Ants are persistent pests. An infestation can be hard to control because of the nature of the insect, but there are specific steps you can take to get an ant problem under control. With the right ant killer and some simple preventative measures, you can stamp out ants and keep them out of your home all year round.
Ant activity spikes in the spring and fall. Changes in weather, including heavy rains or drought, can drive ants indoors looking for more hospitable areas in which to live. They can enter through any small opening in the home, and if you see one, more will soon follow.
Though small individually, an invasion of ants can cause all kinds of household problems. They can contaminate food and spread diseases, and some biting and stinging ants produce allergic reactions in humans and pets. Further, some species of ants can cause structural damage and chew through household wiring.
There can be some identification confusion between ants and termites; the two seem similar upon initial encounter, but a closer look can reveal exactly which of the pests you are taxed with.
- Have slender waists and bent antennae
- Have longer legs
- In winged specimens, front wings are longer than back wings
- Have thick waists and straight antennae
- Have shorter legs
- In winged specimens, both pairs of wings are the same length
Because ants swarm, once you have an infestation, they can be difficult to dislodge. It takes vigilance and a combination of treatments using both home and perimeter insect control, but an ant problem can typically be resolved within a week or two. Follow-up prevention is key to ensure that they do not return.
Clean up outdoors. Regular and thorough outdoor maintenance can help keep ants at bay.
- Trim back foliage, shrubs and low-hanging tree branches so that they do not touch the house and offer ants a pathway indoors.
- Rake mulch and landscape materials back to clear a 6-inch zone around the base of the house.
- Remove grass clippings, leaf and wood piles and any fallen ripe fruit from the ground to eliminate places ants might try to harbor.
- Store outdoor trash and recycle bins at least 10 feet from the house and wash them every few weeks with a strong ammonia solution to keep them cleaned out.
- Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris; this also eliminates a source of standing water which might attract ants.
Keep indoor areas clean and food-free. Limiting ants’ access to food will encourage them to move out. This may require taking additional steps beyond your normal cleaning routine.
- Deep clean your microwave regularly and wipe the interior daily.
- Clean out the inside of toasters and toaster ovens and empty and wipe the crumb tray after each use.
- Clean the inside and outside of indoor garbage cans. Use can liners and keep lids tightly closed.
- Clean floors under large appliances like the refrigerator or stove more often.
- Clean up spills or overflow on the stove as soon as possible before it has a chance to set.
- Store opened dry goods like cereal, grains or sugar in airtight containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Keep produce and bread in the refrigerator rather than on countertops.
- Clean the outside of condiment jars and ensure pantry shelves are kept clean. If you have an active ant problem, consider placing condiment jars inside resealable plastic bags.
Eliminate standing water. Easily accessible water will encourage ants, so take steps to dry up any areas water may gather.
- Dry out sinks and tubs every evening and cover the drain hole with a cap or stopper.
- Wring dry kitchen rags and sponges and hang outside to dry or store overnight in a sealed plastic bag or container.
- Keep the condensation drip pan under the refrigerator emptied and dried out.
- Check under sinks and around appliances for any leaks; if you find any unusually wet areas, you may need to call a professional for assessment and repair.
There’s not one best way to get rid of ants. Sometimes it takes many types of ant control to truly get ant populations under control. If you follow these guidelines, and keep up with preventative measures, you should be able to keep ants at bay. However, if the ant infestation gets worse, be sure to call a professional.