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How to Get Rid of Ants Inside & Outside Your Home: A DIY Guide [2023]

Frustrated by ants in your yard or home? Our guide will teach you how to get rid of ants and prevent future re-infestations.

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how to get rid of ants

Have you noticed trails of ants marching to and from your kitchen or pantry or ant hills popping up in your landscaping?

Here at The Pest Dude, we help people learn how to DIY their pest control and get rid of even the most challenging infestations.

In this post, we’ll share the top methods we use in the field so that you can learn how to get rid of ants for good.

Ant Identification 101

There are many different ant species that infest homes and yards. To control ants effectively, it’s important to know which species you have on your property.

Here’s a breakdown of the ant species that are most likely to become pests:

Carpenter ants

Group of carpenter ants

Carpenter ants are about ¼”-½” in length. Their bodies have one abdominal node. They are black to brownish-red in color and do not have stingers.

You can identify carpenter ants based on their large mandibles and tendency to build nests in moist, rotting wood.

If you have a carpenter ant infestation, confirm it by looking for wood shavings spilling out of carpenter ant nesting areas.

Pharaoh ants

group of pharaoh ants

Pharaoh ants are among the most widespread pests in the US.

Adults of the species are about 1.5-2 mm long with 12-segmented, clubbed antennae and two abdominal nodes. Their eyes are relatively small, and their bodies range from light brown to yellow to red.

These ants like warm, moist conditions, which means they only nest outdoors in the Southern latitudes. In colder climates, they infest heated buildings.

Unfortunately for homeowners with pharaoh ant infestations, these pests are one of the more challenging ant species to control.

Fire ants

fire ants

Fire ants have two abdominal nodes and reddish-brown bodies that are 1/16”-¼” in length.

They have a prominent stinger on the end of their abdomen and are common in the Southeast and Southwest portion of the US.

When fire ants are present, they create soil mounds and nests in outdoor areas like lawns and gardens.

Little black ants

little black ants

Little black ants have black bodies that are about 1/16” long. They’re some of the smallest pest ants and are common in southern California and throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

These ants have two abdominal nodes and a highly visible stinger. They love to consume sugars, grease, and oil.

Pavement ants

pavement ants

Pavement ants have two abominable nodes and are light brown or black. Their bodies are about ⅛” long, and they have a stinger on their abdomen.

They’re common throughout the West Coast, Midwest, and Northwest US and are not found in the Southeast, Southwest, or Rocky Mountain region.

What’s the Difference Between Ants and Termites?

At first glance, ants and termites look similar – especially during the spring and fall seasons when winged ants are flying around in search of new nests.

There are, however, a few reliable ways to tell ants and termites apart.

  • Ants have well-defined, noticeable waists with bent or clubbed antennae and long legs.
  • Winged ant species have longer front wings than back wings.
  • Termites have thick waists and straight antennae with short legs.
  • While not all termites have wings, the ones that do have two pairs of wings that are the same length.

What Attracts Ants to Your Home or Yard?

Wondering why you have ants in your home or around your property?

Here are a few things that may attract them:

1. Food

The food preferences of ants change seasonally.

Generally, all ant colonies need to consume foods from each of the major food groups – carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.

Here’s a quick breakdown of common food sources and the types of ants who prefer them:

Food PreferenceAnt Species
Carbohydrates are usually sugars like honeydew and plant nectar.Argentine, Carpenter, Ghost, OHA, White-footed
Lipids are fats, oils, and grease.Crazy, Fire, Thief
Proteins are meats and seeds.Big-headed, Carpenter, Fire, Pavement, Pharaoh

When ants live indoors, they’ll consume pet food and human scraps and quickly swarm spills, dirty dishes, and other easy food sources.

2. Moisture

Ants don’t need much moisture to survive, and they can usually satisfy their hydration needs through the food they consume. Some ants, however, are attracted to damp areas.

For example, Carpenter ants and pharaoh ants love moist places like bathrooms or mulched areas beneath a leaking outdoor faucet.

Because of this, controlling moisture is usually one of the best ways to control ant populations.

Important Safety Tips

If you’re taking a DIY approach to ant control, protecting yourself, your family, your pets, and non-target species is essential.

Here are a few critical safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Use baits and poisons carefully

If you’re going to use ant baits or poisons, follow all label directions carefully.

Ant baits and poisons can be highly toxic to people, pets, and other animals, so it’s essential to handle them carefully.

2. Keep kids and pets away

Before you treat an area for ants, secure the space and prevent kids and pets from entering.

If you’re spraying pesticides, follow label directions regarding dry times before you allow kids and pets back in the area.

3. Wear PPE

When handling pesticides or baits, wear PPE, including gloves, long sleeves, and long pants. If you’re spraying chemicals, wear a mask, as well.

After you’ve finished the pesticide application, remove your clothing outside or in the garage and wash your hands thoroughly.

How to Get Rid of Ants in the House

how to get rid of ants inside house

1. Use baits

In recent years, ant baits have become the go-to method to eradicate ants indoors.

In addition to being safer than traditional insecticides for indoor use, they provide quick knockdown for various ant species.

Today, there are two main categories of ant baits:

  • Protein-based baits
  • Carbohydrate-based baits

There are also a variety of commercial bait formulations available, many of which contain ingredients like fipronil, indoxacarb, or boric acid and come in granular, liquid, or gel formulations.

As you choose an ant bait, read the product label carefully since each bait may only be effective for colony kill of a certain species.

We usually recommend boric acid baits for indoor use, since they’re commonly formulated with the food bases ants prefer, including sweets, grease, and protein.

  • To set baits properly, remove other competing food sources and place the baits in areas where you’ve noticed ant activity.
  • Put the baits near ant trails, but avoid putting the bait in the middle of an ant trail or on the ants themselves since this will teach them to avoid the bait.
  • Check your bait stations at least once a week until ant activity has stopped.
  • Replace boric acid baits frequently so they remain fresh and moist as long as ants are alive to consume them and transport them back to the colony.
  • Maintain intensive baiting efforts for at least two weeks, after which you can use survey baits to monitor remaining ant activity.

2. Apply an insecticide

Next, use a residual insecticide to treat areas where ants may be entering your home.

For best results, apply an insecticide (like this one) around your doors, windows, baseboards, and other cracks or crevices that could be ant harborage areas.

This product contains thyme oil and rosemary oil, so it’s safer for indoor use than products that contain harsh pesticides or insecticides.

3. Treat nests directly

Finally, get rid of ants indoors by locating and treating their nests directly. Indoors, ant nests are most likely to exist in wall voids, between baseboards and molding, or in cabinets beneath sinks.

For the quickest knockdown, we recommend treating every active ant nest you can find with a natural pyrethrin spray or with a plant-derived essential oil spray like the one we recommended in the last step.

As you shop for products, buy formulas (like the EcoVia product) designed for indoor use and marked safe for kids and pets.

If you can’t treat nests directly, apply boric acid or inorganic desiccating dust for residual ant control.

How to Get Rid of Ants Outside

how to get rid of ants outside

Eliminate outdoor ant populations with these DIY steps:

1. Start with an inspection

To get rid of ants outdoors, it’s essential to know what kind of ants you’re dealing with and what’s drawing them to your property.

The inspection is also critical because treating colonies directly is the best way to eliminate ant populations, and a thorough examination will often reveal that you have more than one ant colony in your yard, garden, or outdoor space.

Outdoor ants usually nest in the ground but may also build nests under stones, boards, concrete slabs or sidewalks, or in stumps or logs.

In addition to identifying apparent nest and colony locations, you should look for signs of ant activity, including ant swarms and other aggregations, and identify moisture sources the ants may be utilizing, including but not limited to the following:

  • Leaking irrigation sprinkler heads
  • Sunken water meter or control valve boxes
  • Moist areas under potted plants, in moist areas, or under heavy vegetation
  • Clogged rain gutters
  • Bird baths
  • Condensation around HVAC lines
  • And more

Once you’ve identified moisture sources, try to determine what the ants are feeding on in the landscape and remove or reduce those food sources as much as possible.

Finally, look for active foraging trails used by the ants.

These usually form around edges or other structural guidelines like the base of walls, the roof line, along gutters and downspouts, or the edges of sidewalks, patios, and foundations.

Pro Tip: Can’t figure out where the ants are nesting or foraging? Use survey bait. Survey baits are non-toxic baits like a solution of 10% table sugar in distilled water, honey/water solutions, jelly, peanut butter, or bits of fresh meat (like hamburger or liver). Use more than one type of survey bait, place your bait stations out at dusk, and experiment with different combinations and placements until you’ve identified high-traffic areas.

2. Destroy the nest

If you’ve found ant nests in the soil, the easiest way to get rid of the infestation is to spray or drench them with a residual insecticide solution (like this one).

If the nest is mounded, it may help to scrape off or break up the mound just before you apply the treatment.

3. Apply an insecticide to the nest

Now that you’ve identified ant nests, colonies, and forage trails and destroyed visible nests, it’s time to treat the affected areas.

Sometimes, you can force a dust pesticide into the nest gallery (like this one). If you use this option, make sure to water-in the solution thoroughly after application.

If the nest is in the soil, you can treat it with a sprayable residual insecticide solution (like this one) to provide quick colony knockdown.

4. Set bait

If you can’t find the ants’ nest, you’ll need to rely on baits.

The most effective baits are granular baits (like this product) that can easily be scattered in areas where ants are foraging or placed in bait stations designed to attract ants while keeping baits safe from kids, pets, and non-target species.

Another popular option is gel baits (like this option), which can be either sugar- or oil-based and are best offered to ants within the confines of a bait station.

Be advised that if you use baits, you must supplement treatment with additional insecticide applications to visible mounds and ant nests.

For best results, leave a few days between applications so that the foraging ants aren’t all repelled from the area where you applied the bait.

5. Apply a residual insecticide

Once you’ve treated ant nests and mounds or set out ant bait, treat all exterior surfaces, including walls, doors, windowsills, and other possible ant entry points with a residual insecticide.

Be sure you also treat any potential ant runways, including structural elements like pillars, steps, door and window moldings, and natural elements like tree limbs, vines, and shrubs with the insecticide.

Finally, treat the soil surface along the perimeter of your building with the residual insecticide.

As a general rule, we recommend using a microencapsulated insecticide (like this one) for this application since they’re more practical for soil treatment.

Alternatively, you can use a residual pesticide with ingredients like chlorfenapyr, dinotefuran, fipronil, imidacloprid, or thiamethoxam, since they’re suitable for general ant suppression.

When workers come into contact with these chemicals, they’ll bring them back to the colony’s nest area, killing the entire colony in days.

Ant Control Myths

Whatever you do, don’t waste your time on these common ant control myths:

❌Cinnamon kills ants

While cinnamon oil will repel ants, it doesn’t kill them or keep them away.

❌Vinegar kills ants

Vinegar doesn’t kill ants. All it does is remove the scent trails ants leave behind them, confusing the rest of the colony.

❌Leaving uncooked grains out will kill ants

The idea behind this myth is that ants will consume the uncooked grains, which will then expand in their stomachs – killing them quickly.

Unfortunately, there’s no truth to this myth. In ant colonies, only the oldest members of the colony can digest solid food – the majority of ants, including adults, workers, and reproductive ants, can only digest liquids.

How to Prevent Reinfestation

Once you’ve gotten rid of ants, use these tips to keep them from returning:

  • Reduce moisture. As much as possible, remove moisture sources and standing water in and around your home. Repair leaking pipes, check the space under sinks for moisture, use a dehumidifier in damp places like basements and crawl spaces, avoid overwatering potted plants, empty pet bowls regularly, and keep your outdoor downspouts and gutters clean so they’re able to divert water away from your home.
  • Get rid of decayed wood. If you have a carpenter ant infestation, remove and replace decaying wood in your home or outdoor structures to prevent future infestations.
  • Maintain your landscaping. Cut back tree branches, shrubs, and other landscaping plants that touch your home to prevent forager ants from using them to travel to and enter your space.
  • Eliminate or secure food sources. Keep your kitchen clean and tidy to deter ants. Clean up all spills promptly, wipe down counters, and sweep floors daily to get rid of crumbs. Seal pantry goods and pet food in airtight, pest-proof containers, and keep all ripe fruit in the refrigerator. Keep garbage in a lidded trash can, and empty it nightly.
  • Seal entry points. Inspect the outside of your home for access points ants could use to get inside, including brush and branches near the home’s exterior, cracks and crevices around doors, windows, or your home’s foundation, and areas where utility pipes enter your home. Trim bushes and trees and seal all gaps and cracks with caulk to keep ants out.

Are Ants Invading Your Home or Yard? Give us a Call!

Whether your DIY efforts have failed or you just want more assistance, hiring a professional pest management company is the best way to get rid of ants in and around your home.

At Pest Dude, we have a broad network of reputable partners in your area that can help.

Call us at (844) 532-0076 or fill out the form below, and we’ll connect you with one of our local partners!

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Ant Control FAQs

It’s typical for species like pavement ants, red imported fire ants, large yellow ants, and Argentine ants to nest under stone or sidewalks outside.

In basements, spot treatments with residual insecticides should be applied to areas where ants are entering. We also recommend treating voids in the wall with a dust pesticide formulation.

The first step is to destroy the ants in all the colonies around the home. From there, we recommend eliminating high-moisture environments and replacing decayed wood, which will deter carpenter ants from entering your home or structure. For complete carpenter ant removal, work with a qualified pest management company.

zachary smith crop

Author Bio: Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is the founder of Zachary is a licensed pest control professional with 25+ years of hands on experience eradicating pests from homes and businesses. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002. He specializes in rodent and insect infestation management of structures and landscapes. His passion is to share his extensive knowledge with the world.

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