Ants are amazing little creatures. Through the power of a hive mind, they are able to form complex nests, fungus-farming techniques and a structured society. But even so, you better know how to get rid of ants in the house.
Although ants will hunt more annoying pests, such as fleas and bedbugs, when they decide to share your home, this fact will be of little consolation once the troops of ants start ravaging your kitchen.
Why do ants come into your home?
Ants are very practical creatures. In most cases, they like to live near (or with) us because they enjoy the same food as we do, which basically makes our homes the promised land for ants. There is an abundance of easily obtainable food, plenty of hidden spaces to build a nest, and almost no competition or predators.
So, it is easy to understand why hordes of ants regularly perform pantry raids when a few of their brethren stumble upon the paradise that is human kitchens.
Types of ants which infest UK homes
Thankfully, the ants which invade UK homes are tame in comparison to some of the more aggressive species found in warmer climates. As such, we do not have to deal with massive colonies which are capable of devouring everything in their path. There are five types of ant commonly found in homes and gardens throughout the UK. These are:
- The garden ant – these ants, as the name suggests, can be found primarily in gardens. They prefer to build nests in the soil or beneath paving stones and patios. You have surely seen lines of these little black ants following clearly defined routes to food sources. Speaking of their eating habits, garden ants have quite the sweet tooth but are also quite partial to high protein foods, such as meat and pet food.
- Roger’s ant – unlike their garden cousins, these small reddish-brown ants do not follow or leave trails for others. This is because they hunt live prey. They like to build their nests in damp areas, such as around drains and behind the cracked kitchen or bathroom tiles. These locations offer them easy access to their moisture-loving prey, such as springtails and other household pests that love dark, damp areas.
- Pharaoh’s ant – this is the most common type of ant you may find in your home as the pharaoh ant build their nests almost exclusively indoors. Pharaoh ants are voracious foragers and will swarm upon any source of food with high protein, such as meat, fat, dead insects, and blood. They tend to build their nests in hard-to-reach areas of heated buildings and, since each colony can support multiple queens, it doesn’t take long for them to build a substantial population.
- Ghost ants – these tiny, almost translucent ants are worthy of their name as they are quite easy to miss. They prefer to build their nests in areas with a lot of moisture, such as behind bathroom cabinets and under the kitchen sink. When indoors, they will forage for sweet or greasy foods.
- Pavement ants – last, but not least, is the ever-present pavement ant. These little dark ants are mostly seen during the warmer months of spring and summer but, if they nest indoors, they will swarm you all year long. Unlike the others mentioned on this list, the pavement ant is not a picky eater. They will eat whatever they can find, but their preference is similar to a lot of humans – meat, starchy substances, and sweets.
How to get rid of ants in the house
Now that we know what types of ants we can expect to find in our homes, it is time to learn how to remove the infestations themselves. When facing ants, there are two routes you can take to get rid of them yourself:
The first method is by using commercial insecticides. The second one is by using natural homemade solutions. Which one you’ll use will boil down to how you feel about using potentially toxic chemicals in your home. A process of trial and error to find the best solution for your situation is sometimes required as there are varying levels of infestation.
Regardless of whether you choose a commercial or a natural solution, there is a little bit of scouting work to do before committing ant genocide.
With ant infestations, it can be tempting to kill every ant in sight, but it is important to first take a step back to understand the ant society. The ants you see are just the workers and foragers. They are only responsible for finding food and bringing it back to the nest for their queen. You need to kill the queen in order to kill the colony. Another way is to cut their path by intervening with the chemicals they leave behind that lead the to your food.
Spend a little bit of time watching the ants in your home to discover the routes they take, as well as to find the entrances to the nest.
What’s a good organic ant deterrent found at home?
All of the home remedies can be effective nonetheless but in heavy infestations, months may pass before a full eradication. However, not every invasion is considered heavy and in some of the cases, these will work perfectly fine.
Here are some fairly effective natural ant deterrents that you can find in your home:
One of the most effective methods of getting rid of ants is to use boric acid mixed with sugar or syrup. Since ants love sweet things, they will be drawn to the mixture and carry it back for the queen to eat:
- Mix boric acid and sugar in a ratio of 1:3.
- Stir in 1.5 parts of hot water until the mixture turns into a syrup-like paste.
- Place the mixture around the entrances to the nest.
- Repeat until there are no more ants left.
Why this works
Boric acid damages ants’ exoskeletons, as well as their internal organs. Once eaten, the ants will quickly die.
While the lemon method will not kill the ants or their queen, it is a powerful deterrent and can force the colony to relocate:
- Find all ant entrances.
- Squeeze the juice of 1 whole lemon into every ant entrance you have found.
- Place leftover pieces of lemon peel around the entrances.
- Replace the peels daily until there are no more ants.
If this isn’t working, dilute the juice from four lemons in one litre of water and use a baster to squirt this concoction into the nest entrances. You can also use this mixture to clean your floor and kitchen counters to remove any scent trails used by the ants.
Why this works
Ants and other insects hate the smell of citrus and will go to great lengths to avoid it. The acidic nature of lemon juice also destroys scent trails.
White vinegar can be used in its undiluted or diluted form to get rid of ants. If you don’t mind the smell, use 1 litre of vinegar and a baster to squirt it directly into each of the nest entrances. If white vinegar smell is too strong, follow the steps below:
- Mix white vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio.
- Pour the mixture into a clean spray bottle.
- Spray your floor, worktops, skirting board, and the nest entrances.
- Wipe up any dead ants after 30-45 minutes.
- Repeat until you stop seeing ants.
Why white vinegar works
Undiluted white vinegar does kill ants shortly after they come into contact with it. However, diluted vinegar acts as a powerful deterrent due to its strong smell and its ability to remove scent trails.
This final deterrent is best used after resolving an infestation. If you find any lone ants or small groups, scout your home to kill them immediately and use one of the following essential oils to stop others from following them:
- Peppermint essential oil.
- Tea tree essential oil.
- Citrus essential oil.
How to apply
Wipe skirting boards and ant entrances with your chosen essential oil. Soak cotton wool balls in the essential oil and place in cupboards and cabinets to deter unwanted ant visitors. Repeat until ants stop visiting you.
Diatomaceous Earth (or DE for short) is arguably the most suitable natural substance that can banish the ants from the face of your home. It’s basically dust made of little algae plants’ bones, but their edges are sharp enough to penetrate through the exoskeletons of insects and kill them. If ants ingest them, the outcome is deadly, too.
Here’s how to apply DE to kill ants:
- Follow the foraging or warrior ants to locate the nest.
- Use a medicine dropper to gently sprinkle dried DE through the cracks.
- Monitor the cracks for at least 7 days.
- Repeat if needed.
Suggestions & safety measures
If you can’t find the trail, sprinkle around the most common areas where ants could lurk in or come from: the garbage bin, the windowsills, under the cupboards or behind the fridge.
Under no circumstances use DE meant for swimming pools. It contains highly concentrated crystalline silica because of its production method, which makes it ideal for cleaning pools but also harmful to pets and children if ingested.
It’s important not to mistake this with Chinese chalk, which is an insecticide by nature. We mean classroom chalk, that’s made from calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Here’s how to apply chalk to restrict ants from entering your property:
- Find where the ants are entering from.
- Draw a chalk line around the ant entry points.
- Repeat over the line at least 3 times.
- Redraw the lines in 4 days.
Why chalk works
Some species of ants dislike walking on powdery substances that can interfere with their scent trails. Calcium Carbonate is such one substance.
There are many products available for getting rid of ants, the most common being insecticide sprays. While sprays are excellent for killing the worker ants, they won’t affect the queen who is hiding in the depths of the nest. The best commercial options for removing an ant infestation are:
- Ant gel. This poisonous gel works in the same way as boric acid and sugar. It has a sweet scent and taste to attract the ants. Once it is taken back to the nest and consumed, the ants will die.
- Powdered poison. This poison is again mistaken for food by ants. As such, they will carry it back to the nest for the queen and the others to feast upon.
Professional ant treatment help
If you have tried all, or a mixture of, the methods above, but the ants are still resisting your removal attempts, it is time to call in the professionals. Pest control agencies have access to really effective pesticides that cannot be found over the counter. If the company is reputable they will also do anything in their power to use children and pet-friendly products.
When you book an ant removal service (here’s a link to our service page, that will open in a new tab), experts will first perform an inspection of your property to assess the infestation level and identify all ant entry points. Once the inspection is completed, they will apply a professional grade insecticide powder to every area the ants use to gain access to your home.
The powder is viewed as food and also has a residual effect, so it will remain effective for some time after being taken into the nest.
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Prevent invasions: How to actually get rid of the ants FOR GOOD this time
Now that you have successfully removed the ant menace from your home, the last thing you want is for another colony to take their place. Use the tips below to make sure you’ll get rid of the ants permanently this time:
- Clean. Since ants venture into our homes in search of food, one of the best ways to prevent future incursions is to keep your kitchen and home clean. Make sure to avoid leaving food out in the open and clean any spilt products, such as juice, honey or jam. Keep your floor and worktops clear of any crumbs or pieces of food as well.
- Seal any holes or cracks. To permanently get rid of ant invasions you’d need to seal any possible entrances in the exterior and interior walls. Have a look around your home and seal the places ants were using to gain entry.
- Kill scouting ants. If a “scout” discovers a good meal it goes back to the colony alerting them about the findings. It will leave a scent trail leading to the treasure. Whenever you spot a single ant scavenging your kitchen it is a Scouting ant. Kill it right there and then to prevent it from telling others where the food supplies are located.
- Wrap kitchen food in plastic bags. Whatever it is you need to leave out of the fridge for the day – store in containers or plastic bags. This will prevent scouts from getting their antennae on it, putting a stop to future ant raids.
So, there you have it, your guide to getting rid of ants in your home. Use any of the methods described and the ants won’t know what hit them. If you follow up on everything with our prevention tips, there is a good chance that you’ll keep ants out of your home for good. If all else fails, contact us for a quote and let the professionals we send you to handle it.
Image source: Maximilian/shutterstock.com
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