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Keep Ants Out of Your House!

By on September 23, 2013

Ants attack a rhubarb leaf.

In our new video, Tricia shows a variety of ways to deal with ants that are coming into your house—and pesticides are the last resort.

Here’s how to keep ants out of your house, without using any pesticides at all.

ants at work

Ants are welcome in our gardens, most of the time, and we all respect their impressive social organizations. The downside to their good organization is that once they find a food source in your house you will get a steady stream of six-legged visitors.

Prevent ants from coming in the house

Following the principles of Integrated Pest Management, the first defense against ants is prevention.

Prevent the ants from getting close to your house by keeping outdoor plants and mulches one foot away from your foundation, walls, windows, and roof. Otherwise the ants can use the plants as bridges to your home.

The walls of your house should be a barrier to ants, but they won’t be an effective barrier if there are cracks in the walls. At least once a year, and certainly before a rainy season, check your house walls for exterior cracks, then use caulk to seal the cracks. Easy entrances for ants are the holes that are cut into the walls, for any pipes or electrical work. 

Don’t attract ants with spilled food

You probably keep a clean kitchen. Or at least you think you do—until a column of ants appears, heading for a spill you didn’t see.

Be vigilant about wiping up food spills immediately. Ants are particularly fond of sweets and fats. Don’t let them see your house as a smorgasbord of delicious treats. When it’s an anty time of year, spray your counters well and clean off those spills.

Stop the scout ant and you’ve stopped them all

Let’s say you’ve planted well away from the house, caulked any cracks, and wiped up all your food spills. And still the ants show up. When the ants come marching in UC Davis recommends you start by identifying the ant species and gives you helpful tools. Different ant species can require slightly different control methods and your controls will be more effective if you understand the unique behaviors of the troublesome ant species.

First, check outside the house and see where the ants are entering the building. Possibly a new crack opened since your last inspection, and you can caulk that up. Or the plants near your foundation have grown into contact with the house and are offering a highway for the ants.

If you want to stop the ants, and kill as few as possible, stay alert for the sight of just one ant. A lone ant is probably a scout, looking for a food source for its group. If you kill the scout ant you keep it from reporting back to the others. So the loss of one ant life relieves you from having to kill a whole column of ants.

If you want to take the last step and kill ants, bait stations are very effective.

If you get a terrible ant invasion and want to use a pesticide, Terro is a bait that is labeled for use on ants. Use it as an Ant Bait on paper, indoor Ant Bait Stations, and Outdoor Ant Bait Stations.

Admire the ants out in your garden, and hope that they don’t come inside to admire you cooking in your kitchen.

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