Although ants generally don’t harm people, infestations are a major nuisance. Fortunately, do-it-yourself and professional pest control options exist.
▪ Keep ants out: If you see scout ants in your home, kill them immediately. Don’t leave food out, and keep kitchen surfaces clean.
If you continue to see ants, make sure you’ve closed off possible entry points, which can include small cracks in your walls or under windows. Start by caulking these areas, such as window casings.
Next you can lay down barriers such as salt or talc under doors to turn ants away, or apply scents such as vinegar, peppermint oil or cinnamon. Bear in mind that pets and children may take interest in anything you put down, so be careful what you use.
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▪ DIY methods: If your problem has morphed from ant explorers to a full-on colony, then you need a plan.
Start with soap and water. This will not only kill chemical trails, but also any ants it touches. Add citrus to the water to increase effectiveness.
You can also purchase pest sprays and baited ant traps at grocery and hardware stores. These use a mixture of sugars and ant poison, such as boric acid, to attract, trap and kill ants. However, the sweetness of these traps won’t attract protein-feeders such as carpenter ants.
You can spray a mixture of Windex, vinegar and water around the exterior of the home where the house meets the pavement or ground to prevent more ants from infiltrating. Spray cracks around the baseboards and the base of the toilet if the infestation is in the bathroom.
▪ Hire a pro: Large-scale infestations require a pro who can locate the colony itself. Typically this starts by laying bait traps containing poisoned food, which the ants take back to the nest. Once exterminators find the colony, they can use chemical sprays or several other techniques.
In the case of carpenter ants, early detection is critical. They can cause significant damage to your home if left unchecked. Pest control pros may need to drill small holes in your wall to make sure the entire colony has been eliminated, and they will often book a follow-up.
▪ The cost: Removing ants yourself can be inexpensive. The price of a liquid ant killer or an ant trap runs between $5 and $10.
DIY treatments may deal with the scouts sent out to gather food or divert ants that haven’t established a colony. However, they aren’t as effective at long-term removal or in addressing large-scale infestations.
Professional exterminators can charge between $400 and $1,000 to eliminate ants. A reliable professional exterminator can also make sure ants don’t find their way back inside.