to deal with them right away. When finding their nests, start with areas that are damp such as floorings that are spongy due to roof leak or plumbing. Bathrooms and attics are also great places to check out. When you noticed a water-damaged wood, try to pierce some small holes to trace the ant nests. Once you find ant nests, spray them with insecticide or your preferred ant killer to get rid of the entire colony. Once you have dealt with the ants, make sure you fix all the leaks at home and replace the damaged wood.

Get Rid of Ant Trails

Once you have seen some ants marching around your house, it’s more likely you’ll find more. To prevent being invaded by them, you should get rid of ant pathways right away. Since ants are known to create a scented pathway, you can eliminate the scent by using vinegar. Sweeping or mopping won’t work, so combine 3 parts of water with 1 part of vinegar and spray it on areas where you’ve seen some ants. This will get rid of the scent they have left behind and destroy the ant trail. This will help stop outdoor nesting ants from getting inside your house to forage food and start nesting indoors. However, this solution may not help in eliminating ants that had built indoor nesting and the best strategy is to use ant bait.

Use Ant Baits

When you see ants around, your first instinct will be to step on them or crush them with your bare hands. This will kill ants but will most likely not solve your ant problem. One of the best ways to kill ants is to use ant bait. There are different ant baits that can be used for different kinds of ants and it is important to use the right ant bait.

Most ants prefer sweets, but that is not always the case as their taste changes depending on the season. During spring, ants may prefer protein-rich food. When summer comes, they would hunt for sweets or oily food. You can set out a variety of ant baits and find out which one they will go for. You can put out peanut butter, honey, and fried food as ant bait and see which one will attract ants.

Once you have identified the right ant bait, you can set out bait traps in different bait stations. You can create your own bait traps or buy one. By using ant baits, you prevent ants from coming inside your house.

Boiling Water

Another effective way of how to get rid of ants is by using boiling water. Try to find every ant hole you can in your property and pour boiling water into it. This will immediately kill ants around your home.

Coffee Grounds

If you are not fond of using chemicals as ant treatments, go for coffee grounds and use them as ant repellent. After you have brewed some ground coffee, don’t throw the coffee grounds away. Sprinkle them around places that attract ants such as plants and pet food.

Boric Acid

Boric acid is a poison that has been proven an effective ant killer, especially for the queen ant and workers. It usually works after 3 weeks of exposure to boric acid. When using this ant poison, be sure to wear gloves and keep it away from children and pets.

One recipe you can use with boric acid is by mixing 1 cup of water with 8 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of boric acid. Mix them all together until the sugar and boric acid are completely dissolved. Get some cotton balls and soak them with the solution. Place the cotton balls around the house where ants had been roaming around. Boric acid can sometimes be used as an ingredient for DIY ant bait.

Diatomaceous Earth

Another effective way of killing ants is with the use of diatomaceous earth. This is not a poison but it works by absorbing the oils in an ant or bug’s skeleton until they dry out. You can use it as pest control by following the instructions in the package or by sprinkling the powder in places where you see ants. It is advisable to avoid inhaling it and to use gloves while working with diatomaceous earth as it can cause irritation.

Use a Repellent Spray

You can also use an ant repellent spray as an ant control solution. There are several repellent sprays available in the market but you can always make your own. To make your own repellent spray, you can mix peppermint essential oil with water. Add at least 20 drops of the oil with 2 cups of water and spray the solution around the windows and baseboards of your house.

If you do not have peppermint essential oil, you can use tea tree oil instead. Mix at least 10 drops of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water and spray on areas where ants will likely use an entrance. You can also use them with cotton balls and place them on different parts of the house. You can spray the solution on door frames, exterior walls, and on hard to reach areas.

Use a Non-Repellent Spray

If there are ant repellent sprays to stop ants from getting into your home, there are also non-repellent ant sprays. A non-repellent spray does not repel the ants or other insects and will not kill ants immediately. What it does is let the crawling ants pass through it unaware. Once they get in contact with the product, they will pass it on to the other ants they come in contact with and kill more ants as a result. Some non-repellent sprays kill ants without leaving any trace behind, which is one of the best ant treatments used indoors.

Use an Outdoor Insecticide

If you want to get rid of ants outside your home, you can opt for an outdoor insecticide as your main pest control. You may want to choose an insecticide that contains chemical compounds that are commonly used in bug spray or chemical spray to kill ants effectively. When using insecticide outside, mow your lawn first before spraying it. You can also spray the insecticide on shrubs, tree stumps, ant hills, and wood piles if you have any.

How to Prevent Ants From Coming Back

How to Prevent Ants From Coming Back

By now, you have probably decided which ant control would be the most effective way to solve your ant problem. Once you have eliminated the ants around your property, there is a chance that your ant problems will return after a few weeks or so. You will be surprised to find ant nests again on tree stumps or within your walls. To prevent this from happening, your ant control should not stop from eliminating them but you should also include a plan to keep them from coming back. So, here are some tips on keeping a carpenter ant and other ants away from your home.

Use Airtight Containers

Store honey, sugar, and other kitchen staples that may attract ants in an airtight container. Wipe them clean after every use to make sure you don’t leave any residue that ants may smell. To repel ants and other pantry pests, you can put a bay leaf inside your food containers. The smell of the bay leaf will repel the ants.

Put Trash Away

Make it a habit to put the trash away each night or at least make sure your trash cans have lids. If you need to throw empty juice containers, wash them before throwing them in the garbage bins.

Clean Up Spills

If you spill something whether it is juice or oil, wipe them clean right away before ants start feasting on them. You can use dry rags to clean them or use a wet rag that was soaked with soap to eliminate the smell of spilled food.

Check Your Fruit Bowl Regularly

Don’t let overripe fruits linger in your fruit bowls as they will attract ants and other common home pests. Eat them or throw them right away if you have no intention of consuming your overripe fruits. Make sure to wash your fruit bowl as well after you have discarded the unwanted fruits.

Inspect and Clean Your Bathroom Habitually

A vast majority of ant species love moisture especially the carpenter ant. They may build nests under the sink or behind tiles. To avoid an ant invasion, make it a habit to have a weekly cleaning routine and focus on your toilets, bathtubs, and sinks. Scrub your tiles with a disinfectant cleaner and wipe your drawers with soapy water.

Seal Any Possible Entryways

As part of your ant control, make sure that you seal all possible entryways, no matter how big or small they are. You can use silicone caulk to seal cracks. Make sure to repair holes on your door and window screens. If you have damaged wood on your structures, replace them immediately to avoid further damage to your home structure.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Get Rid of Ants Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of ants inside the house?

Ant infestation is a common problem in most households. If you want to get rid of ants inside your house, you may want to try some natural repellents or the least toxic way of getting rid of them.  Vinegar, salt, pepper, and lemon peels are just some of the examples of natural ant repellents. Pesticides can have serious effects on our environment which is why it is much better if you use natural repellents. Using the non-toxic approach may take a while in getting rid of ants but it is more advisable than using the toxic ones.

What keeps ants away?

There are certain scents that keep ants away. Some natural deterrents that you can find in your kitchen that ants do not like are the smell of vinegar, lemon, cinnamon, peppermint, and bay leaves. Place any of them in the place where the ants enter.  This will make your house ants-free if you do any of these simple tricks.

How do I get rid of ants overnight?

If you want to get rid of ants overnight, then your best solution would be by using borax. Make a mixture of water, sugar, and borax. Get cotton balls and wet them with the solution. Leave the cotton balls where the ants pile up. The sugar will attract the ants and once they ingested the borax, it will make a slow kill. The ingested solution will take effect overnight or within 24 hours. Just make sure you keep children and pets away from the borax. Wash your hand thoroughly after using it.

What is the best homemade ant killer?

One of the best homemade ant killers you can easily make in your home is by mixing water and dish soap. All you need to do is put the mixture of water and dish soap in a bottle sprayer and just shake it well. Spray the solution directly into the ants. In no time, you will see the ants die because the solution will choke them.

Where can you find the best pest control services to get rid of ants?

One of the best ways on how to get rid of ants is by contacting a pest control company, especially if the infestation is too large for you to handle. You may find different pest control services online around you. One advantage of searching online is you can easily compare different companies and learn about their services without having to call them first. Most of the time, you can also find client reviews online, so you can decide whether these companies had done a great job in getting rid of pests.


Have you found the best solution on how to get rid of ants within your property? Whether you have been invaded by a carpenter ant or a fire ant, it is important to use the right pest control to get rid of ants successfully. Using the wrong method may lead to more ants and bigger problems. Prevention is also the key to keeping your home ant-free. By following the tips mentioned above, you can rest easy knowing that your food and home structure are safe from ants.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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