How to kill red ants – 10 easy methods for fire ant removal

Learn how to kill red ants in your home and in your garden with these easy methods

A small group of red ants clustered on a plants stem
(Image credit: Alamy)

Red ants are a common variety of fire ant that can commonly be found under large stones or paving slabs around your garden. These harmless-looking creatures are able to deliver a painful sting when threatened or disturbed, however, so finding a colony in your garden or stragglers in your home means you will likely be looking for how to kill red ants quickly to save yourself some trouble.

When it comes to getting rid of ants, many of the methods are the same, so one treatment can usually be used across ant varieties from getting rid of flying ants to getting rid of carpenter ants. Knowing which type you are dealing with, however, will allow you to better target your treatments to kill or dissuade the ants most effectively.

Here, we have looked at how to kill red ants as well as how to recognize a red ant infestation in your home and how to prevent red ants so you are prepared for any infestation that may threaten your property. 

How to kill red ants

Ants are incredibly clever creatures, so killing red ants should only be done if they pose a threat to you or your property. Ants inside of your home should be taken care of swiftly, however red ants in the far reaches of your garden should be observed and only removed if they begin to wander towards your home or threaten the wellbeing of pets or children with their stings.  

You can identify red ants by their reddish-brown bodies and darker head. They may also appear slightly larger than your regular black ant. 

How to kill red ants in your garden

Two small red ants on a green leaf

(Image credit: Alamy)

Getting rid of red ants in your garden is easier than clearing an infestation that has entered your home however it should still be done with caution. Angering red ants could lead to a sting, so ensure you take the proper precautions when dealing with these fiery bugs. 

1. Plant insect repellent plants

Red ants have a strong sense of smell and there are many smells that ants hate that will help to dissuade them from your garden. 

'Plants such as mint, chili plants, basil, lavender, and eucalyptus can all help to deter ants,' says Rachel Crow, garden editor for Homes & Gardens. 'you may also want to try spraying lemon or garlic scents around your garden as these are natural ant repellents too.' 

2. Fall back on boiling water and soap

One of the most effective ways of killing red ants is to flush them out with boiling water and soap. This method is useful as it can also be used inside the home due to the lack of chemicals. 

If you are able to locate a red ants nest, pour boiling water and soap down the entrance to kill many red ants in one go. It is best to pour water down as many entrances as you can find for the best results. You may need to repeat this multiple times to remove all of the ants but it can work against all ant varieties such as getting rid of sugar ants.

3. Use white vinegar 

White vinegar is another common household product that can be used to kill a range of insects and bugs. Much like using boiling water and soap, pour one litre of white vinegar directly into the nest to kill red ants. 

White vinegar is perhaps a safer option than boiling water as it is not harmful to your plants or the ground despite being able to kill red ants on contact. Boiling water, on the other hand, although effective, could scorch your plants or their roots. 

4. Combine boric acid and sugar

'Boric acid is one of the most effective methods for killing red ants and getting rid of crickets and other pests in your home,' says Rachel, 'mixing it with sugar creates an irresistible paste to red ants who will carry the mixture back to the nest. Once ingested, the ants will die, allowing this method to wipe out large colonies quickly.' 

Mix boric acid with sugar bit by bit until it forms a thick paste before placing small amounts of the paste around ant colony entrances.

5. Lay out diatomaceous earth

Although diatomaceous earth can be used indoors, it is best used outdoors to kill red ants. This silica is a non poisonous way to trap and kill red ants pver larger areas of your garden as it is not damaging to plant life. 

Spreading this gritty powder traps ants and lacerated with bodies, drawing out the moisture to dehydrate and eventually kill them. As this powder is an irritant, make sure to avoid breathing the powder in or getting it on your skin by wearing a mask and gloves as you apply it. Once spread, keep pets and your children away from the area. 

How to kill red ants in your home

Close up of a singular red ant on a branch outside

(Image credit: Alamy)

Killing red ants in your home can prove more difficult with the need to preserve your furniture and appliances. Luckily, there are a few easy methods that can help to kill red ants naturally that you can try before needing to call an exterminator. 

1. Sprinkle cornstarch

Cornstarch is available at grocery stores, making it easily accessible and often cheap. If you have visible red ants crawling around your home, sprinkle the powder over the ants to smother them from a distance. Once they have ceased crawling, simply use your vacuum to clean the ants and the cornstarch away. 

2. Make a natural pesticide with neem oil

'Neem oil is a gardener's best friend,' says Rachel. 'This simple oil is a great natural pesticide that can be used to combat a range of pests including ants and red ants while protecting your best indoor plants and furnishings.

'When using neem oil, you can dilute it into a spray with water to make a homemade bug spray although full-strength neem oil will work the best against red ants.' 

3. Consider commercial repellents 

If homemade or natural repellents have not worked to get rid of or kill red ants, consider using a commercially made repellent or bug spray to remove your ant problem. There are many non-toxic chemical sprays available such as Raid on Amazon (opens in new tab) however these can be dangerous to use in homes with small children, people with breathing difficulties such as asthma, or pets so should be used with extreme caution according to the product instructions. 

4. Use baking soda and sugar

If you do not want to put boric acid around your home, using baking soda to kill ants can be an effective alternative. Mix equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar and place the mixture around your home where you know the red ants are frequently active. Like the outside boric acid and sugar paste, the red ants will be attracted to the sweet smell, taking the powder back to their colony where, once ingested, the ants will die.  

5. Call an exterminator

If your red ant problem is proving difficult to remove, or they are causing damage to electrical appliances, it may be time to call a professional who can deal with the situation safely and effectively, as well as give you tailored pointers to prevent an infestation in the future. 

How to know if you have a red ant infestation

A close up of a bunch of red ants on a plant stem

(Image credit: Alamy)

A red ant infestation presents itself the same as a regular ant infestation does in your home. The most obvious sign of red ants, however, is seeing a few of the bright-bodied bugs in or around your home. 'If the ants are outside of your home, it may be easy to brush them off as just passing by but pay attention to their direction of travel,' advises Rachel. 'If they are walking in a line towards your home or up your walls, these ants may be living inside your property.'

Outside of your home, you may notice small piles of soil which may be the opening of an ants nest. Observe the hole closely for ant activity but avoid disturbing it to prevent angering these stinging pests. 

'Red ants may also feed on your houseplants, so damage to leaves or stems, particularly young plants, could also be a sign of an infestation if other common houseplant pests are ruled out,' Rachel continues. 'What's more, these ants are known to chew on electrical wiring insulation, possibly causing damage to your electronics and home utilities. Any electrical malfunctioning is a sign that the red ant infestation is securely established and a professional should be called.'

You may be able to hear ants who are living inside your internal walls if you put your ear next to the wall and listen carefully. Small rustling sounds are an indicator that ants are traveling around your home internally or even living there. 

How to prevent red ants

A close up of two red ants on a green leaf

(Image credit: Alamy)

Much like why ants come into the house, red ants enter a home in search of basic necessities and often do not mean to be there. To prevent red ants, therefore, you should look to remove food, means of entrance, and shelter to dissuade them from setting up a home in your house. 

Make sure you store food in airtight containers, dispose of food waste properly and clean up spillages straight away. Using clever cleaning tips will help you to stay on top of household cleaning to prevent insect infestations. You should also avoid leaving dishes in the sink or on the counter overnight where possible. 

To prevent ants from being able to enter in the first place it is recommended that you seal any cracks or holes around your property, much like getting rid of water bugs, as well as sealing any gaps around windows and doors. Consider using a screen on open doors and windows in the summer to prevent insects such as red ants from entering easily.

Finally, remove easy shelters such as firewood stored on the ground, remove tree stumps, and regularly tidy up and clean your garden ideas to remove debris that could provide ideal shelter from the elements for red ants. 

What kills red ants instantly? 

One way to kill red ants instantly is to use boiling water and liquid dish soap. This solution can be used easily both in the house as well as in the garden to instantly eradicate stubborn ants when needed.  Simply pour the water and soap over the ants or down ant hills to instantly remove the ant infestation. 

Do red ants bite?

While red ants do not bite, they can deliver a painful sting if disturbed. These stings can cause a burning feeling, welts that itch or even blisters. These stings, although uncomfortable, can usually be treat with antihistamines and sting creams at home.  If you are allergic to fire ant stings they may cause more serious effects, however, and it is advised to attend emergency care if you have any signs of a serious or even life-threatening reaction. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.