7 Ways to Get Rid of Ants (Without Calling the Exterminator)

How to kill and eliminate house ants and ants from your backyard.

ants
Getty Images

1. ID the Ant

Take a close-up photo of one of the invaders, and e-mail it to your local university extension service. (These offices provide research-based information on issues like pests. To find your closest office, check here.) The extension service can tell you the type of ant you’re dealing with and where it nests. It may give you fact sheets about the ant species and maybe even some advice on getting rid of it.

2. Make Poison Easy to Reach

Place bait stations in areas where you’ve seen ants, like under the sink and along walls, to make it as likely as possible that the ants will take the toxic bait back to the nest. Expect to see more ants when you set out the bait at first. That’s a good thing. It means more ants are taking the bait back to the colony, where they’ll share it with the rest of the ants, including the queen.

3. Don’t Squish Them

After setting out the toxic bait, resist the temptation to step on the ants. They’re working for you now—gathering the poison and taking it to the nest.

4. Erase Their Trails

Ants leave a scented trail that other ants follow. Sweeping or mopping isn’t enough to eliminate the scent. Instead, mix one part vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle, then spritz wherever you’ve seen ants.

5. Remember Your Yard

Spot treat ant hills or mounds with an outdoor insecticide. For large-scale ant problems, use an insect killer that contains bifenthrin as the active ingredient. First mow the grass, then spray the insecticide on the entire lawn in the early morning or late afternoon, when the ants are most active.

6. Eliminate Easy Entry

Trim back bushes, shrubs, and trees that brush against your siding or roof. These provide a bridge for ants to reach your home. Avoid stacking firewood next to the house.

7. Hunt Down the Nest

For some infestations—of carpenter ants, for instance—you must get rid of the nest. How to find it: Look for damp areas such as framing or flooring that’s soft and spongy (this could be the result of, say, a plumbing or roof leak). Look in attics, bathrooms, and exterior walls. When you find the nest, spray it with an insecticide labeled for indoor use.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.