By Lola Houlton
Spot one ant and you can be pretty sure there’ll soon be a trail of them, marching single file towards the tastiest, sugar-laden foods from your home. There are many species of ant, some of which have a nasty bite or sting, but the black garden ants, that usually come knocking at our doors won’t harm us. It’s best to discourage them though, as if there’s a good food source they’ll turn up in droves.
See: Garden ideas – inspiration and ideas for outdoor spaces
How to get rid of ants in the house
If you’ve had an invasion of ants, put off any return visits by cutting off their food supply. Often they’ll have been helping themselves from your cupboards so put food into airtight containers. Clean inside kitchen cupboards and drawers regularly and wipe down work surfaces and around the hob every time you prepare food. Make sure the kitchen bin shuts tightly, and sweep the floor, paying special attention around the bin. Once pets have eaten, pick up the bowls immediately and rinse them out. If you come across a single ant or just a few, squish them.
See: How to get rid of fruit flies – by cleaning with bait and using store-bought traps
Is there a natural way to get rid of ants?
Ants use pheromones to follow each other along a route, so a natural way to get rid of them is to disrupt them with scent. Fill a spray bottle with a mix of one part vinegar to one part water and use it to spritz surfaces. The strong scent of lemon will also repel them or try peppermint or tea tree oil sprinkled onto cotton wool balls and placed in their pathway.
Another option to try is spray-on glass cleaner mixed with liquid detergent. Sprinkling black pepper or cayenne along baseboards or behind appliances. might do the trick, while coffee grounds spread out on scraps of paper or card could also put them off.
See: How to get rid of wasps – follow these simple steps
Are there eco-friendly ant killers?
If you want to go the organic route, there are sprays made from plant extracts designed to kill all stages of ants, their eggs and the nest. Powders made of crushed sea fossils will kill ants by desiccation. These can be puffed into cracks, crevices, gaps and holes where ants may be living inside the house or outside in the garden.
Should I use poison to kill ants?
Ant bait looks like a banquet to unsuspecting foraging ants who carry it back to the colony, where it will kill the queen ant. You might have to repeat the process once a week to get results. Keep this out of the way of children and pets. A safe route is to choose a pre-baited pack of gel, which you can place at a strategic point, ensuring that you no-one touches the bait within. If you’re comfortable with using chemical insecticides around the house, sprays and aerosols can zap ants wherever you see them crawling around. Chemical ant killers also come as powder form, in a puffer pack.
How can I control ants in the garden?
Ants get a bad press but as part of the eco-system they have benefits for the garden. Their nests aerate the soil, and they make a tasty snack for birds and other insects. Unless they’re causing a nuisance it’s best to leave them be.
On the downside, ants can disturb plant roots while digging out their colonies and form ant hills on lawns. You can simply brush these away or break them up with a fork and treat with an insecticide or organic powder. Keep aphids under control, as ants farm these for the honeydew they produce. Wrapping affected branches in sticky tape will catch ants and prevent them reaching the aphids. Ants exploring walls or window frames can be deterred by soapy water, but avoid this on decking or steps as it can make them slippery.
Though it sounds like the stuff of horror movies, pouring a kettle of boiling water over an ants nest will instantly kill any you can see. The colonies can run deep and you may not catch all the ants this way. A bait trap could be a solution here. For a nuisance nest that’s too close to a building or inside the wall voids you may have to call in a professional pest-control company.
What biological tactic can I try?
Tiny parasitic creatures called nematodes could solve the ant problem. A pack of Nemasys, available from Sarah Raven, contains millions of nematodes which won’t harm children, pets or wildlife. It should be applied when the soil temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 degrees Celcius. Just mix with water and pour onto the nests.
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