Ants may be the most organized insects and excel at building colonies and foraging, but some of the ant species are a nuisance and should be cause for concern.
That solitary ant may actually be a scout ant, venturing out from its nest to explore its surroundings in search of food, only to report back to the colony.
That means there may be an ants’ nest in the vicinity which must be eradicated to prevent an ant infestation in the house.
- How to get rid of ants?
- How to get rid of Carpenter ants?
- How to get rid of Sugar ants?
- How to get rid of ants in the house?
- What do ants eat?
- How long do ants live?
Ants are one of the most successful insects on the planet, and thanks to their small size and resilience, they’re also one of the most difficult pests to get rid of. Finding out what kind of ant you have may be the key to finding their colony, and that’s what you need to do to successfully get rid of them.
Ants can have a parent colony and multiple satellite colonies in one area, and it’s important to eliminate all of them or else the ants will just keep coming back.
Another thing that makes ants difficult to get rid of is something called “ant budding”. When a colony is disturbed – for example, when you spray insecticide on it or sprinkle ant dust – the ants scatter. The surviving queen or queens (as some ant species may have multiple queens per colony) and workers then go off to establish their own separate colonies. Some common ant species that do this would be Fire ants and Pharaoh ants.
One of the most effective ways to get rid of ants across all ant species would be to use slow-acting ant bait. These are readily available in stores (or in online shops). Ants feed each other by exchanging regurgitated liquids, also known as trophallaxis. Foraging ants consume slow-acting poisoned bait, they spread it to the rest of the colony, and they die.
Look for ant trails and try to follow the ants back to their colony. If you fail to find the colony, try to find all the ant trails in your home and leave ant bait in those areas.
- Apply ant bait near ant trails or around the mound – refrain from placing it directly on top of the mound as foraging ants may not find it
- Reapply bait daily. When ants no longer appear at that ant trail, you can stop placing bait there
- If none of the bait has been taken, switch to a different type of bait (that is, from sweet-based bait, to protein-based bait, etc.)
- Do not use repellent insecticides around the bait as that will prevent ants from taking it
- Remove other food sources so the chances of ants taking the bait increase significantly
And remember, many pests enter our homes in search of food and water, so eliminating readily available food and water sources helps keep them away.
Carpenter ants are one of the largest of all ant species, and they’re usually black in color, though some Carpenter ants are also red or yellow.
They’re commonly found nesting inside wood – in hollowed out sections of trees or in wooden structures. You may be able to spot their colonies by the sawdust they leave behind. There will also be small holes in the wood where ants come in and out of. They do not eat wood, and instead chew through it to create their nests. They prefer damp or moist wood.
Carpenter ants feed on protein from living or dead insects, and are also drawn to food containing sugar and fat. When you find their ant trails, try to follow it back to their colony.
Place slow-acting ant bait along ant trails. When foraging ants consume these and share it to the rest of the colony, they will die off. It’s important that you inspect your home and place bait along all ant trails you see.
Replenish bait daily, and switch bait types (sweet-based, protein-based, grease-based, etc.) when ants are no long taking the bait. Depending on their colony’s dietary needs, this may change throughout several days.
It’s also important that you get rid of other readily available food sources so the likelihood of ants taking the ant bait increase significantly. Clean up food spillage right away, and store food in hard plastic containers with tight-fitted lids. Dispose of trash properly.
CARPENTER ANT FOAM
Drill and apply treatment to the carpenter ant colony site with aerosol foam – some brands have a crack and crevice tip so you can deliver the ant treatment more effectively. Drill small holes in an area of 2 to 6 feet to increase chances of direct contact.
Do not use liquid insecticides or metal-tipped devices around electric receptacles.
Sugar ants are ants that are attracted to sweet foods – Pharaoh ants, Carpenter ants, Pavement ants, and White-footed ants are just some of the ant varieties that are referred to as sugar ants.
They’re almost always found in kitchens, particularly in cabinets and sinks where they forage for food.
These ants may have come from outside, as ant colonies send scouts to look for food several hundred feet away in all directions, but they can also be nesting indoors – or have an outdoor parent colony as well as a satellite colony or colonies right under your nose. Whenever possible, try to follow the ant trail to find where these ants are coming from.
Leave slow-acting ant bait on ant trails and replenish bait daily. If ants are not taking the bait, switch to a different type of ant bait. It’s also important to eliminate other possible food sources to limit what the ants forage and increase the chances of them taking the ant bait.
You can also use insecticide spray and kill the ants on contact. When dealing with the nest itself, insecticide spray can work better on outdoor colonies. It can be difficult to kill all the ants using insecticide spray on an indoor colony.
Ants are very difficult to get rid of entirely – they can have parent colonies, and set up satellite colonies so even if you eliminate the ants inside of the house, they can keep coming back as long as they have a colony outside.
Ants send scouts to forage for food and water as far as several hundred feet away from their colony. If they don’t find anything interesting in your home, they move on.
ELIMINATE FOOD SOURCES
Ants, as well as many other pests, are drawn to our homes for food and water. One of the most important things you can do to keep ants and other pests away is by eliminating readily available food (and water) sources in your house. Clean food spillage right away, and keep food preparation surfaces clean. Regularly sweep and mop floors.
Store food in airtight containers, preferably in hard plastic or metal – as ants and other pests can chew through soft plastic and cardboard.
Ants also serve as food for many other pests, so having as few of them around as possible also helps eliminate many of these other pests.
SEAL ENTRY POINTS
Ants, and again, many other pests, can stray into our homes from numerous entry points. They can also enter via windows and doors.
Seal cracks and crevices, and consider installing screens on windows and weatherstripping on windows and doors to seal gaps. Trim branches from trees and shrubbery that are touching your house as these serve as pest “bridges”.
One of the most effective means of getting rid of ants is by using slow-acting ant bait. While insecticide works to kill ants on contact, bait can be brought back to the colony. They can also be ingested and fed to other ants, thereby spreading the poison. It’s a slow process, but highly effective especially against larger colonies.
Non-repellent insecticides are insecticides that pests can’t detect. So they readily crawl through places that have been sprayed by this type of insecticide, and eventually they go back to their nests and track the insecticide there. Spray along ant trails, entry points, and around your home to keep outdoor ants and other pests where they belong – outside.
You may need to spray twice a year or several times a year – when purchasing insecticides, carefully read package label instructions.
There are around 12,000 different types of ants in the world. They’re generally considered to be omnivores, and while some ants may have dietary preferences, most of them are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything.
Some ants will kill other small insects, even other ants, for food. More aggressive species, like Fire ants, may even kill a small animal for food. Other ant species forage for seeds and nuts, or drink liquids produced by plants like nectar and honeydew, and some ants cultivate fungus to eat. Ants found in human dwellings often scavenge our food – from tasty treats in our cupboards to leftover food and crumbs in our kitchen sinks.
Once an ant has found a food source, they go back to their nest to inform the other ants. They leave behind a chemical trail that other ants follow to get to the food source, and they work together to bring back food, piece by piece if they have to. They may also ingest this food and later on feed it to others back in the nest by sharing of regurgitated liquids.
Most ants have a restricted ability to deal with solid food, so they lift the food with their mandibles and masticate (or chew and mix it with saliva) so they can ingest it.
If you find ants in your home, it’s important to get rid of the food source that has brought them there – and work on eliminating other readily available food sources so they don’t stick around. Store food in airtight containers, preferably in hard plastic or metal. Clean up any food spillage right away, and regularly sweep and mop floors (especially in your kitchen).
The ant life cycle has 4 stages of development – egg, larva, pupa, and adult – and how long they live generally depends on their species, caste, and environment.
Also called drones, they are winged ants, have longer antennae, and are smaller than female ants. Their primary function is to mate with the queen or queens to produce new ants. They typically die 10 to 14 days after mating.
Most of the queen’s eggs grow up to be sterile, wingless female ants that become workers or soldiers. Worker ants are tasked with gathering food, taking care of eggs and larvae, and building and maintaining their nest. Soldier ants protect the colony.
Occasionally, winged females are also produced to mate with males. They then go off to establish their own colonies, and shed their wings.
Depending on the species, these ants can live for a few weeks, several months, or up to 3 years.
Some species of ants have only 1 queen per colony (monogyne) while other species can have multiple queens per colony (polygyne).
Regardless of species, they are often the largest ant in the colony, and often have thicker bodies. They are the most important members, ensuring the colony’s survival. They also live the longest – in the right conditions, queen ants can live for decades.
Ant colonies can live for years, or even decades if they’re relatively undisturbed and there is an abundance of food and water in the area.
There are over 12,000 species of ants in the world
An ant can lift 20 times it’s body weight
Ants don’t have lungs
Ants have two stomachs
Ants are as old as the dinosaurs
Check out our blog entries on Ants here.
- What eats ants?
- How to get rid of ants in the kitchen?
- How to get rid of fire ants?
- How to get rid of ants naturally?
- How to get rid of black ants?
- How to get rid of ants outside?
- How to keep ants away?
For a lot of people, the anteater may be the first animal that comes to mind when thinking about other creatures that feed on ants – it is uniquely designed to prey on ants and termites, after all.
They have sharp claws they can use to tear an opening into an ant or termite mound, a long snout they can position inside of it, and an even longer tongue that can extend up to 2 feet out of its mouth to catch helpless ants and termites. They can consume as many as 35,000 ants and termites each day.
Because ants are small and packed with protein, a lot of other insects (even other ants) and small animals prey on them.
Ants can bite, sting, and secrete toxic substances to defend themselves – but what makes them so effective is their ability to work together. Fire ants working together can invade a small animal’s nest to kill it for food. But these small ants, picked apart one by one by predators, hardly stand a chance.
Arachnids, beetles, caterpillars, toads, bats, insect-eating birds, and skunks are just some of the many creatures that prey on them. Aardvarks also almost exclusively feed on ants and termites. In some parts of the world, humans may also eat ants – sometimes as part of a movement to promote consuming more insects for protein.
Ants are often found in kitchens because that’s where they’ll likely get what they came for – that is, food and water (though ants get most of the water they need from the food they eat). In a lot of cases, these food sources can be unnoticed crumbs left on countertops, or improperly stored food.
Make sure you clean up food spillage right away, and keep food preparation surfaces clean. Regularly sweep and mop floors, and store food properly in airtight containers made of hard plastic or metal. Getting rid of readily available food sources means drastically fewer ants around your kitchen.
Try to identify the species of ants you have in your kitchen. Knowing can inform you of their habits and can help you find their nest. It may also affect the treatment needed to eliminate their colony.
Follow the ants back to their nest – to eradicate these ants, you’ll have to wipe out their colony.
If they came from outside, note their entry point and seal it. While it may be challenging, it would be worthwhile to inspect the rest of your home and seal off possibly pest entry points like cracks and crevices on walls. You may also want to install screens on windows and weatherstripping on windows and doors to seal gaps. While ants may still get through these gaps, it will keep a lot of other pests out.
Fire ants are known to be quite aggressive, especially Red Imported Fire ants. They use their mouth parts to grasp your skin and inject you with venom, and symptoms range from irritation to nausea. They’re called Fire ants not only because of their dull red color, but because of their sting which results in a painful, burning sensation, that eventually leads to welts and pustules.
It’s important to be able to identify what kind of ant you’re dealing with – not only would knowing the type of ant give you clues as to where they may be nesting, it would also give you an idea of how dangerous they are and how cautious you have to be in dealing with them.
Fire ant coloration ranges from reddish brown to reddish black. Their head is typically copper brown, and their abdomen much darker than the rest of their bodies. The width of their head never exceeds the width of their abdomen.
Unlike a lot of other ants, their mound does not have any distinct opening. They come and go through small underground tunnels. When their nest is disturbed, Fire ants come out to attack the intruder.
Drenching their entire mound with insecticide works great, but you’ll need large amounts of it to completely annihilate their colony. Not only do ants die upon contact, but its low vapor fumes also kills them. When buying insecticides, be sure to read the label carefully, and use with care.
When you have ants in your home, you may want to try a more natural means of eliminating them before resorting to toxic chemicals.
These are a few of the best methods for getting rid of ants naturally:
At certain concentrations, cinnamon essential oil can kill ants. However, most of the essential oils you can get in the market are only strong enough to repel ants. Cinnamon sticks and powder also work to repel them.
If you have an ant infestation in your home, you’ll be better off using something stronger.
Ants and other pests like it have a waxy outer layer on their bodies. DE, on a microscopic level, contains shards which pierces the insect’s exoskeleton and dries the insect out – eventually, it dies.
Because it’s a relatively safe and naturally-occurring material that kills all sorts of crawling insects, DE is a rock star in DIY pest control circles.
Lightly sprinkle food-grade DE on ant trails and other pest runways. You can also sprinkle it around the ant mound. Because these microscopic shards are abrasive to our lungs if we inhale enough of it, make sure to wear a mask and gloves when handling – it can also cause skin irritation and dryness, and may also irritate our eyes. Avoid using near sleeping areas (including pet sleeping areas).
Pouring boiling water on an ant mound works to kill ants – however, you’ll need large amounts of very hot water to make sure you completely drench the nest and get every ant. Otherwise, they’ll just scatter and start again somewhere else.
If you see big black ants in your home, these may be Carpenter ants – which could be a problem, as these ants are known for damaging wooden structures.
The first thing you want to do to get rid of these ants is to eliminate the reason they’re there in the first place – and that’s likely because of food. Store food in airtight, hard plastic or metal containers, and make sure you clean up any food spillage right away.
Effectively getting rid of an ant problem almost always means finding their nest and eliminating the colony. If you see a line of these black ants, try to follow it back to their nest.
Sprinkle ant dust evenly on top of the ant mound. The dust must remain dry to be effective, and the ant mound must not be disturbed. It’s a slow process, and may take several days before the ant colony dies.
If the nest is in a wall void, drill a series of small holes into the wall, at an area of 2 to 6 feet where the nest is to maximize chances of killing the queen or queens. You can purchase ant dust that comes with special tips designed to apply dust to wall voids, or use an ant duster for the best application.
Ants that have set up nests outside are not only problematic for your yard and garden, but foraging ants can also stray indoors in search of food. They may also be able to set up satellite colonies indoors, separate from the parent colony outside of your home.
If you find ants outdoors and want to get rid of them, there are several ways you can go about it.
One of the most effective means of killing off ant colonies, slow-acting ant bait works to eventually kill off all the ants in the colony so long as they keep eating it or other variations of ant bait.
When ants ingest this bait, they’ll feed it to other ants by sharing regurgitated liquids – eventually, the colony dies. It’s a slow process, but highly effective.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- To maximize chances of ants taking the bait, make sure to get rid of as many other food sources as possible
- Replenish bait often, at least once a day
- If ants are not taking the bait, switch to a different one – that is, if you’re using grease-based ant bait, switch to sweet-based ant bait. Depending on the dietary needs of the colony, foraging ants may be looking for specific types of food.
Another way to make sure ants and other pests don’t survive the trip inside your home is by spraying a non-repellant insecticide around the perimeter of your house.
When you use repellant insecticides, ants and other pests know to avoid it – as the name promises, they are repelled. But they’ll likely continue to seek another way in. With non-repellant insecticides, they won’t know that they’ve crawled through deadly insecticide until it’s too late. They may even track the insecticide back to their nest before their die.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- Depending on the insecticide you use, you may need to spray around your house twice a year to several times a year
- Cut away vegetation from where you’re spraying so there are no untreated areas where pests can come through unscathed
Ants are likely in your home because of food. When an ant colony sets up shop, they send scouts in every direction several hundred feet from the nest to forage for food, and this means they may end up scouting inside of your house (that or they’re already nesting inside of it).
ELIMINATE FOOD SOURCES
One of the best things you can do to keep ants and other pests away is by eliminating readily available food sources. That means properly storing away food in airtight, hard plastic or metal containers, because ants and other pests can easily get to food stored in soft plastic or cardboard.
Clean up food spillage right away, and keep food preparation surfaces clean. Regularly sweep and mop, especially in the kitchen – you may be surprised how much food debris can accumulate over time if the area is not properly maintained. And it’s these morsels of food that draw ants and other pests into your home.
Don’t forget that ants themselves are food to a lot of other pests, so controlling the ant population means fewer pests are attracted into your home.
Spray non-repellant insecticide around your house. Pests know to stay away from repellant insecticides – that’s what they’re for. But that also means these repelled ants are still around, and likely still looking for another way in. Ants won’t be able to detect non-repellant insecticide, and they’ll readily crawl through it and die – hopefully, not before they track the insecticide back to their nest.
Depending on the insecticide you use, you may need to spray around your property twice a year, or several times a year.
For more information about ants, check out our Ant Archives!