The best cure is an ounce of prevention, but if that fails, you’ve got lots of other options!
If you ask anyone in the pest control business, they’ll tell you that the only way to effectively get rid of ants is to use chemicals. That’s not always a desirable option, however, particularly if you’ve got little ones about. They manage to get their fingers into everything and even a well hidden ant trap could fall into the wrong hands.
Since prevention is the name of the game, here are a few ways to prevent ants from entering your home:
Keep it clean
First and foremost, if you keep your surfaces free of food, you’re less likely to have ants. Where there’s no food, the ants won’t bother to return. Keep food packed in containers and kitchen surfaces, in particular, clean.
Draw lines at entry points to your home
Chalk is made of calcium carbonate, which ants can’t stand! They don’t often alter their habits but to avoid a chalk line or powdered chalk, they just might!
A line of flour in cabinets and cupboards also works, if that’s how they’re coming through into your home, as they don’t like to interact with it. A line of salt can also work in this capacity.
The citrus solution
Another thing that ants don’t like is citrus. Spray or squirt pure lemon juice in doorways, windowsills, or any cracks around these or on the walls. The scent of citrus should help to keep the army at bay.
If you enjoy eating al fresco but don’t enjoy the ants joining you at the dinner table, put each foot of your outdoor table (assuming it’s not a wider base piece) into a plastic container and fill the latter with water. The ants won’t be able to get past your moat and up the legs.
Outdoor ants that bite
Fire ants are brutal little beasts that bite and leave quite a sting. Since they nest more obviously in an anthill outdoors, you can get rid of the entire nest by putting a flower pot on top of the nest and pouring boiling water through the hole and into the hill. It might sound a bit macabre, but better that than getting bitten, right?
Even regular anthills can be summarily dealt with in this way, when they are obvious in your backyard. Another method is to pour cayenne pepper into the holes they are coming up through the hill, to get rid of them for good.
Many swear by a vinegar and water solution (equal parts) to spray around and keep the critters away, with the further solution of pouring full strength vinegar into active ant hills to get them to decamp to better smelling quarters.
The reality with all of these solutions however is that there can be multiple nests in or around your home, and various access points to your house, so if you’ve got a full on infestation, you might have to get a little more drastic with your technique.
If you’ve already got an ant infestation
Part of the solution is to understand your enemy! Ants live in colonies and their habits are loyal. They will typically always come in and out of your home through the same cracks or open spaces and they will always return to the colony at the end of their hardworking day trekking through your home. In fact, they leave a scent trail where they have discovered a food source, so that they can come again and again. The key to eliminating not just those that you can see but those that may come afterwards, is to eliminate the colony.
Since you can always rely on ants going home to their colony and their queen, you need to send them back with ant poison, which they’ll ingest and share with others in the colony both directly and indirectly (when ants die, in a dramatic feat of practicality, the other ants will eat the dead ones, therefore ingesting the poison as well.)
Typically, an ant poison will be made with a sweet substance, to attract the ants in the first place. It will be slow acting so that the ants have time to return to the colony before expiring and spreading the poison. It can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks but this will effectively kill off a colony, including the egg laying queen. The latter can lay up to a 1000 eggs a day while never leaving the nest, so this is really important!
Placing bait traps in several places throughout your home where you tend to see the ants trailing guarantees that if there are several nests, you will get them all. And hold off on your desire to clean up any dead ants around the traps as they others will carry them back to the colony, where they will serve their purpose as poison purveyors!
If you’re not opposed to a chemical technique to get rid of the ants, gel baits tend to be the most effective and least messy to deal with. Since it’s nearly impossible to be sure where the nests are, this is really the only effective method for dealing with an infestation.
Do you have a tried and true technique for getting rid of ants, or preventing their getting access to your home in the first place?