It can generally go without saying that ants are unwelcome pests. They are unsightly and the sight of one ant usually means that there are going to be more ants to come, so it would make sense that you would want to get rid of ants the moment that you see them in your home, right?
While it is a perfectly normal reaction to want to kill the ants that you see in your home, this is one of the worst choices that you could make if you want to keep the ants out of your house. In a sense, killing the ants you see is like calling all the ants in the area to your home.
This is due to the way that ants communicate with each other. You might know that ants communicate in a special and interesting way from the fact that people will purchase ant farms specifically to see how ants live out their lives, but it extends far beyond that.
Ants have extensive communication patterns, ranging from leaving scent trails so other ants can come to their location when they find food to having a variety of danger signals that they can send to other ants in the area. One of those danger signals occurs when an ant dies and it releases special pheromones from its body, attracting ants to its location.
Because of this, you don’t want to try to kill the ants that you see the moment you spot them, as you may end up making the problem worse. Instead, you will want to focus on using the specific means of getting ants out of the house that researchers have come up with to circumvent these natural communication methods.
The Problem with Killing Ants
When an ant dies, it naturally releases pheromones from its corpse to tell the other ants in its area that there is something that causes death. While it might seem contradictory that a danger signal, especially one that implies death, would bring more ants to the location, this is exactly what it’s meant to do.
Other ants, sensing the death of an ant, will want to investigate the cause of death before they bring back the dead ant to the home of their hive. Ants are extremely smart insects and will want to look around to see if there are predators, if there was an accident, or if the death was seemingly natural.
This influx of new ants investigating the death of the ant and planning to carry away its corpse can cause quite a few ants to appear at once, and if you continue to kill ants, it may make the problem even worse as more and more ants appear to investigate what is going on.
It might land you in even more trouble if you are working with a species of ant that bites, as they will want to defend themselves and attempt to ward off prey. Most ants will see the size difference compared to them and humans, but some species of ants (notably fire ants) are fearless and will try to attack you anyway once they see that their ant friends were killed.
This means that if you kill one, you will not only get a swarm of ants investigating the death, but the ants will be angry and ready to bite.
In short, if you kill an ant, you are more or less alerting the entire ant hive to come to the location of the dead ant to not only carry the corpse back to their hive’s location, but also to investigate the cause of death. There are other ways that you can get rid of ants from your home than simply killing the ants that you see.
However, before you can rid your home of ants, you will first need to make sure that you know what is bringing the ants to your location. You won’t be able to effectively stop the ants from coming inside if you don’t get rid of the source they are coming after, making it all the more important for you to know what attracts ants.
What Else Brings Ants to Your Home?
Because ants are so prevalent in the world, it is fairly common information that sweets and particularly sweet liquids will bring ants to your location, but is there anything else that would cause ants to see your home as a particularly nice place to live?
Ants, due to their nature, will spend their whole lives looking for sources of both food and water. This means that if you leave food out on the counter or table regularly, you are letting ants in your location know that your home is a place where they can sustain themselves, and this is the opposite of what you want to do.
Ants search for food primarily through their strong sense of smell, which is why strong-smelling foods tend to be the best at bringing ants to your location. They prefer sweeter foods, including both foods that actually contain high amounts of sugar in them as well as foods that artificially smell sweet.
Any food, no matter the type, that is left standing is a beacon to your ants that your home is a prosperous place for them to live. In order to make your home less appealing to ants, you will want to do what you can to keep all of your food in airtight containers and to take the trash out regularly.
Ants are also attracted to standing bodies of water and damp objects. Whether you have a problem with moisture in the basement of your house or you can’t be bothered to clean up some of the standing water in your backyard from past rainfalls, these are going to be sources of interest for ants, inevitably bringing them to your house.
In order to keep ants from entering your home in search of water, you will want to make sure that you have no standing sources of water on your porch (this will also help keep mosquitos at bay) and you will want to ensure that you have no problems with lasting dampness in basements or crawl spaces.
You will want to keep damp towels and clothes from staying in one place for too long and you will want to make sure to clean up any spills inside of your house, even if it is as basic as spilled water.
Unless your home is already infested with ants, it can take some time for ants to come to your location for food and water, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to go out of your way to clean up food and water spills, though they should be taken care of as soon as you can.
However, if an ant finds food or water in your home once, they will mark your home as being a place that potentially has food, meaning that they will inevitably come searching for the food again, giving you all the more reason to clean up after yourself in the kitchen and when you eat.
It can take between hours and days for ants to find food that hasn’t been cleaned up. This timeline depends heavily on how many ants are in your area, whether or not they have been to your house before and marked it, and if the ants have eaten in a while or not, with houses that are already infested with ants being at the quickest end of this timeframe.
When all is said and done, if you want to keep ants out of your house, you will want to ensure that there is nothing in your house that ants will want to come after.
Cleaning up after yourself when you make food and when you eat are the best ways of making sure that there is no food for them. This, and making sure to take care of standing water, are the best ways to make your home as unremarkable for ants as possible.
If you do have ants in your home, you should do what you can to try not to kill the ants, as this has the risk of simply alerting the entire hive to the corpse’s location. There are other ways to get rid of ants to circumvent this aspect of ant behavior.
Getting Rid of Ants Without Attracting More
Ants are notoriously hard to fully get rid of, and this is something you will want to keep in mind when you are working to rid your house of ants. It may take several passes of using ant repellents and deterrents to fully make sure that they have no reason to come inside your house any more, although you may still spot the occasional ant inside.
If you know that you have an ant infestation, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is going to be to contact a pest control service. These services have the equipment to get to hard-to-reach areas of the house as well as the knowledge of how to work with houses that have other animals in them, such as cats and dogs.
Pest control is generally the last resort for most people as it can be expensive and unsafe for house pets, but it is also one of the most effective ways of permanently getting rid of the ants that have made your house into their home.
If you aren’t sure about how many ants are inside your house, you may want to attempt some other more basic home remedies before you contact pest control.
One of the best ways to get rid of ants inside your house is with special ant bait products. These baits are made with the social behavior of ants in mind.
What this means for the ants is that not only will more ants come to the bait to investigate the death of those who have eaten it, but ants will also bring parts of the poison back to the hive, as their social behavior involves sharing food with the rest of the hive, eventually leading to their deaths.
There are ant sprays that can be used to supplement baits, but baits are one of the most effective methods of getting rid of ants that are already inside their home.
There are also sprays that you can use that are not made to kill on contact, allowing ants to track the spray back into their hive and potentially spreading the poison to the rest of the other ants, killing them without necessarily attracting more of the ants to the inside of your house. Using these sprays in addition to using baits is an effective method of killing out ants, though it may take time.
There are also outdoor treatments that you can use. These are more likely to be harsh chemicals, so be mindful when you are using them.
They are designed to stop the ants from entering your property before they truly get inside the house. In addition to insecticides, there are also outdoor baits and sprays that you can use, though they will not be as effective.
There are also natural methods of ant killing that you can use if you are worried about the safety of other animals inside the house. These natural methods include using citrus as a repellent, vinegar as both a kill spray and a repellent, and mint as a repellent.
There is also a substance that works well for all insects, including ants, known as diatomaceous earth (often abbreviated to just DE). It works by breaking their exoskeletons and ultimately dehydrating the ant without necessarily killing your pets, though it should never be used in areas where food is actively prepared.
And finally, once you are done with the ant-killing measures, you should work on preventative care for both inside and outside your house.
The goal of this will not be to kill the ants as much as making sure that your property is as unappealing to the ants as you can make it, through the use of not allowing open foods or standing water in conjunction with repellents to make your property uncomfortable for the ants.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies…I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.