Eliminating Your Ant-Problems
Why do you have an ant problem?
Ants can enter your home for any number of reasons, but more than likely, they are searching for food. Your home just happens to be close to where a queen decided to set up her colony. Just like humans, ants have to eat to survive. They also have to feed their young. It’s not that they want to bother you or cause distress.
They are simply trying to eke out a living just like any other animal, insect, bug or plant on Earth. Your home represents a possible food and water source. It can also provide protection from predators and the elements, thus serving as a potential site for new colonies when they’re ready to expand. Obviously you’ll want to prevent this invasion and colonization from happening whenever you can.
How to Find Ant Nests
Sometimes the solution to an ant problem is getting rid of their nest. If you’re dealing with carpenter ants, which can do structural damage to your house, it’s vital that you wipe them out ASAP. Finding the nest may not be easy and takes some detective work. Ants generally prefer damp areas, such as framing or flooring that’s soft and spongy from a plumbing or roof leak. How to get rid of ants begins by looking for areas with water damage. Attics, bathrooms and exterior walls are obvious candidates. 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).
Tips for Dealing with Ants
Here are some tips to help you eliminate and prevent an infestation of ants in your home.
Identify Ant Trails
The key first step in eliminating an ant infestation is to identify the trails used by worker ants to move to and from the nest. Any visible ants moving inside your home are seeking food, and once an ant finds edible material, it carries it back to the nest By doing so, the ant leaves a chemical path, or trail, for its fellow worker ants to follow to collect more food.
Use Ant Bait Indoors
Avoid the temptation to simply use pesticides to spray visible ants marching along trails in your home. Pesticide sprays can eliminate a few visible ants, but more will quickly replace them, and you’ll never make real progress to eliminating the infestation. Instead, use these worker ants as the ticket into the colony by placing ant bait for them to carry back to the hidden nest.
Ant baits are edible materials, usually sweet, sugary carbohydrates, mixed with substances that are toxic to ants but which have minimal toxicity to animals or humans. Some ant baits are primarily made from boric acid, a natural substance that is entirely non-toxic to humans.
Ant baits can be “stations” containing granular materials or liquids that are sprayed onto surfaces. Whatever form of ant bait you use, try to place it close to visible ant trails but outside the reach of pets and children. The bait will work most effectively if you keep other surfaces clean so that the bait is the only sweet substance available to attract the ants.
Use Spray Pesticides Outdoors—Carefully
If you happen to follow ant trails and identify an outdoor nest for the colony, then it may make sense to apply a heavy dose of liquid pesticide that can soak down to reach the queen. Drenching the nest with an approved insecticide spray (following all label directions) can be effective. Make sure, however, to verify that this is the colony creating your indoor infestation problem. Many types of ants are helpful garden creatures that you have no reason to kill. And be aware that these pesticides are likely to be toxic to all insects, including beneficial ones, so apply them carefully according to label directions.
Keep It Clean
Sanitation is critical for the prevention and control of any pest. Like all living creatures, ants need water, food, and shelter for survival. Ants leave the shelter of their colony to find food and water. Don’t make it easy for them! Keep foods sealed, floors swept, and all surfaces cleaned. Be especially careful to keep things clean while you are targeting the nest, as this will make the sweet ant bait the only thing available to the ants. But don’t clean away the ant trails until you have eliminated the infestation, as these trails will allow the ants to find your bait and carry it back to the nest. Once the infestation has been eradicated, then clean up the trail surfaces and keep them clean.
Seal Entry Points
Ants are tiny creatures and can enter homes and buildings through minute cracks and crevices. To minimize this, seal around windows and doors and all cable, pipe, and wire entry points. Regularly inspect foundations for tiny cracks through which ants can gain entry to your home.
Outdoor Ant Baiting
Using an ant bait outdoors will allow you to exterminate ants that are farther away from your structure. We recommend you use both a liquid ant bait and a granular ant bait because ants can be picky and will sometimes only accept the liquid bait or sometimes only accept the granule bait, depending on what nutritional needs they are trying to meet. You can use both bait formulations in each station at one time. You should place the stations near areas where you are seeing high levels of ant activity. Check the stations once a week and replenish the bait as needed until the ant population has been eliminated
Sprinkle cinnamon in problem areas
Cinnamon has been touted as a natural ant repellent. Scientific research backs up the claims, but the study that looked at this technique used highly concentrated cinnamon essential oil. Sebring cautions that household cinnamon probably doesn’t have a great enough concentration to be truly effective, but he says it’s worth a shot. Sprinkle cinnamon on the areas where you have seen ants, or saturate cotton balls with cinnamon essential oil and use them to wipe down known trails and entry spots. But a word of caution: Essential oils can strip paint and stain surfaces, so test how your floor reacts in an inconspicuous area before you use it everywhere.