If you’ve suddenly got an ant problem and nothing you do to fix it is working, there’s still some hope. Plenty of tactics can keep them from invading your house, and to prevent another pest problem from popping up. We asked Blaine Richardson, an associate certified entomologist and COO at EDGE-The Service Company, a pest control company, for his DIY tips and tricks for protecting your home.
How to Prevent an Ant Problem
1. Seal Off Entry Points
Use caulk, sealant, and weather stripping to fill in any gaps or small crevices and cracks in doors, windows, walls, and other places where ants might get through. “Due to their size, ants can easily navigate into the smallest crack in the foundation, an open window, or any opening in your house or apartment,” Richardson says. “It’s important to block off these entry points and seal off any openings.”
2. Eliminate the Food Source
Don’t ruin a perfectly good pie or batch of cookies by not storing it properly. “Often ants are attracted to homes because of the food source,” he says. “If food is left out or is in an open container, ants navigate toward it easily. Sugary substances in general are a large reason why ants enter the home. It’s important to seal food properly (like in airtight containers, or covered tightly with plastic wrap or foil), preferably in higher-to-reach places.”
3. Keep It Clean
It really pays off to tidy up your house or apartment—try getting the whole family or roommates involved. “Like other insects, cleanliness is key to ensuring that ants don’t find a home in yours,” he says. “Pay special attention to the kitchen where crumbs are commonly found. In addition, regularly clean your countertops and floors.” If you don’t let the crumbs and other clutter take over your space, bugs will be less attracted to dirty areas or be able to hide in pile-ups.
4. Take Out the Trash
And not just every other week, do it daily (or every few days, depending on how much trash you have). “While crumbs and other items may have been cleaned up, the trash bag is a perfect source for ants, so don’t allow it to linger in your home for longer than it should,” he says. If your trash bag isn’t full and you don’t want to toss it out just yet, make sure the bin is covered to stop bugs from getting in.
How to Deal With an Ant Problem
1. Kill the Scout Ants
“The first time you see an ant, it is likely a scout ant looking for a new food source,” Richardson says. “If that ant makes it back to the colony, more will be coming back for food—so kill them before they get back.”
2. Line Entry Points With Repellents
You don’t have to turn to chemicals right away—try some natural-repelling substances like cinnamon, baby powder, chalk, white vinegar, and cayenne pepper. “Spread along entry points such as windowsills and doorways to eliminate entry,” he says. You can apply on a cloth and wipe on the surfaces.
3. Poison Baits
If you have to turn to poison baits or chemicals, make sure you check the labels carefully—a lot of them contain ingredients that can be harmful to children and pets. Avoid anything with arsenic and look for products with boric acid, such as Terro Liquid Ant Baits.
When to Call the Pros
If none of these remedies work and you seem to be seeing more ants, it’s most likely an infestation, Richardson says. At that point, you might want to call an expert to come to inspect your home.