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How-To: Getting Rid of Household Ants

There's nothing stylish or healthy about having ants marching through your home. But, unfortunately, when the weather warms up, those cold blooded little bodies have a habit of coming to your kitchen to search for food and water to bring back to their queen and growing nest. They tell their fellows in the colony where they're headed by leaving a chemical trail behind, so you may have encountered a swarm infesting your home, rather than just a straggler. Not fun. There are several important tricks to telling the little guys to stay where they belong, outdoors. To hear them,


Indoor Steps

  • Follow their trail to find the food they're after, and clean it up!
  • Then, follow their trail to the hole they used to enter your home, and plug it up!
  • Vacuum up the little dudes on the trail and any stragglers around the house.
  • Then, wash the sites of chemical trails with either soapy water or a solution of vinegar and water. Any new ants coming in will be lost, since they'll have no trail to follow.
  • If the ants return, and you feel the need to use an insecticide, try an organic, nontoxic one first. Bugs'R'Done is one option, which is made of pure orange peel oil, or you can make up your own slurry of orange peel and water. You can also place a bit of Cream of Wheat near the ant nest or on their trail, which when eaten will cause the ants to swell up and poof.
  • If a nontoxic insecticide doesn't work, try an enclosed bait trap with boric acid or abamectin on the label, and make sure the ants are taking the bait (i.e. bringing the "food" back to the queen). These enclosed traps are less toxic to humans and tamper proof (safe for children/pets).
  • In general, don't leave food out and make sure your doors, windows, and walls are properly sealed, so the ants have no reason or way to enter.

Outdoor Steps

  • Plant and tree branches and leaves that touch the house are "ant highways," so trim them!
  • Mulch, wood piles and other debris often house ant nests, so keep them away from the house.
  • If you have no luck locating the colony indoors, pouring hot soapy water on the colony outside will serve as a deterrent.
  • Don't spray a mound or colony; it'll only kill the ones on the top and could cause them to break up and start more colonies. Just use the hot water.
  • Don't sprinkle or spray pesticides around the outside of your home; it may kill other insects or animals, and it's not a good choice for environmental or health reasons.

Most of these tips were compiled from an article by Penn State's College of Agricultural Science, which you can read here.

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