Oh, ants — we like you on our “logs,” smeared with peanut butter and served as a snack for the kids. But we don’t welcome you marching around our kitchens.
Let’s face it, though: Ants are inevitable. Even in the cleanest and most pristine of homes, these tiny critters can strike, attracted by a range of conditions often well outside your control. Many of us quickly turn to broad ways to get rid of ants in the kitchen, be it natural and homemade remedies to store-bought repellents to flat-out calling in the pros.
We’ve amassed a guide on ant control tips to help you identify the right treatment based on ant type, sightings and much more, all to help you get rid of ants permanently — or, at least, the ones not on your snacks.
Why Are There Ants in My Kitchen?
Like most creatures, ants are attracted to specific environments. Ants are also some of the most social animals on the planet, with a highly developed “language” of scents and hormones patterning their habits and signaling their movements to the rest of the colony.
These factors are partially what makes getting rid of ants in your home so frustrating. Without identifying the reason or source for their invasion, it’s much tougher to get rid of them directly. Here are the most common reasons species like black, sugar and carpenter ants alike invade homes:
1. ‘Tis the Season
Most ant infestations tend to occur in late spring and early summer. Due to their weather-triggered mating patterns, most queen ants begin searching for mates starting in April, then use the remainder of the warm summer months to settle down and start their new family in a hospitable location. From searching for a mate to finding suitable colony real estate, scientists cheekily refer to this entire process as a “nuptial flight.”
While the majority of these new ant colonies start and stay outside, it’s not uncommon for them to make their way inward. As colonies grow, they’ll produce a handful of new queens — reproductive females who will, indeed, be looking to start new colonies in the locations of their choice. Unfortunately for many homeowners, in an overcrowded ant area, that could mean new and established colonies alike moving in.
2. Freestanding Water
Ants aren’t large, and thankfully, they don’t drink much. Freestanding bodies of easily accessible water — such in sinks, bathtubs, tea kettles or even stray glasses of water left on the counter — are ideal for quenching colony thirst.
Scavenger ants establish a pheromone-based scent specific to their colony. They use this signature as a breadcrumb trail of sorts, emitting it alongside a foraging path once they’ve found a suitable pocket of freshwater.
Other worker ants from the colony will soon emerge to take this hormone hike. Understandably, this is the most common time people begin to notice ants in their kitchens or other areas of their homes. What often starts with an innocent ant sighting can, regrettably, signal the presence of many more.
3. Sugary and Starchy Food Particles
Food is the best-known reason for ants showing up in your house, particularly in the kitchen. With their hypersensitive sense of smell and around-the-clock scavenger habits, if there are even trace amounts of food on a table, countertop or floor, nearby ants might flock to it.
Regularly cleaning up after meals is an excellent preventive measure. However, even diligent cleaning with soap or scrubs can’t remove every microscopic residue, solid or liquid particle. The sink is particularly vulnerable, since rinsed dishes leave behind crumbs most of us don’t give a second thought to.
Loosely sealed food jars, bags and containers are also prime targets for ants on a food scavenger hunt. Again, once they’ve found a food or water source, scouts will emit their signature odor maps for others to follow.
How to Get Rid of Ants in My Kitchen?
There are many strategies to get rid of ants in your home. From do-it-yourself formulas lending you more natural remedies to hiring a professional to catch the colony at its source, we have plenty of suggestions for your ant problem.
1. Home Remedies to Remove Ants From Your Home
Based on your lifestyle, budget or comfort levels, any of the following three categories of home treatments can help kick ants to the curb.
Commercial, store-bought or home-mixed treatments give you an immediate way to address your ant problem. Choose the option that works best with the scale and source of your ant problem, all while trying to identify the ants’ points of entry into your house.
However, it’s important to note most of these commercial and home remedies only treat an ant problem on the surface. While ant-repellent technology has greatly improved over the past few decades, most come in the forms of sprays and pellets that are great at disrupting ants’ hormone trails, confusing scavengers or killing ants on contact. But to get rid of ants permanently, you have to target their source — the colony. Doing so may require advanced expertise.
- Ant dust: Ant dusts are a popular treatment many people can sprinkle along the perimeter of their home or in problem areas. Most of these commercial powders kill ants on contact while emitting a sharp, noxious odor that deters others from crossing their lines.
- Ant-repellent sprays:As their name suggests, ant-repellent sprays provide a kill-on-contact ant solution. It’s a spot treatment helping stop those all-important scavenger ants, but rarely goes beyond these quick sprays.
- Ant baits: Quick trivia fact — ants can’t digest solids. The build of their bodies impedes anything other than small doses of liquid from passing through. Now, this fact won’t just help you out at trivia night. It’s the logic behind ant bait products, which entice scavenger ants with a sugary-sweet, semi-solid syrup they must take back to the colony to have larvae break down into a digestible form. With these ant baits, you have your trojan horse, as the bait poisons a colony from the inside out.
Natural Ant Removal Treatments
- Vinegar: Spraying vinegar in problematic areas, such as countertops or between floorboard cracks, will eliminate established ant hormone trails. For the treatment to be effective, however, you must spray vinegar multiple times a day for at least a week.
- Boric acid with honey, peanut butter or powdered sugar: The sweetness from the food additive will attract ants, while the boric acid will act as a slow-release poison. Ants will carry the mix back to the colony, where it will then take effect.
- Liquid dish soap: Apply a spray containing a mixture of dish soap and water to borders such as floorboards, wall cracks, doorways, window ledges and more to prevent ants from crossing. You can also use the mixture directly on ants you see crawling around the kitchen.
- Cucumber peels and lemon juice: Ants cannot stand the fumes and toxic oils certain fruit and veggies emit, particularly citrus fruits and cucumbers. If you’re looking for how to naturally get rid of ants, consider squirting these juices directly into foundation cracks, window ledges or suspected places of entry, as well as placing peels and zest in target areas inside and outside your home.
- Tumeric or cayenne powder: Sprinkling these spices inside ant hotspots like kitchen cabinets will further deter them from accessing these areas.
Other Treatment Strategies
- Rotate your garbage and recycling. When ants have found their food or water source, they stick to it. More frequently changing out your garbage and recycling can disrupt one of the ants’ most popular sustenance sources. It’s a small and simple trick to keep the kitchen under your control.
- Use kitchen and home cleaners with natural treatment ingredients. Using home cleaners with lemon juice, citric acid, baking soda or other natural compounds named above can help deter ants in the first place.
- Look at your plants. Many indoor and outdoor plants are home to a tiny species of insects called aphids, which produce a sweet secretion. Ants are attracted to these secretions, using them as a primary food source. Knowing this, you want to plant aphid-encouraging plants outside, and not grow them inside. Occasionally wipe down the leaves of any indoor plants you do have, and be cautious of sprays, fertilizers and repellents you use outdoors that may have aphid-killing properties. Depleting this food source will drive ants inside on their quest for replenished food.
2. Pest Control Experts
We field many questions on what does an exterminator do for ants that you can’t do yourself. Many people wonder if a professional is worth the cost — or if all they do is walk in and spray a bunch of chemicals into the nooks and crannies of your house.
The short answer is this: Home or commercial remedies provide ant deterrents, while pest control provides complete colony destruction.
When deciding how to get rid of ants in your house, you’ll need to ask yourself not only what treatment is most economical or convenient, but what you want to get out of it. If you’re comfortable risking future infestations, surface commercial and home treatments are perfectly fine. For risk-averse individuals or those wishing to nip their ant problem in the bud, pest control is right for you.
However, there are a few special situations where we strongly recommend professional pest control agents or exterminators:
- You have carpenter ants. Carpenter ants burrow their colonies into damp or rotting wood. Besides being an unwanted guest, their presence can indicate more severe problems with your home — namely, with your house’s structural integrity. Consult a pest expert immediately if you believe you’re playing host to carpenter ants.
- You have children or pets. Many of the ingredients in commercial — and some natural — treatments are toxic to pets and children. Even adults with compromised immune systems need to take precautions with chemical additives in and around their homes.
- Nothing else has worked. Ant infestations season after season, year after year, indicate something else is going on. Call an expert to get to the bottom of your ant problem once and for all.
Types of Ants to Look for in Your Kitchen
The best way to get rid of ants permanently in your home is first to know what you’re dealing with — namely, what kind of ant keeps crawling across your countertops. That is because different species of ants prefer different food sources, build their colonies in different locations and will generally require different extermination techniques.
Black ants, or odorous house ants, are the most common ants people encounter in their homes. You’ll likely recognize them by their pungent, earthy smell, emitted both when you kill them and when a large group congregates. Black ants make their way into homes to scavenge for water and starchy or sugary foods, but their colonies typically remain outdoors.
Start with size and color when recognizing black house ants. This species is small and hairless, their bodies less than one-eighth of an inch long and ranging from dark brown to blue-black. And, again, they’ll carry that distinct smell that’s often as undesirable in your home and kitchen as the pesky critters themselves.
How to get rid of black ants: Target the colony with solid bait, then seal entryways. To get rid of black ants, you must identify their points of entry into your home. Next, you’ll want to place a semi-solid bait treatment at these points, such as a honey-boric acid mix or a commercial bait syrup. Black ants will carry the solid bait back to their colony and effectively wipe themselves out. Then, as a final protective measure, seal off known entry points so ants can’t return.
Sugar ants and black ants are easy to confuse, though there are a few key differences. While both are attracted to sweets and starches in your home, sugar ants are nocturnal. You’ll likely spot them most in the evening or at night, with foragers returning to the colony with their sweet spoils around dawn. Sugar ants also prefer nectars as a primary food source, especially those aphid secretions mentioned earlier.
How to get rid of sugar ants: Target the colony with integrated bait. Since sugar ants prefer syrups and nectars, mix baits that use these ingredients, but will have to be carried back to the colony. Employing a liquid repellent will kill sugar ants on contact, but you will not be addressing your pest problem at its source. Place your semi-syrup mixture at points of entry overnight, then make a point to wipe down indoor plants with cold water or an aphid-friendly solvent as a final preventive measure.
Carpenter ants are the largest and potentially most severe of ant infestations. They can grow to be a quarter of an inch to nearly half an inch long and feed on rotting wood. For that reason, carpenter ant nests are often, indeed, inside a home’s structure, burrowed into the damaged, moist wood in foundation, decks, patios, beams and more.
How to get rid of carpenter ants: Contact an exterminator. Unlike other ant species, carpenter ants won’t transport bait back to their nests. That means bait repellents won’t work. What’s more, since carpenter ants eat and burrow through wood, untreated swarms could poise structural damage to your home. Call an expert immediately if you see larger, lighter-colored ants in wooded places around your house, or if you notice small piles of random sawdust appearing in these areas.
How to Prevent Ants from Coming Back
It bears repeating that the only way to permanently prevent ants from making frequent visits to your kitchen or home is to tackle them at their source.
Never fear — you don’t have to reconcile yourself to an endless routine of surface sprays and treatments. The best ant control tips include the ones in this article, but they take a broader approach that protects your entire home and decreases the likelihood of an ant infestation in the first place.
- Use an integrated pest-control approach: Integration pest control is a methodology of solutions that work together to keep bugs away before they become a problem. It means both internal and external tips and tricks, from planting certain plant species around your home to using particular cleaning products and aerosols inside. What’s more, integrated pest control for ants allows you to minimize your use of chemicals, pesticides and your environmental footprint.
- Patch foundation cracks or holes: Again, it’s a simple, yet overlooked, solution. Ants of any kind enter your home through openings in older window ledges, foundations and doorways. Regularly inspect these areas of your home and seal them up before they become bug gateways.
- Get a preventive pest plan: You already perform preventive maintenance for things like your car. Why not extend the same care and attention when it comes to a pest-free home? A local pest-control business can create a tailored proactive pest plan for your home, including active identification, monitoring and implementation steps scheduled throughout the year.
Partner With Spectrum Pest Control to Get Rid of Ants in Your House
You have questions, and we have solutions. Spectrum Pest Control has been solving residential and commercial ant problems for nearly three decades in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area and beyond. From ant-control consultations to an integrated, year-round pest protection program, we want to ensure your home is safe, clean and comfortable — as it should be.
Contact Spectrum Pest Control or explore our industry-leading integrated ant prevention plans today.