A Homeowner's Guide to Getting Rid of Ants

Kelly Garvin
Written by Kelly Garvin
Updated March 3, 2014
Because many people associate the presence of wings with termites, flying ants are often misidentified by homeowners, says Garvin. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Justin B. of Pittsburgh)

When warmer weather arrives, ants can begin to march into our homes. One highly rated provider shares tips to help you keep ants at bay and out of your home.

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One of the first insects to become active each year is the irritatingly persistent ant. When warmer weather arrives, ants can begin to march into our homes. Now is the time to start learning how to protect yourself and your home from these intruders.

Identifying the ant

The main source of our ire generally comes from little black ants, pavement ants, odorous house ants and carpenter ants. The little black ant is a whopping one-eighth of an inch long and can be a particular nuisance inside the home as they often are in search of food and water. 

Pavement ants can be found in pavement cracks and outside under rocks. These ants often make themselves known after the grass has been watered or after it has rained. 

Odorous house ants, sometimes referred to as ‘stink ants,’ can be found indoors occasionally foraging for a snack. These tiny guys are most notable for the rotten coconut smell they emit when crushed. 

Carpenter ants may be one of the most irksome ants on a homeowner’s list. These guys are fairly large compared to other ants and they form nests, or galleries, in wooden structures. 

They don’t consume the wood like termites, but merely push it aside in little piles called frass. Although they aren’t as detrimental as termites, if left untreated, a carpenter ant infestation may cause significant damage to structures and trees.

How to tell the difference between an ant and a termite

Because many people associate the presence of wings with termites, flying ants are often misidentified. Ants with wings are just adult ants that are looking to begin a new colony in a different spot. 

There are a few main differences to look for to differentiate the two. An ant’s antennae are much larger than a termite’s and they bend at just about the halfway point. The waist of an ant is pinched, giving it three visible body segments, while the termite has a broad waist and appears to have only two body segments. 

If you can manage to get close enough to take a look at the size of each creature’s wings, you may notice that a termite has four equal sized wings, while an ant has two large wings with two small wings.

Lets get down to the nitty-gritty. How in the world does anyone get rid of such a pesky and bountiful creature without spending a load of money?

The dos and don’ts of ant elimination

Don’t use Windex or vinegar. I’ve recommended it in the past, but you wouldn’t want to use this in conjunction with baits and other products. This is because we want the ants to follow their trails back to the nest so they can deliver bait to the entire colony. 

Vinegar and Windex essentially wipe away the pheromones from ant trails, rendering the ant confused and lost and not at all helpful to our cause.

Do try chalk or Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Chalk is calcium carbonate, and just like DE, when it gets on the ants skin, it dehydrates their exoskeleton. Ants will go to great lengths to avoid crossing over either of these options, so if you’re in the mood, you can draw a giant circle around your house and hope for the best. Even easier though, sprinkle DE around your home.

Don’t rely solely on ant bait. Ant bait may be purchased at hardware and grocery stores and can be effective for a while. However, because ants are highly adaptable, they’re able to frequently change their diets. If they see that consuming something like bait isn’t advantageous to their colony, they will simply stop eating it.

Do identify problem areas. Is there a specific spot in which ants really like to go? Try using a double-sided adhesive or a sticky pad to literally stop them in their tracks. If you’re only noticing ants in one area or you notice them coming through one small opening, this may do the trick for you. If the problem is wide spread, may not solve the problem

Do keep your kitchen clean. I know ants come from out of no where sometimes, but it’s always a great idea to do your chores. If food items are properly sealed, counters are cleaned, dishes are done, leaky pipes are fixed, and general household maintenance is done, you can more easily avoid persistent ant problems.

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