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No matter where you live, ants will eventually be an uninvited houseguest. And while a few ants here and there might be annoying but not worrisome, an entire colony of ants can transfer bacteria, eat and contaminate your food and even bite or sting. At some point, we will all need to know how to rid our homes of pests like ants and fruit flies. SPY’s guide detailing how to prevent and get rid of ants covers all the bases for you.
Although most common in the summer months, ants can pop up at any time — especially if your kitchen counters often have crumbs or spills on them. You may also find these tiny pests regularly turning up in your backyard while gardening. Fortunately, ants are a common problem with plenty of available remedies, both natural and chemical.
How to Prevent Ants
There are several ways to deter ants from coming into your home and outdoor areas. These include several purchasable products as well as a few DIY methods.
In general, it’s difficult to predict when and if ants will appear. However, if you have spots that regularly become home to ants or you start seeing more and more ants around, these products can help you prevent an infestation before it even has a chance to begin.
1. Mighty Mint Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil Spray
BEST SPRAY DETERRENT
Mint is a natural deterrent for ants. This Mighty Mint Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil Spray builds on that with its all-natural, mint oil–containing formula. It comes in the form of an easy-to-use spray bottle, meaning it won’t leave oily drops all over your home. All of the bug-fighting ingredients are also derived from plants, with the star ingredient an ant-deterring 4% peppermint oil solution.
2. Great Value Lemon 100% Juice
BEST HOME REMEDY
One popular home remedy is to use citrus-containing products. In general, bitter or sour ingredients help to keep ants away, so you can consider adding lemon peels to ant hotspots or squeeze some juice in the area, like this Great Value Lemon 100% Juice. Orange will also work. You can make or purchase a lemon-based cleaner — we’ve included a few in our round-up.
3. Watkins Gourmet Spice Organic Crushed Red Pepper
Red pepper is one possible answer to getting rid of ants you may have in your kitchen cupboards. Black pepper or red pepper, like this Watkins Gourmet Spice Organic Crushed Red Pepper, possesses a strong odor that deters ants from coming close. This makes it ideal for using on existing ant trails to prevent further exploration, or mixing up in a spray bottle to actively deter ants by applying it to a nest.
4. Harris Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
This non-toxic, ground freshwater diatomaceous earth is both filler- and additive-free, in addition to being easy to use in backyards and gardens or on sidewalks. Simply apply a thin layer to any known ant trails and wait for the diatomaceous earth to kill the ants.
5. Majestic Pure Tea Tree Essential Oil
BEST ESSENTIAL OIL
While humans enjoy the smell of tea tree oil, ants don’t. Mix a few drops of this Majestic Pure Tea Tree Essential Oil with water and try spraying it over ant-affected areas to deliver a near-immediate answer to your tiny pests. The oil is also made from non-toxic, additive-free and unfiltered premium-quality ingredients. These premium oils are available in other appealing scents, including peppermint, clove leaf, black pepper and cedarwood.
6. BioAdvanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control
BEST FOR PROTECTING PLANTS
Amazon users love the BioAdvanced 701520A Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control as it offers season-long protection for a range of plant types. The formula has been specially formulated to deter insects and other pests from infesting fruit-bearing trees, vegetables and other plants. Mix the solution with water and apply it to your plants, either at the start of the season or at the first sign of insects.
7. Jackie’s Kitchen Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
This Jackie’s Kitchen Ultrasonic Pest Repeller uses low-frequency ultrasonic waves to keep ants away. Each versatile device is suitable for up to 1600 square feet and ideal for use in homes, warehouses, offices, gardens and hotels. With this method, no foreign ingredients enter your home or risk harming a member of your household. Furthermore, multiple shoppers were wowed by how well it worked on everything from bats and mice to crickets and bedbugs.
How to Identify Ants
You may think that all ants are basically the same. However, there are just shy of 1,000 species of ants that call the U.S. home and when it comes to getting rid of ants, a correct identification is key.
When it comes to identifying ants, there are plenty of online resources to help you out. Try this how-to guide for a quick and easy way to identify your problematic pests. It can also be a good idea to find out what exact species are present in your geographical location. Here are the most common ant species, along with some handy ID-ing tips, including general length and coloration.
- Carpenter Ants – 6.35mm/blackish/swarming
- Fire Ants – 3.18 – 6.35mm/coppery–brown/potential painful sting
- Sugar Ants – 1.57 – 3.18mm/yellowy/powerful jaws
- Black House Ants – 2.5 – 3mm/black/like kitchens
- Harvester Ants – 6.35 – 12.7mm/reddish/seasonal swarming/aggressive biters
- Argentine Ants – 1.6mm/light to dark brown/biters
- Pharaoh Ants – 1.5 – 2mm/yellow and brown/year-round swarming
- Thief Ants – 0.5 – 3mm/pale yellow or brown
What Are Flying Ants?
If you’re looking at our list of commonly encountered ants and wondering why flying ants don’t feature, it’s because flying ants are not a species of ant. Interestingly (for some people at least), most species of ant produce a form of ant that can fly. However, this may only occur when they become sexually mature and only at certain times during the year. So if you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of flying ants, you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of ants in general.
Ants of North America: A Guide to the Genera
You don’t need to know everything about every ant to get rid of one. However, it never hurts to know more. As you read Ants of North America: A Guide to the Genera, we’re confident you’ll find plenty of interesting facts about ants that you never knew. The book is also illustrated with a wealth of pictures to help identify ants more easily and quickly. Plus, it comes with a list of all of the currently recognized ant species in the U.S.
Chemical Methods to Get Rid of Ants
Chemical-based products or commercial bait traps usually work more quickly and effectively than natural methods. However, they do involve the use of potentially harmful chemicals. If you choose chemical-based ant removal, be sure that the chemicals are kept away from children and pets along with any food or dishes you cook with.
1. TERRO Indoor Liquid Ant Killer Baits
These pre-filled ant baits use borax to swiftly attract and kill ants. The sugary liquid works to disrupt the ant’s digestive system, but before it’s killed, it has time to return to the colony and share the mixture . Consider placing them around baseboards or on counters, but be sure to first clean these surfaces of crumbs or other sources of food. If you’re looking to avoid spray pesticides, these non-intrusive traps get to work immediately.
2. Raid Ant & Roach Killer Fragrance-Free Spray
If you’re looking for an aerosol-based way to get rid of ants, Raid offers a foolproof remedy that’s helped millions. Completely fragrance-free, you don’t have to worry about any lingering scents in your home. With a single spray, its unique formula doesn’t just kill on contact — it keeps being effective for up to four weeks, and also works on roaches, crickets and household spiders.
3. Raid Max Double Control Ant Baits
These Raid Max Double Control Ant Baits make removing ants from your home a simple task. Inside each of these ant-specific traps, two types of bait are used to both attract and eventually kill ants. Once located, ants feed on the bait and take it back to their colony, helping to kill other ants found in the nest. These popular pest reducers also act quickly, producing visible population reductions in as little as three days, in addition to lasting up to three months after a treatment.
4. Eliminator Ant, Flea & Tick Killer Plus Granules
What’s another popular way to take care of ants? Granules. This ant, flea and tick killer uses small grains that you scatter around your home’s perimeter, both indoors and outdoors on your lawn or to protect your garden. You can do this manually or with a handheld broadcast spreader. Just one bag can cover a whopping 16,000 square feet, so if you don’t want to waste money on restocking, Eliminator is an affordable investment.
5. Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer
BEST FOR FIRE ANTS
If fire ants are more of an issue than sugar ants, go for this treatment, which can take care of up to 164 mounds with just one bottle. Just sprinkle the formula over the mound and watch it start working within an hour — no water required. This solution is ideal if your ant issue is mostly outdoors or surrounding ornamental plants, but if you’re an apartment dweller, it also works if you place it around your doors, baseboards or balcony doors.
6. Syngenta Optigard Ant Bait Gel
This Syngenta gel bait comes in the form of a tube with a plunger, using a potent active ingredient to take care of all indoor and outdoor ant species. The thickness of the gel works to stick onto countertop edges, under ceilings and more. One buyer says, “After squeezing out drops in a bunch of spots we saw an almost total drop in ant sightings.”
7. Aunt Fannie’s Ant Remedy
Wondering how to get rid of ants without toxic compounds? Consider Aunt Fannie’s sprayable Ant Remedy, which kills ants on contact without any overwhelming chemical smells. For this reason, more buyers feel safe using this product in their kitchen or around pets and children. Others use it to get ants out of their bird feeder without harming the birds. However, it’s worth noting that a customer writes, “It does leave oil on any surface once it dries so it does need to be cleaned up afterward instead of spray and go.”
8. Florida Laboratories Boric Acid Powder
Although extremely effective at killing insects, boric acid should always be kept away from pets and kids and you should always wear gloves when handling. Mix half a teaspoon with eight teaspoons of sugar and a cup of warm water, soaking cotton balls in the mixture and placing them in problem areas of your home.
Natural Methods to Get Rid of Ants
Choosing natural, eco-friendly methods may be a better route to take if you’re worried about pets or children potentially touching chemicals or breathing in toxins. Plus you may already have a number of these products in your home, making them a quick and easy answer to dealing with ants. It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re looking for how to get rid of ants naturally outside or inside, many of the natural products that prevent ants will work for getting rid of ants, too.
1. Heinz Distilled White Vinegar
BEST HOME HACK
White vinegar both kills and repels ants naturally. This affordable method involves either creating a diluted vinegar solution mixed with water or using straight vinegar if you can handle the scent. Create a spray solution or wipe directly on a damp cloth. You can also use this naturally bacteria-fighting solution to clean your countertops and floors, which can help keep ants away for the foreseeable future. Don’t worry — after the vinegar dries, the scent becomes unnoticeable for most people.
2. EcoRaid Ant & Crawling Insect Killer
EcoRaider’s spray uses actual citrus, instantly killing ants and breaking down their trails while preventing re-grouping. Not only is it more health-conscious than pesticide-filled products, but it works better according to Amazon reviewers.
3. Mueller Ultra Kettle
One of the quickest and most effective ways to destroy an anthill or colony of ants is to pour boiling water over/in it. The high-temperature water (above 150 degrees Fahrenheit) instantly kills the ants and everything inside the nest, leaving you with an ant-free space. This Mueller Ultra Kettle features a seven-cup capacity and an easy-pour handle, making it a great choice for producing tea or coffee before removing troublesome ants.