How to Get Rid of Ants in the House & Your Yard
Put an end to most ant problems with inexpensive products from the home center or hardware store, and save the expense of hiring an exterminator.
I.D. the Ant
Take a close-up photo of the ant and send it to your local university extension service (enter your state’s name and “university extension service” into any online search engine). The extension service will tell you the type of ant you’re dealing with and where it nests. They may give you fact sheets about the ant species and maybe even some advice on getting rid of that particular ant species. Plus, check out these 26 tips for controlling pests in and around your home.
Watch this video for some super-simple solutions for keeping ants out of your house:
Keep it Clean to Deter Ants
A clean house is your first defense against ants. Sweep up food crumbs, wipe up spills, take out the garbage and don’t leave dirty dishes sitting around the house. This takes away the ants’ food source. Spray vinegar mixed with water around bowls of pet food to keep ants from feasting there.
Erase Ant Trails
Where you see one ant, you’re bound to see others. That’s because ants leave a scented trail that other ants follow. Sweeping or mopping isn’t enough to eliminate the scent. Instead, mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water in a spray bottle, then spray wherever you’ve seen ants in the past. This will stop outdoor nesting ants that entered the house to forage for food (ants that come inside are not necessarily trying to establish a nest).
Vinegar and water won’t stop ants that are already nesting indoors. You’ll need to kill them with ant bait.
Determine the Best Ant Bait
Prebait ants in areas you’ve previously seen them. Ants’ tastes change during the year. They usually prefer protein in the spring and sweets or fatty/oily foods in the summer. Set out sugar or honey, fried food and peanut butter, then see which food attracts ants. Use whichever food they prefer for bait.
Once you know what the ants like, buy and set out toxic ant bait that’s geared to their taste. Look on the bait package for words like “controls both sweet and grease eating ants.” Stop ants from coming in the house by using this around your yard.
Wipe Out Ant Colonies
is the best way to kill ants for many sweet-loving ants. Other ants prefer solid bait. If you still have ants in house after two weeks, replace the bait containers. If that doesn’t work, how to get rid of ants next means finding the nest.
Find Ant Nests
Cut small holes in water-damaged walls to track down the ant nest. (You’re going to have to repair the walls anyway.) When you find the nest, spray it with an insecticide that contains bifenthrin, permethrin or deltamethrin (look on the label). is one brand. Be sure to fix the water leak and replace damaged wood. If you can’t track down the nest, hire a pest control service. Pros spend about 80 percent of their time hunting down nests. Their fees start at about $150, but tough cases with multiple treatments can cost $400 or more.
Image courtesy of Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota
Spray Ant Entry Points
Once dry, the spray leaves an invisible film that repels ants so they won’t enter the house. Each spring, spray the insecticide to guard against ants. But keep in mind that this only works to keep ants out—it won’t kill ants that are already inside, and it can actually interfere with the use of ant baits. Kill more than just ants with this .
Spray on an Ant Barrier
Destroy Exterior Ant Nests
Image courtesy of Mike Merchant, Texas A&M
Kill Ants in Your Yard
For large-scale ant problems on how to get rid of ants, use a lawn and garden insect killer that contains bifenthrin as the active ingredient. The spray will also kill other insects (read the label for a list).
- First, mow the grass.
- Then spray the insecticide on the entire lawn—you can also spray shrubs and trees.
Spray in the early morning or late afternoon when the ants are most active. And it’s best to spray on a calm day to prevent drift. If ants are still building mounds after six weeks, treat the lawn again (the insecticide works for up to six weeks). You won’t kill every ant in your yard (nor would you want to!), but spraying will eliminate most of them and stop the annoying mounds. Keep those pests away with these natural remedies.
Kill Fire Ants with Bait
You need a special product that’s designed to wipe out and the best wall to kill ants and these biting critters. Apply the granules with a broadcast spreader.
Fire ants carry the granules, which they think are food (it’s actually toxic bait) back to their mounds. The ants share the bait and die. Some of these insecticides keep killing fire ants for up to a year. As with other baits, it may take a few weeks for you to see full results.
Eliminate Safe Havens for Ants
- Trim back bushes, shrubs and trees that brush against your siding or roof that provide a bridge for ants to reach your house. Remove these pests and find out how they gained entry to stop future incursions.
- Keep a 3-in. to 6-in. clearance space between the soil around the foundation and the bottom row of siding to prevent ants from nesting in the siding (and make sure the soil slopes away from the house).
- Avoid stacking firewood next to the house. Firewood makes a perfect retreat for ants.
- Ants like bare spots in the yard and they like to build nests under layers of thatch. Maintaining a healthy lawn is one way to get rid of ants.
- If anthills pop up in bare areas, spray the mound with insecticide and plant grass in the bare spots in order to get rid of ants.
- Rake the lawn or bag the grass when you mow to eliminate thatch.
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