Ants can be a problem in any household, and may be frustrating to get rid of once they have entered your space. Generally, if they are coming in from the outdoors, they will be a seasonal problem if you live in the northern climes. If you live down in the more temperate south, ants can be a hassle all year long. But if they have established a colony in your house or home, regardless of where you live, they will be year round pests.
So, we will need to break this down into two distinct parts:
- Ants that are foraging from the outside, and
- Ants that have established a colony in your home
Virtually all outside ants are foragers, and the only reason they are in your home is for the food potential. What many people don’t realize is that ants are in virtually every living space that you are in, but if there is no worthwhile food to be found, they won’t stick around. That’s one of the reasons why, if you spill sugar or syrup on the floor or in a cabinet one day, the ants will mysteriously appear, seemingly overnight. They have always been there, you just didn’t know it.
It probably goes without saying that prevention is worth a pound of cure. That means for sweet eating and grease eating ants, your counters, cabinets, floor and stove top must be clean, clean, clean. Ants may show up and inspect the area, but if there is nothing to eat, they won’t soon come back. Even that little bit of sugar you spill from a spoon as you are adding it to your morning coffee, will bring ants on the run. And once they leave pheromone trails for others, which is how they “talk” to each other, they will keep coming back again and again. Large trails, made by a lot of ants, means “yummy ahead,” while slight trails, made by one or two, means “not to bother.”
Vinegar, Ammonia and Citrus, Oh My!
Any or all of the above listed substances will destroy the pheromone pathways, and curtail ants from coming back. At least for a while, anyway. You can mix ammonia with water and wipe down counters, baseboards, windowsills, or wherever else you see the ants coming in from. Cracks where the counter meets the wall are very common entry ways for ants. Make sure to target them without fail.
Vinegar and citrus extract can be sprayed right from the bottle, and are easy to dispense where you want them. Use liberally, and let them dry naturally. That leaves more of the essence intact, which will deter ants for a longer time period.
Taking the Offensive
You really can look at an ant invasion like it is a war. Spraying and wiping down counters and keeping them clean, won’t get rid of ants, but it will deter them. If you want to solve the problem, you’ll have to take the offensive.
One of the best natural ant killers is mixing boric acid with powdered sugar, or if they are grease eating ants, mixing it with grease. This works because ants take food back to the colony to feed the queen and the larvae, and once ingested, boric acid will literally cause them to dehydrate. It may take a few days, but it will work, you’ll just have to be patient.
If you don’t want to go natural, get an ant bait. Believe it or not, most of them are also made with boric acid, and the best ones are the sugary sweet liquids laced with the stuff. They are usually self contained, so the ants enter a little compartment, feed on the liquid, and go back to the colony. However, if you know exactly where they are coming in, you can get a liquid in a bottle that you can dispense. A few drops at the entry point, and you won’t see ants again. This happens because they are leaving a pheromone trail, and the trail gets bigger and more intense with each feeding ant. It stops at the food source, and that spells doom for the ants.
These types of ant baits, or ant traps as they are also commonly known, are available at hardware stores everywhere, and they will kill entire colonies of ants within a day or so.
In most cases, inside ants are called carpenter ants. We used to call them “giant ants” when I was a kid, because compared to other household ants, they are three times larger. You can positively identify them by looking at their head and antennae. The head will be heart shaped and the antennae will have a downward pointing elbow.
Carpenter ants will literally burrow into the wooden frame of your house, and much like termite infestation, they can cause serious structural problems in the years to come.
In general, they won’t come into your house, which makes finding them much more difficult to locate. The best ways are to check out the immediate surrounding of your home during the evening with a flashlight because carpenter ants do most of their foraging at night in darkness. Or, put your ear up to a wall. If you hear light rustling, scratching and gnawing noises, chances are you have a carpenter ant infestation.
Carpenter ants are wood lovers, and they will generally invade a house or home by a “bridge.” Overhanging branches, wood piles or even stacked firewood next to the side of a building are all bridges that carpenter ants will employ. By removing all of these bridges, you’ll inhibit carpenter ant infestation and save the time and the effort in eradication.
Taking the Offensive
Unlike outside ants coming into your space to feed, who are only coming in for the food, once carpenter ants are in, they are in for good. There is no chasing them away with vinegar or ammonia. It’s time to go to war.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to locate where they are actually getting in. This may not be as hard as it seems. Carpenter ants will leave little piles of sawdust at their entrance points. They do this because as they burrow, they push all of the waste wood and debris back out of the hole. Rarely will they exit inside of your house, so look around on the exterior for little piles of sawdust.
Just like sweet eating ants, carpenter ants cannot resist sugar or syrup. You can literally use the same formulas for sweet eating ants inside of your house that you can use for carpenter ants outside. However, placement of the bait is the key here.
Finding the location of where the ants are entering is critical for this procedure. The bait must be placed on the path that they use to get in and out of your home. If you don’t do that, the chances are that they won’t find it. Plus, since you are doing this on the exterior of your house, you must take the weather and weather patterns into consideration.
If you put out sweet bait on the night it rains, it will do absolutely no good. The water can wash away or dilute the bait so much that it will have no effect. Hot and dry spells are excellent for liquid bait, and make sure the bait is in place at dusk, when carpenter ants forage.
Also, there may be several places where the ants enter. Worse, they may not all be of the same colony, so each entry point must be baited to kill the colony that is using it.
Again, just like inside ants, it may take a few days to eradicate the colony. But as always, patience and perseverance will win the day in your battle with ants of any type.