Ants are pests that everyone is familiar with. Small, large and even able to fly in some cases, ants can and will invade your home during the spring, summer and fall months. And they may even make themselves at home in your home.
Carpenter ants (the big, fat ones) may even burrow through your home’s wood and live inside these little holes, making them very difficult to get rid of properly.
If you’re like most people, you’ll want to learn how to get rid of ants at some point in your life. The good news is that you’ll be able to take numerous measures to keep ants at bay. But don’t expect an ant-free world – it won’t happen. What you can expect is an ant-free dwelling.
Table of Contents
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- What Ants Eat
- 6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Ants
- 5 Natural Ant Repellents
- 5 Ways to Get Rid of Ants Naturally – Without an Exterminator
What Ants Eat
Ants are after two things: food and water. These two life essentials are what most insects and animals will be drawn to when migrating and finding a new place to live. And if you’re noticing that ants are starting to overrun your home, it means they have found a food source, or there is a food source nearby.
Water is a must-have for ants, so they’ll gravitate to any source of water that is available.
When it comes to what ants actually eat, this can be broken down into two categories:
What Ants Eat Outdoors
Whether it seems like it now or not, the majority of ants live outdoors and not in your home. These ants will eat a variety of different food items – they probably have a more diverse diet than you.
Ants will eat:
- Sugars and Fruit: Ants love sweet substances. Sugary foods are the weakness of ants, and they will look for sugar in a variety of different areas. Fruits, plants and flowers will be eaten by ants. Nectar and sweet liquids left from aphids, called honeydew, will also be a major part of the ant’s diet.
- Seeds and Grains: Certain types of ants, harvester ants in particular, will look to plants to try and harvest their seeds for food. These ants will also focus on other plant material, such as grass and leaves. Grains are also harvested by the harvester ant.
- Meats and Protein: A good helping of meat and protein are part of some ants’ diets. Ants have been known to feast on fish, dead rodents and even large animals. Army ants have been witnessed killing larger animals before devouring them. Insects are also a part of some ants’ diets where cannibalism actually occurs, too.
- Vegetables: Another part of a well-rounded diet, ants will chow down on vegetables, too. The majority of ants will flock to vegetables, which is why they often are present in gardens. They may not eat your asparagus, but they will eat plant leaves and may even eat the food from food-bearing plants.
And these are just some of the foods that ants eat. Whether you believe it or not, ants have evolved greatly and some of their actions show just how smart they can be.
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Herding ants are especially smart and actually make a pact with aphids. An aphid is an insect, like a caterpillar, which will leave a sweet secretion behind called honeydew. Ants love sweets, and honeydew is at the top of their list. Herding ants will devour the honeydew and in turn, they will protect the insects that are producing the honeydew.
This mutual agreement allows ants to have an endless amount of food to eat.
Interestingly, aphids are often forced into this relationship. Ants will eat the wings of some aphids, forcing them to stay nearby – a cruel act. Science Daily also released an article in 2007 that provided proof that ants have chemicals on their feet that will tranquilize entire aphid colonies to keep them close and provide food for the ants.
Some ants, leaf cutter ants in particular, use the leaves of plants to create a fungus, which they will eat.
If you want to get rid of these pests, it’s vital to know that in the outdoors, ants have a near endless supply of food sources. In most cases, there is little you can do to limit the outdoor food sources of ants.
What Ants Eat Indoors
The most important food that ants eat (as far as you’re concerned) is the food that they eat indoors. If you know what these foods are, you can eliminate them from your home so that the ants have less of a reason to stick around.
If there is no food to eat, the ants will go elsewhere.
We already know that ants love sweet substances. This means that they’ll flock to:
If you have kids, it can be something as simple as a kid leaving their fruit on a plate in the bedroom every night, or a piece of candy that fell under a bed and hasn’t been cleaned up.
A few of the other foods in your home that ants will flock to include:
- Jams and jellies
Ants may even flock to a loosened jar of jam because there is remanence of the substance left behind on the jar itself.
Virtually any food that may have been dropped or that is left out in the open will be a trigger for ants to take up homage in your home. We’ll be discussing a few of the things you can do in your home to reduce the food and other draws for ants.
Carpenter Ants Don’t Eat Wood
One fallacy that is often spread by non-experts is that carpenter ants actually eat the wood of the home. These ants are not termites, but they can be problematic nonetheless. Carpenter ants will burrow into the wood of the home, which is definitely an issue.
And they won’t actually eat the wood – they’ll just dig through it.
6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Ants
You want to know how to get rid of those pesky ants, so why did we tell you what they eat? This information will prove to be invaluable when you want to protect your home against ants and get rid of them.
Get rid of the food or water source, and you’ll starve the ants out.
If you have ants in your home, there is a near 100% chance that the ants are coming over for dinner. This means you need to do a thorough cleaning to get rid of them. A few ways to protect your home from ants are:
1. Clean Daily
People drop crumbs of food, which are a feast for ants. A little piece of sugar stuck in the fibers of the carpet can draw in ants. So, your only action is to clean a lot. I recommend making a clear-cut plan that will allow you to keep your home spotless, and ant-free.
A cleaning schedule may be:
- Vacuuming the floor (Sunday – Sunday)
- Cleaning counters every other day
- Clean kitchen counters daily
- Mop kitchen floors daily
It sounds like a lot to do, and it is a lot of work. But if you clean daily, you’ll find that the amount of ants starts to lessen and hopefully go away completely.
2. Eat at the Table Only
I get it: sometimes, you want to eat on the couch. The couch is more comfortable, and you’re able to flip through television channels, or watch your favorite show or sports while chowing down.
Everyone likes to indulge and relax.
But when you eat on the couch or on the floor, there is also a much higher chance for you to drop food on the floor. And a crumb here and there is all it takes for ants to see your floor as a buffet.
If you have children, this is also a good practice.
Every child, when they’re young, will drop food or spill drinks on the floor. And your little one may not want to get in trouble, so they do their best to hide these messes from you. Other children are forgetful and may leave leftover cookies in the closet or on a nightstand, allowing ants to come in and eat away.
Let eating be a time for you and the family to spend time together and discuss your day.
Incorporating an eat-only-at-the-table rule will allow you to quickly be able to clean up messes, and it will reduce a lot of the chores mentioned earlier. And you’ll only have to vacuum or mop a limited space – it’s fantastic.
3. Fill in Holes and Gaps
Holes and gaps around your home make it easier for ants to get into your home. While ants have a way of entering even the smallest spaces, you can do your best to reduce the chances of ants invading.
A few of the most prominent places to look for gaps or holes are:
- Doors: The doors of your home will have gaps. These small gaps can be closed with proper trim and you can also use draft guards for larger gaps. Look at your front door as well as any other doors entering the home.
- Baseboard: Gaps between the baseboard and the wall allow ants to traverse your home with greater ease. Block off these “roads” with a little caulking or by replacing the baseboard. When done properly, this will keep all types of bugs from poking their head out and skittering across the floor.
- Windows: Small gaps near windows are also places for entering the home. If you can feel a draft from a window, this is likely enough space for an ant to enter. Seal off outside and inside holes or window gaps.
If you seal off the entryways into the house, you’ll be better protected against ants. Keep in mind that you’ll likely overlook some spots where ants are entering the home.
4. Remove Overlapping Branches
An often-overlooked method is removing overlapped branches near the home. Branches often overlap in the roof, which will allow ants to trail into the home. Remove and trim these branches as necessary to make it harder for ants to enter your space.
5. Fix Any Moisture Issues
The best ant killer is removing all water and food from the home. And one area which you’ll want to pay special attention to is moisture. Small leaks will supply enough water for ants to drink, and even leaking pipes that you may not see can be the culprit.
Older basements where water may be entering can be an issue, too.
I’m not recommending outfitting your home with all new pipes, but do try to fix any leaks or drips. If you find water anywhere in the home and suspect that there may be an internal leak, contact a certified plumber to track down the leak and correct the problem.
If you allow water to leak, you’ll create a far bigger problem than having ants.
6. Throw Garbage Out Quickly
Garbage bags are equivalent to a drug for ants. The smell of garbage will attract ants, and then when the scouring ants come, they’ll leave a scent behind that all of the other ants will follow to come and chow down.
Ants have jobs.
If you leave your garbage out, ants will find it and leave a scent so that the rest of the colony can use the scent to find the food.
When there is a major ant problem, try and throw out your garbage quickly. Change out big garbage bags and get rid of the trash daily if needed.
If you have a habit of leaving the garbage outside your front or back door, this needs to end. Not only will ants come crawling over, but bees, rodents, roaches and other insects will begin to invade your yard and make their way into your home.
5 Natural Ant Repellents
A lot of people want to go the natural route when tackling their ant problem because sprays and poisons aren’t ideal. Pets can get into these areas where you have sprayed, causing them to get severely sick or even die.
Little ones can also come in contact with these poisons.
Natural ant repellents are preferred, and they’ll also help you keep ants at bay just as well as some of the top ant-killing products on the market.
Five of the best natural ant repellents are:
1. Lemon Juice
Ants use scents to be able to make trails that the rest of the colony will follow. When trying to get rid of ants, you can wipe down these trails with some success, but using lemon juice is even better.
- Add lemon juice to a squirt bottle
- Squirt entryways
- Squirt ant paths
Something about the lemon juice keeps ants from coming back – they hate it.
A sprinkle of cinnamon will do the trick, too. You can use ground cinnamon and sprinkle it all along the areas where the ants are tracking or seem to be entering the home. When you do this, don’t be afraid to be generous.
You can also use cinnamon essential oils, which have a far more potent scent.
Spray the oil around the base of the home, windowsills and doorways to keep bugs and ants away.
Peppermint can be used in the same way as cinnamon. Get a bit of peppermint essential oils – they’re very strong – and spray down all entryways and trails that you see. The peppermint will mask the scent that allows ants to follow the trail back to the home.
4. Coffee Grounds
Coffee isn’t just good for waking you up in the morning. This delightful drink can be used to keep ants away. Don’t even think of pouring fresh coffee around your home – what a waste. Instead, you want to use coffee grounds to repel ants.
Keep in mind this doesn’t kill the ants, but it will make them move out.
Plug in any holes with coffee grounds and even spread them around the perimeter of the house. Ants will smell the coffee and skitter the other way.
If you have a lot of floors that can be mopped in a home, a neat trick is to make a mixture of water and vinegar for mopping the floors and cleaning the counters. Don’t get me wrong, this will create a vinegar smell throughout the home, but it’s well worth the inconvenience.
Nests that are visible can also be soaked with vinegar to remedy the problem.
If you don’t necessarily want to kill the ants but want to evict them from your home, repellents are a fast and easy way to make the ants leave.
5 Ways to Get Rid of Ants Naturally – Without an Exterminator
Getting rid of ants is a top priority, especially when they’re crawling all over everything in your home. We’re going to show you how to get rid of ants the natural way. This means that you won’t be spraying your home with any poisons.
1. Create an Ant-Away Spray
Feeling ambitious and want to get rid of your ants with a little ingenuity? We have the perfect mixture of essential oils that will send ants running for the hills:
Simply place the following in a spray bottle:
- 15 drops of tea tree and peppermint oil
- 7 drops of citrus oil
- 1/4 cup of water
You can also add vodka into the mixture. If you choose to go without the vodka, you will need to shake up the bottle often.
The only thing that is left to do is spray everywhere ants have been. Spray entry points and even their colony if you know where it is located.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) can be used with great success. You want to find food grade DE for best results. The reason behind using DE is that it doesn’t harm mammals, so it’s far safer than boric acid, which can be used to kill ants, too.
If you have carpenter ants, this is a go-to remedy that works wonders.
DE will weaken the coating, causing their innards to break apart. Safe to use indoors, DE should be sprinkled in:
- In and around garbage cans
- Under refrigerators and hard-to-reach places
3. Boiling Hot Water
Feeling sadistic? Boiling hot water can and will kill ants. I recommend knowing where the ant colony is located before proceeding. If the colony is outside, boil water and pour it right on top of the nest.
This will kill the ants in a very painful way, but they’ll all finally be dead. Add soap into the water, too, to make it more potent.
Playing mad scientist is the fun part of trying to get rid of ants. A natural ant killer that works wonders can be created by mixing the following ingredients in a bowl:
This mixture will create a paste which should be placed somewhere away from children and animals. This is a similar technique used in the world’s best ant traps. Keep a close eye on the paste and make more when it has dried up completely.
While a slow method, the ants will take the borax back to the colony, where it will do some serious damage.
Sugar is used to attract the ants and get them to eat the mixture.
Remember, this is a method that will work well but it takes quite some time before it gets rid of your ant problem for good.
5. Baking Soda and Powdered Sugar
our final ant-killer method is to mix baking soda and powdered sugar together. Place the mixture on top of a plastic lid that can be placed strategically in your home.
Any size lid will do.
The ants will chow down and bring back the mixture to the colony. What they don’t know is that they’re eating a mixture that will cause a volcanic eruption internally, killing them.
Results won’t be seen for a couple days to 1 -2 weeks in most cases.