Especially in the summer months, you may have noticed ants in or around your home, particularly your kitchen. Ants are one of the most common household bugs in North America, and ant infestations are on the rise.
Thankfully, most house ants are merely a nuisance and relatively harmless to humans (although some may cause structural damage to buildings, spread bacteria, or cause allergic reactions). Nevertheless, an ant infestation left untreated can become incredibly aggravating if not potentially dangerous.
If you’ve noticed an oncoming ant problem in your home, don’t panic—there are steps you can take to stop ants and nip the infestation in the bud.
One of the most essential things to do to prevent an ant problem (or any bug infestation for that matter) is to keep a clean home. Ants are attracted to clutter and garbage because it means there’s more likely to be a food source nearby (i.e., crumbs or a spill). Moreover, ants may leave scent trails to attract other ants and alert them of a potential food source, which is why you’ll often see ants “marching” in a line.
Regularly sweeping and mopping your floors can help eliminate these ant trails to keep the problem under control. Wiping down countertops, other surfaces, and appliances, especially with bleach cleaners like Clorox, is known to deter ants as well.
Ant colonies aren’t picky—they’ll build nests and anthills wherever they can find a safe place. They might live beneath carpets or wood flooring, in crevices between cabinets, in wall voids, or behind baseboards and molding. This is why it’s important to monitor any potential entry points for ants (both from indoor nests within your home and from outside).
Inspect screens on doors and windows and repair any holes, no matter how small. Use caulk (a sealant available at any hardware store) to patch up holes, seal cracks, and prevent ants from entering. Seal entry points wherever possible.
Ants love a messy kitchen, so make sure you store your food properly. The smallest pile of crumbs can be a food source that causes ants to leave a scent trail and keep coming back.
Keep all food (including snacks, leftovers, and even pet food) in airtight containers. Never leave dirty dishes in or around the sink. Wipe up any spills and crumbs immediately, and vacuum, sweep, and mop regularly. The cleaner you keep your kitchen, the less likely an ant infestation is to persist.
A crucial step in preventing or stopping an ant infestation is eliminating sources of moisture. Ants are attracted to humidity and moisture, which is why they’re more prevalent at hot and humid times of year. They can survive off of the water from the food they consume, so they don’t need a major water source. Ants also enjoy nesting in moisture-damaged wood (particularly carpenter ants).
In order to prevent an ant infestation, fix any leaks and drips in your home. In any particularly damp or moist areas (i.e., bathrooms, basements), implementing a dehumidifier may help. Make sure you ventilate properly to reduce humidity. Open windows (but be sure to monitor for ants, and don’t leave them open for too long) and/or use a fan.
One factor that you may not have considered in preventing ants from entering your home is grooming your plants and trees.
Ants often use branches as a “bridge” to enter your house, so be sure to keep an eye out for branches that may provide such a pathway and trim where necessary. Trim any plants and trees away from your house, being careful not to allow branches, flowers, or other protruding parts too close to entry points.
One way to prevent an ant problem in your home is to go the traditional route of setting ant traps and bait. Available online or from your local hardware store, liquid ant baits can be placed near potential entry points in order to trap and kill ants.
Ant repellent and other household sprays like Raid can also be used to prevent ants (by spraying near entry points or spraying ants to kill them on contact).
It’s worth noting that the multi-purpose cleaner Borax (made from unrefined boric acid, similar to baking soda) is toxic to ants and can be spread or sprinkled near entry points as a slightly more “green” ant control solution.
Cayenne pepper, mint, cinnamon, and acidic substances like lemon juice and white vinegar are all natural remedies known to deter ants. Even certain essential oils like peppermint oil, citrus oil, clove oil, and tea tree oil can be combined to create a natural ant repellent spray.
For a minor ant infestation, using any of these home remedies should do the trick. However, you might find yourself in need of professional intervention. If you’re no longer able to manage your ant infestation on your own, reach out to a professional pest control service for a consultation. A professional exterminator will be highly experienced at dealing with pest situations like yours, and will have access to industrial-grade insecticides and baits that may be more effective than a DIY remedy if needed.