Knowing what species of ant is present helps to determine the nesting site, food preference, and the best method of management. In most cases, the most effective, permanent solution is to find and treat the nest; queens must be killed to properly eliminate a colony. |
Trying to discourage ants from invading the home can be frustrating. Proper food storage and waste management will reduce the food that often attracts workers indoors. Clean all kitchen surfaces, vacuum daily, and rinse recyclable containers before storage. Ant trails can be temporarily disrupted with a mild solution of vinegar and water. Sticky barriers using commercially available materials, such as Tanglefoot or Stickem, or water moats containing soapy water, can be used to prevent ants from reaching plants or other items. Caulk cracks that ants are using to enter the home.
Outdoors Many ants enter homes from outside nests as they forage for food. To find their nest, follow the ants. You can encourage foraging by setting out attractive food. Ants usually take regular routes to and from their nest and the food source by establishing a chemical (pheromone) trail. The nest may be found by watching where the ants go; for some ants, such as carpenter ants, this works best at night. If the nest is discovered, it can be treated or removed (in the case of rotted wood).
Common insecticides for treating ant nests in the lawn are listed below. Be sure to select a product that is labeled for treating lawns:
permethrin as a liquid or granules carbaryl (e.g. Sevin) as a liquid or granules bifenthrin as granules cyfluthrin as granules acephate as a liquid (Note: Liquids work best if they are drenched in. You may need 1/2 gallon or more of mixed material to treat large nests.)
Retreatment of nest sites may be necessary if above ground activity resumes after the initial application.
In cases where the nest is not found, ants can be kept out of the house by applying an insecticide barrier around the exterior of the building. Careful observation may reveal the ants are entering only through one area of the house; this would allow a spot treatment of that area. If it is not clear where the ants are entering, then treat a 2 4 foot wide area around the entire building. This control method is temporary and retreatments may be necessary.
Common insecticides for treating the building exteriors are listed below. Be sure to select a product that is labeled for treating the perimeter of buildings' exteriors:
permethrin as a liquid or granules bifenthrin as a liquid carbaryl as a liquid or granules cyfluthrin as granules deltamethrin as a dust CAUTION: Read all label directions carefully before buying insecticides and again before applying them. Information on the label should be used as the final authority.
Outdoor nests can be very difficult to eliminate without chemicals. Using water to flood nests is usually not effective. Use of gasoline also is ineffective and dangerous and causes environmental pollution. Repeated drenchings of a nest with an insecticidal soap solution is sometimes effective in forcing an ant colony to relocate. There is no scientific evidence that spearmint gum, red pepper, orange peels, or various herbs repel ants effectively. Remember you must kill or relocate the queen to manage an ant colony.
Indoors When possible, find the nest and treat it with an insecticide. When the nest is concealed, e.g. behind a wall, it may be necessary to drill small holes, about 1/8 inch diameter, and apply an insecticidal dust (be sure it is labeled for indoor use). These products may come in ready to use applicators. If not, use a plastic squeeze bottle or some type of flexible plastic container with a tube tip to apply the insecticide. Fill the container about 1/3 or 1/2 full and squeeze a small amount of dust into the desired location (note: applying too much material will cause ants to avoid contact with the dust). Return the unused insecticide back to its original container and thoroughly clean the applicator.
Common dusts for treating voids/cracks/crevices are listed below. Be sure to select a product that is labeled for indoor household use.
deltamethrin permethrin Another tactic is the use of baits. Workers feed on the bait and take it back to the nest where they share it with the rest of the colony. An advantage of baits is that they are is delivered into inaccessible areas that insecticide sprays cannot reach. However, baits act slowly and may take several weeks to several months to eradicate a colony. Ant baits sold in stores for public use are generally labeled for many common household ants, although ants will not be equally attracted to all baits. It is important to identify what ant species is present so the appropriate bait can be used.
Common insecticides in ant baits are listed below. Be sure to select a product that is labeled for ants.
abamectin fipronil sulfluramid (may be listed as N-ethyl Perfluorooctanesulfonamide) disodium octaborate orthoboric acid propoxur (e.g. Baygon) Spraying foraging ants is only temporary and has little impact on the nest. Spraying may be useful for seasonal ant problems, when ants enter from outside nests.
Common aerosol ready to use insecticides for treating ants found indoors are listed below. Be sure to select a product that is labeled for indoor household use.
permethrin as an aerosol or a liquid bifenthrin as liquid cyfluthrin as a liquid cypermethrin as an aerosol deltamethrin as a liquid tralomethrin as an aerosol or a liquid CAUTION: Read all label directions carefully before buying insecticides and again before applying them. Information on the label should be used as the final authority.
Pest management professionals have the training and experience to deal with household ant problems. Contact a reputable pest management company if you want to have your ant problem handled by a professional
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