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How to get rid of ants

Information, facts and resources to help you deal with an infestation of ants and, if the worst happens, how to destroy the ants and prevent this household pests return.


Ants

What does an ant look like?

garden ant

Garden Ant

diagram of worker ant

Diagram of a Worker Ant

Ant Description

  • The black or garden ant is the commonest British ant to enter houses and it is found in almost all parts of the country.
  • The worker is very dark brown, almost black, and about 5mm long.
  • The queen, which is rarely seen except for certain months in the Summer, is about 15mm long and mid-brown in colour.
  • Some kinds of ants are so small they are no longer than the full stop at the end of this sentence.
  • There are many different kinds of ants in different regions of the world and it always a good idea to seek expert help and identification from a pest control expert. Some different varieties of ants that you might encounter include: argentine ant, black ant, carpenter ant, fire ant, odorous house ant, pavement ant, pharaoh ant, pine tree ant, red ant, thief ant and the velvety tree ant.

Where do ants live?

  • The queen ant makes the nest in the soil, in grassed areas beneath paving and patios and sometimes in hollow trees.
  • The ant nests are usually outside buildings although sometimes they may be found in the wall or foundations of a house.

What are the signs of ant infestation?

  • Sightings of ants on work tops.
  • Sightings of ants in food cupboards.
  • Sightings of ants at entrances to the home.

What do ants eat?

  • The foraging worker ants follow well-defined trails to their feeding grounds, which may be many metres from the nest.
  • Ants enter buildings, often through very narrow crevices, and if one ant finds food, there will soon be many others.
  • Ants foraging for food in houses may cause considerable nuisance to the householder.
  • Ants are usually attracted to sweets, sugar or grease.

Why must ants be controlled?

  • Worker ants will frequently enter dwellings foraging for food, particularly sweet substances. While not a risk to human health, they can be present in sufficient numbers to cause a nuisance.
  • The emergence of numerous winged ants (usually on a hot day in Summer) can cause alarm to some people, particularly if these 'flying ants' are emerging inside a building. These flying ants may be a nuisance, but they are harmless and nothing can be done to stop them swarming.
  • Ants, when they invade a home, will get into many types of food, and crawl about on kitchen counters and shelves.

How can I get rid of ants?

  • Insecticidal Dusts are an effective treatment against garden ants.
  • Insecticidal Dusts for ant control can be purchased from hardware shops, do-it-yourself shops and garden centres. The dust should be puffed lightly into void spaces, cracks and crevices where the nests may be located and have have been sighted.
  • Insecticidal Aerosols suitable for crawling insects can be used for spraying into cracks and crevices, and for application as a band around skirting boards, door frames, air bricks and other access points.
  • Flying ants can be treated with any aerosol suitable for the control of flying insects.
  • Bait Formulations. Bait products rely upon worker ants taking the bait back to the nest and sharing it with other ants.
  • An old time remedy to control ants and ants nests was to pour boiling water into the access hole of the nest.

How can I prevent ants from returning?

  • Practice good hygiene and be prompt to clean up sticky and sweet substances that may attract ants.
  • Block up access routes - cracks and gaps in window and door surrounds should be sealed.
  • Remove all food sources.
  • Pay attention to storage of food in sealed containers.
  • Prompt removal of trash and other sanitary practices will make the kitchen less attractive to foraging ants.
  • Ants leave odour trails for other ants to follow, so wipe up areas they travel over with disinfectant or soapy water to erase the trails.

Ant Poisons and Ant Pesticides

  • When using pesticides always follow the instructions on the label.
  • All major DIY and hardware stores have a selection of Ant Dusting Powders.
  • Most ant powders have a de-hydrating effect on the insects.
  • Spray window sills, door thresh-olds, under sinks and walls where ants are crawling. Do not contaminate food or utensils.
  • Pesticides and poisons for ants are available from garden centres and hardware stores for the control of ants. Read and follow the instructions on the product label precisely. Use only products that state on the label that it may be used to control ants.
  • Remember, pesticides can be poisonous to children and pets. After use store container and contents away from children, or dispose of empty container safely.

The "Green Option" - Environmentally friendly control of Ants

  • Consider being tolerant of the ants - they are NOT a danger to public health.
  • Ants are important, beneficial contributors to the ecosystem so do not destroy ant nests unless absolutely necessary.
  • Remove ants manually as they appear and practice good hygiene so that the ants have no reason to visit in the first place.
  • Follow the ants, back along their trail into the home, find the entry point, and seal the crack or crevice with a silicon sealant.
  • Ants leave odour trails for other ants to follow, so wipe up areas they travel over with disinfectant or soapy water to erase the trails.
  • Turmeric can deter ants. Sprinkle the turmeric powder along ant trails leading to the home and use as a barrier to prevent ants entering the home.
  • Sprinkle powdered red chilli pepper, paprika, or dried peppermint along ant trails and where the ants are entering the building.
  • Other environmentally friendly scent deterrents to try on ant trails are: citronella, pennyroyal or eucalyptus oils - just wipe these onto ant trails to neutralise the ants' own scents.
  • Talcum Powder sprinkled around doorways, entrances and access points can deter ants. Ants don't like to walk over talcum powder.
  • Ant nests can be flooded regularly with near boiling water mixed with some detergent and eucalyptus oil.
  • Sprinkle borax where the ants enter the building.
  • Mix borax with sugar as a poisonous bait for ants.

Ants : Household Pests

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