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Guide to Ant Infestations

Of all the pests that invade the home, household ants are probably the least threatening. But that doesn’t mean that they are welcome. We take a look at how you can prevent an ant infestation as well as how to get rid of an existing ant invasion, including commercial ant killer products and alternative home remedies.

How to get stop an ant infestation in your house

As with all pests, the best way to prevent ants from becoming a problem in the house is to stop them from getting into your home in the first place. Solving this is a two-step task. First, you will need to ensure that there is no reason for the ants to want to get into your home. Second, you will want to try making your house ant-proof.

Step 1: Making your home unattractive to ants

Ants come into your home for a good reason, and it’s not to annoy you. It’s simply because your home provides everything that they could possibly want, such as food, warmth and safety from predators. Once you figure out what it is about your home that attracts ants, you can go about removing or at least minimising these factors. For example, you could turn off the heating so the cold deters ants (but this is not very viable) or you could invest in a menagerie of South American ant-eaters as household pets (but this is not very realistic), or you could simply deprive ants of food – which is by far the easiest prevention method.

One of the most effective ways to stop an ant infestation is to keep a clean kitchen. Frequently vacuum cleaning eating areas, including the kitchen, dining room, lounge and kids’ bedrooms, is a great way to pick up crumbs and deprive ants of a reliable food supply.

Step 2: Making your home ant-proof

Just because your home is spotless doesn’t mean that you’ll never fall victim to ant infestations. After all, your home is still warm and provides excellent protection from predators, so you may still want to ant-proof your home. One of the first steps that you should consider when ant-proofing your home is caulking up cracks and holes. Not only will this help you to prevent ants, but you can also minimise heat loss which will come handy in winter and save you money!

Caulking your home isn’t the only way to stop ants from getting into your home. You can also create an ant repellent line around your doors, windows and other openings that can’t be sealed. There are a variety of commercial (chemical) ant repellents available, but before you go that route why not try some natural home remedies, such as peppermint or citrus. Both of these natural products can help stop ants from entering your home and they are safe for children and pets.

Simply mix a fair portion of your choice of natural ant repellent with water and wipe or spray it along all openings where you think ants might be able to get in your house. Not only do they act as natural ant deterrents, but they also have the added benefit of permeating your house with a wonderful smell. Other possible natural ant repellers include turmeric, cinnamon, red chilli pepper and cayenne pepper. However, while they are still safe to use around pets and children, they will leave a nasty taste in their mouths if they try to investigate.

Another solution that is often mentioned is to kill scouting ants that are exploring the home in order to set up a nest. This isn’t the easiest method, but if you kill these ants quickly with poison baits and traps you can prevent a nest from ever being started.

How to get rid of existing ant infestations

Prevention might be the best cure, but once ants are in the house it might be necessary to destroy their nest to contain the problem. When it comes to killing ants in the house, it is a good idea to start with the least harmful method and then work your way through to the lethal treatment options. Severe ant infestations will require a more drastic solution, such as those provided by professional exterminators.

One of your first lines of defence is to try and destroy ants’ pheromone trails. This will confuse them and can make them ‘forget’ how they find their way into your home. Usually you can disrupt an ant trail with a solution of vinegar and water, which can then either be applied via a sponge or a spray over their trails to disrupt them. However, this is only effective if the nest is outside the home. If the nest is already in the house then you will have to take other measures, which could mean going all the way to fumigation.

Discouraging ants from coming into your house is a short-term solution. If ants have a nest in or near your house, discouragement will also be temporary. Your best bet to eradicate household ants is to go after the nest. Some of the most common locations for ants in your garden include patches of rotting vegetation, mulch, your beloved lawn and in and under virtually any item that has been left alone for an extended period of time. Some of the most common places for ants to nest inside include beneath carpets, in rotting foundations and woodwork, or in gaps between wood panels and the wall.

Ant killer products

There are many over-the-counter ant killers available, including gels, powders and sprays. Ensure that whatever product you choose is designed specifically to kill ants or the nest. These products often include chemicals or poisons that the ants will carry into their nest where it will destroy the nest from the inside.

If you don’t want to use poison or pesticide then you can try more natural or pet- and children-safe options, such as pouring a mixture of hot water and washing powder or a solution of denatured alcohol and camphor oil into the nest.

An interesting alternative to destroying ant nests in your garden is to encourage bird life, as many birds love to feast on ants.

Ant traps

There are many commercial ant traps available. These are great for preventing ants from forming nests inside the home, but are not very effective once a nest has been established. If you would like to make your own ant killer for your traps, mix a 250ml of warm water with 125ml of sugar and add three tablespoons of borax. This can be swabbed around the ant nest, trail or entrance to your house. If you want to destroy the nest, mix one part borax with three parts powdered sugar and place it near the trails or nest. The ants will carry it into the nest and destroy it from within.

Quick guide to getting rid of ants in the kitchen

The most common place for an ant infestation is in the kitchen. Getting rid of ants in the kitchen can be quite simple.

  • Wash the dishes or rinse them and stack them in the dishwasher as quickly as possible
  • Avoid leaving food out where ants can get to it, especially sugar
  • Vacuum or sweep the floor often to pick up stray crumbs and food fragments
  • Wipe down the counters with a citrus-scented cleaning product or use a mixture of white vinegar and water to clean all the surfaces
  • Place an ant trap or two down
  • Grow fresh mint plants in the kitchen

If your ant problems are quite serious, for example, ants have made themselves at home in your foundations or are setting up a nest in your load-bearing timber frames, then you need to get a professional extermination service in as soon as possible. Not only do exterminators have the equipment to locate, eradicate and remove ants, but your home emergency policy might also cover the procedure, including overnight accommodation should fumigation be necessary.