How To Get Rid Of Ants

Looking for the best ways to get rid of ants? While it won't be easy to keep these little creepers away from your kitchen, it doesn't mean you should give up. From cinnamon to chalk and lemons, there are some home remedies that may help. But first, make sure you know a thing or two about ants and their behavior.

As it turns out, there are more than 12,000 ant species, according to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). They can live just about anywhere, except for Iceland, Antarctica, and other areas with extreme temperatures. These tiny insects form colonies or supercolonies and have specific roles, such as queens and workers. Their diet consists of leaves, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, worms, and more.

Food preferences vary among species. Carpenter ants, for example, eat plants and small insects. The problem is that they also chew wood to build up their nest, explains the NWF. If left uncontrolled, they may cause structural damage to your home. Other species seek shelter indoors and can form huge colonies. Even so, pesticides should be your last resort. Below are some tips to get rid of ants without killing them, so you might want to try them out. 

Find the source of the infestation

Most ant species are harmless, so there's no need to kill them. "The good news is that they're really considered a nuisance pest," said entomologist Jody Gangloff-Kauffman in an interview with Customer Reports. These little creepers don't transmit diseases, but they can damage your windows and doors. The best way to get rid of ants is to figure out what's drawing them to your home and then eliminate the cause.

For starters, store your food in airtight containers and make sure your countertop, cabinets, tables, and floors are sparkling clean. "Generally, a colony will send out a few ants to scout — they'll bring back a sampling of any food they find to the colony, and hundreds will follow them back into the house," explains Gangloff-Kauffman.

Next, seal all cracks, holes, and other entry points. Gangloff-Kauffman also suggests fixing your deck, porch, doors, and other structures that may have rotten wood. If you see ants in your flower pots, sprinkle some coffee grounds over the soil, recommends Country Living. You can also use orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit peel. 

Get rid of ants without harsh chemicals

Sprinkle cinnamon, cornmeal, or coffee grounds on the floor and other areas where ants are nesting, recommends MedicineNet. These substances act as natural repellents and won't hurt your children or pets. Cinnamon essential oil has similar effects, per the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications. While it's true that ants may find a way around the cinnamon, it might be enough to keep them away, especially if you're dealing with a small colony. Likewise, you can draw a chalk line around the areas where you normally see these unwelcome guests.

Country Living suggests using citrus fruit peels as a natural insecticide. The citrusy smell will deter ants and keep them from returning to their nests. The same goes for peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree oil. Any of these substances can repel insects without harming them. Plus, your house will smell nice! Another option is to clean your floors and other surfaces with vinegar. Most insects, including ants, dislike its odor.

None of these methods is foolproof, but they might do the trick. If all else fails, consider using ant baits or traps. Note, though — these products contain toxic chemicals that may pose health risks to pets and children. The same goes for bug sprays, warns senior scientist Michael Hansen, Ph.D. (via Consumer Reports). The chemicals in ant sprays may disrupt endocrine function, leading to hormonal imbalances. Some compounds can also affect brain development in children, says Hansen.