Summer - ice pops, bbq's, ants. In their tens and thousands, our paved back gardens and summery-smelling homes can quickly be overrun by these little critters.
Marching in unison, on a perpetual path - they seem to come from nowhere and without warning. Despite us knowing little about these harmless insects, they make us feel dirty, infested, ashamed. We're compelled to get rid of them, and fast.
It's easy enough to head straight to the shop and pick up a product that will kill the poor critters. These pest control solutions are usually relatively effective, however only on the ants in sight. The rest of the ants, and indeed, the problem causing the ants, remains untreated and identified.
The trick to effective ant removal is finding the cause and source of the ants. An appropriate method for eradicating them from the home can then be chosen, keeping ants permanently at bay.
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What causes ants in the home?
What causes ants to invite themselves into our homes, anyway?
Well, every ant in a colony has a strict role to play. None of these roles involves annoying humans, you may be surprised to hear! No, it's the job of providing food to the queen ant that lures these critters inside - this is why most ants will be found in the kitchen. Most ant nests, where the queen resides, are located outdoors, it's only when we tempt them in with valuable resources that they become a problem in the home.
To prevent ants from using our houses as a fridge, we should try to remove all traces of food and drink. Sugary items, such as sweets, fizzy drinks and those obligatory Summer ice creams present a real problem, as ants can pick up such odours with their antennae. This means it's essential to always wipe up spillages properly, and keep packaging tightly fastened.
Another rare and more serious cause of ants in the home is the nest being located in rotting wood in the house's structure. Ants are fond of making their homes in rotted wood, as it is easy to burrow through and provides warmth and protection.
What are the most common types of ants in the UK
Luckily for us Brits, ants in the UK are relatively harmless. In some other countries, ants, such as the Fire ant, have caused serious issues in the past, including death to humans and other animals.
The two most common ants that invade UK homes are the Black Garden Ant and the Pharoah's ant.
The Black Garden Ant
Despite the name, the Black Garden Ant is dark brown in colour. The worker ants (those tasked with sourcing and collecting food) are around 3-5mm in length. Their name denotes their preferred nesting place - in soil, lawns and close to buildings. They come inside solely to search for sweet food, hence why they're often found in kitchens.
Surprisingly, and unlike many other house pests, Black Garden Ants actually carry no germs or disease - they primarily present an annoyance to humans as opposed to an actual health risk.
The Pharoah's Ant
Light yellow in colour, like the golden headpiece of a Pharoah, the Pharoah's Ant is smaller than the garden ant - the workers being just 2mm long.
The Pharoah's Ant presents a more significant problem for two reasons. The first being that, unlike Black Garden Ants, Pharoah's ants do bring harmful germs into your home. Secondly, due to their tropical origin, they prefer warmer environments, making our homes an ideal place for them to infest.
What problems do ant infestations cause in the home?
Of all the different types of pesky house pests, ants are actually rather harmless. Carrying little disease and not equipped to cause any real damage, they are more of an annoyance than anything else.
As mentioned above, however, some ants such as the Pharaoh's ant pick up and carry germs from faecal traces in the garden. If there are young children in the home, this could be a concern.
Whilst uncommon to see red, wood or flying ants in the home, these species are prone to biting. Ant bites leave painful marks on the skin - not something most of us would consider a 'home comfort'.
In extreme cases where electrical areas become infested by ants, wiring can also be damaged. This can not only be a costly inconvenience but also dangerous if the problem goes unnoticed.
How to kill ants naturally - is natural always best?
The majority of us don't like the thought of causing needless harm to animals. There are plenty of ways to harmlessly remove ants from the home, however, depending on the problem in hand, this may not always be suitable.
When to choose a cruelty-free ant-removal method
Ants in the home don't always mean you have to resort to extreme measures. These ants, which enter your house in search of or following the scent of food, will often go away when deterred.
If the problem is the above, and not an ant nest itself, then a natural method will usually more than suffice.
The first thing to understand is that, although annoying, ants actually help us. They play an important role in our ecosystems by turning soil, aiding in decomposition and feeding on the eggs and larvae of more damaging insects such as flies, fleas and bedbugs.
By choosing a natural ant removal method, you are not only being kinder to the animals, but to your home, too. The chemicals inside ant killers are extremely toxic, and can be very harmful if they get into the wrong hands. They can also cause much damage to our environment. In order to prevent such occurrences, it's much better to choose a natural solution.
When to choose a shop-bought, lethal, ant-removal treatment
Although there is a strong case for going natural to remove ants, it's not always enough.
If you are faced with an ant infestation in your home, caused by a nest either inside, or very close by, more drastic action may be needed. Perhaps you have an ant nest in the children's area of your garden - you will want to remove all trace of the insects so they can play peacefully.
Whilst natural removal methods are preferred, they are more effective at repelling ants as opposed to eradicating them completely. In order to guarantee the entire ant nest is removed, it's best to choose a powerful product designed specifically for that purpose.
Harmless, natural ant removal solutions - 4 steps to an ant-free home
If you think your ant problem can be managed by natural means, follow this four-step guide:
1. Seal and block ant entry points
The likelihood is that ants will be entering and leaving your home through the same crack each time. Fully seal these holes, and the ants will no longer be able to come into your home - simple.
Spend some time watching the ant trail to fully identify problem areas.
Once identified, you can use sealer, putty or plaster to ensure the areas are tightly closed - you can even use vaseline if you're really desperate! If the problem seems severe, you might want to consider renewing skirting boards.
2. Collect and dispose of ants
It may sound obvious, but collecting the ants in your home and returning them to their rightful place - outdoors - could be all it takes to remove them.
In order to do this without harming any of their lithe limbs, place a plate containing sweet food down in the infested areas. The ants will be attracted to the food, climb on, and you'll then be able to take the plate outside.
Use natural products to hide ant scent trails
Ever wondered why ants follow one another in regimented lines? This is made possible as they leave a potent trail behind them for other ants to follow. The trail is made up of the chemical pheromone, and makes it possible for other ants to find the pathway to food.
Remove the trail with one of the following ant removal methods, and they won't be able to follow it into your home.
- Vinegar-based solution - mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 cups water & 12 drops of peppermint, clove or Eucalyptus oil. Wash over affected areas to remove ant trail.
- Peppermint essential oil - add a few drops to cotton wool and wipe over trail/entrance points. Leave 'ant balls' in place to deter ants.
- Tea tree essential oil - use in the same way as peppermint essential oil.
Naturally prevent ants from returning to your home
Just like us humans, there are many smells that ants find extremely unpleasant. Any of the following, if placed on or near ant entry points, will act as a potent repellant.
- Cucumber (sliced or peeled)
- Herbs and essential oils (placed on cotton wool as 'ant balls')
- Cinnamon (sticks or powder)
- Coffee grinds
Effective insecticides for ants removal
If you have a serious ant problem in a lawned area you often use, you may wish to completely kill off the ants. In order the eradicate the population entirely, you'll need to kill the Queen ant, as she is responsible for all reproduction.
Finding the nest is simple - follow the ants as they follow the pheromone ant trails to and from the nest.
Once the nest has been accurately identified, choose a product labelled for lawn use that contains one of the insecticides from the list below:
NOTE: follow instructions on packaging closely and take care with harmful chemicals.
I hope you enjoyed my article. Follow the above, and your home will be ant free in no time!
It's great that you have natural ways to deal with ants, so often people tend to use harmful chemicals just because it's convenient.
Hi Tang. We completely agree, which is why I wrote this article! Natural is always best :) Thanks for stopping by.
You can kill ants by using scented talcum powder. Simply sprinkle a bit over a few of the ants you can see and because it sticks to them they take it back to the nest with them and killing the others, if necessary repeat the next day. I have found this method to be extremely effective and inexpensive.
Hi Jacqueline. Thanks for the great tip. This is certainly an easy & affordable method :)
What if the ants aren't following a trail? They just suddenly show up on my floor and move in random directions. I watched them for a long period of time and never saw them heading anywhere there might be a nest.
Hi Jody. Are your ants inside, or out? They will be following a scent, be that to food or a trail back to the nest.
If you mix one part Borax powder (cheap) to three parts icing sugar, sprinkle on the trail, the ants will take it back to the nest and kill ants there>
Hi Marie, Thanks for this tip. The article is based on natural remedies that are harmless to ants for those who don't want to kill them. Thanks for sharing another solution :)
You can also use ground cloves to deter them and make the house smell wonderful!
Hi Truro, Thanks for the tip - we'll give it a go!
When I have had had ants I just sprinkle some cheap talcum powder over the ones you can see and because they’re covered in it they take it back to the nest with them and it kills them all off. I don’t know why this works but it does. Sometimes you may have to sprinkle them a couple of times but it’s so easy, effective and cheap without any nasty chemicals.
Hi Jacqueline, Thanks for stopping by :) Our article is based on human ways to get rid of ants, but yours certainly sounds handy (and natural!) Thanks for sharing.
Don't tread on an ant, he's done nothing to you. There might come a day when he's treading on you! Sorry couldn't resist!! (Showing my age there too!!) We get ants quite a lot in the summer and the powder doesn't seem to work and I don't like using it anyway. I'll give these a go and see if we can have an ant-free summer.
Hi purplevamp, Good to hear you're team ant - someone has to stick up for these little critters! Hope some of our tips work out for you.
why is it ants in my kitchen are attracted to the organic apple cider vinegar, l thought it is suppose to repel them like lemon skin or juice seems to. any ideas?
Hi N Chan! Could I ask how you know it is the apple cider vinegar that they are attracted to?
I use acv every day and haven't seen ants near it
So glad to find these tips on ants. Already used white vinegar spray which I noticed worked somewhat.
Good to hear, Dorothy!
I use a mixture of 1 part borax and 2 parts icing sugar. Sprinkle near the source and bit of the trail. The ants eat it take it back to the nest and that's it. Used for years and it always works.
Great idea, Marie!
When I found ants nests in my garden, I just poured over boiling water from the kettle as well as stir it with a stick to make sure it all got covered. Haven't had any for a long time. May sound a bit cruel but it is quick, cheap & effective. I was also told if you sprinkle scouring powder (like Ajax or Vim) on them, they will take it back to the nest to kill off others.
This also works a treat! Unfortunately, most pest control methods are cruel, but sometimes it's all that can be done.
Never really had too much of a problem with ants but when my first wife and I were together, at the front of our bungalow we used to get ants all over the pathway which was annoying so I poured boiling water over them and they seemed to move away from the path to other parts of the garden which I did not mind.
That's good to hear, Trevor. I suppose the issue here is not killing the entire nest, but only a select few?
how to stop wasps & bee's coming in through an open window. please.I have indoor cat's at home & they like chasing anything that buzzes. scared they are going to get stung & cost a lot at the vet's..
Hi Jackie! I'm petrified of wasps, so I can relate to your concerns! I've personally tried using mesh window screens on mine and found that it works brilliantly. You still get a good breeze through the mesh, without any bugs making their way in. An alternative hack is to make a mock wasps nest with a brown paper bag. You can also purchase mock wasps nests online. Wasps will feel threatened by the fake nest and will stay well away.
Just pour boiling water over them or the nest & then give a quick stir with a stick or something as you do it, that will get rid.
Thanks for sharing, Heather!
Jackie Eyre : I have found Geranium, placed at an open window, (either the flowering plant or cotton wool balls with a few drops of Geranium essential oil) to be effective. As long as you don't kill them, bees are vital to the environment and, if you kill a wasp it releases pheromones that attract other wasps, which would, of course, be counter productive. If Geranium doesn't keep them away, (no guarantees but I've found it to work) it's best to trap them using a glass and a sheet of paper then release them outside, they'll usually just fly away.
I have just seen small ants ,for the first time ,in my living room. They are coming in from the skirting board,from the outside wall. I have used the vinegar and water method as a.lot have said this has been successful. Hopefully this will suffice. We live in rented property ,so do I need to inform the landlord, even if I don't see anymore ?
Hi Jo! I would always let your landlord know, just so that they're aware. Good luck!
Put sugar or sweet stuff finished jam jars etc outside by trails = no ants inside, simple really, like humans who's going to travel further than you need to get what you are seeking.
This is a simple and effective method to control ant populations. However, it may not eliminate all ants, as they may find another way into your home. Therefore, it's essential to regularly clean up food and water sources, fix cracks and crevices in your home's exterior, and eliminate moist areas to reduce ant populations.
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