With between 10,000 to 20,000 different kinds of ants in the world, the type of insect you most likely come in contact with on a hot summer day does not possess a deadly sting or the lethal injection of the tocandira ants of the Amazon. Ants possess an average life expectancy of 45 to 60 days, which within that short period of time – is able to accomplish a great deal of work for their colony. Usually, an ant infestation of the home is by accident, but nonetheless – knowing effective home remedies for ants is an important piece of information to possess.
Table of Contents
- What are Ants?
- Different Types of Ants
- Signs of an Ant Infestation
- Home Remedies for Ants
What are Ants?
When it comes to ants, these very social insects are considered “eusocial,” meaning the community is comprised of both productive and sterile members of the community, which contribute to the protection and cultivation of reproductive residents . Throughout their existence, the ant has been regarded for its strength and high level of organization within the colonies and nests.
Out of sometimes millions of ants, each and every member of the community abides by their given duties until they are replaced by up-and-coming units. With this keen sense of purpose and function, ants are able to thrive in many different places, coming in a wide-range of sizes and species with distinct characteristics. A typical ant colony consists of female ants (“workers”), fertile males (“drones”), and fertile females (“queens”).
The typical structure of the ant body is composed of six legs – each with three joints. The outside of their body is quite hard, possessing an armor known as the exoskeleton. Antennae aid the ants in finding their way around, but also serve as their sense of smell. The head of an ant consists of two large, strong jaws, which open and close sideways in the same manner as a pair of scissors. Usually, ants are found in shades of black, brown, and red .
In regards to reproduction, the queens and the males possess wings while the worker ants do not. When mating, male and female ants fly into the air where the male deposits a significant amount of sperm cells into the female. After completion, the females remove their wings and begin to lay eggs. Soon after mating, the males quickly expire.
When finding food, the adult ant is unable to chew and swallow solid food, and instead, swallows the juice that is extracted and tosses the dry part to the side. The food travelers to the abdomen of the ant – composes of two stomachs. The first holds food for itself, while the second stomach is for food shared with other ants.
Across the globe, ants are found in almost every locale, especially in tropical destinations, where some of the most intriguing species are known to thrive. While almost all seven continents contain their own indigenous species of ant, no known native species of ant live in Iceland, Antarctica, Greenland, and the Hawaiian Islands. This doesn’t mean that there are no ants living in these locations, as the Hawaiian Islands have more than 40 species since established in Hawaii .
Different Types of Ants
As you scan the home remedies to solve your household ant problem, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of ants you may encounter. One of the most common house ant is called the pavement ant, which typically builds nests about the outside of the home – within pavement cracks, along the edges of curbs, under stones, and in the crevices of woodwork.
Throughout the year, a pavement ant can forage – feeding on live and dead insects, meat, grease, honeydew, plant roots, and seeds. While the workers are sluggish, these light to dark brown to blackish pests sometimes create nest within a home located close to a heat source. To get a clear picture on some of the ant species that may or may not become a nuisance within your home, a few specimens include:
a) Pharaoh Ant:
These yellow, honey-colored, or orange ants are about 1/16-inch long, displaying a 12-segmented antennae and uneven thorax construction. Pharaoh ants may feed on both living and dead insects, but on the home front, the ants crave sweets, fats, and proteins. Trails of these ants typically visit cabinets, floors, baseboards, carpets, and countertops. They usually prefer places with moisture, and have been known to use plumbing pipes as a mode of transport from room to room. The colonies are quite mobile and may consist of up to 300,000 workers with many different queens.
b) Fire Ant:
Sometimes referred to as “killer ants,” these insects use multiple queens in the nest to encourage an extremely fast rate in reproduction. The ants possess reddish bodies with shiny dark brown characteristics with a stinger. They have large eyes with three teeth positioned in the front of their head. In a household, the extremely aggressive fire ant searches for sweet foods, fats, and proteins. While they are known as a menace inside the home, these ants actually help sugarcane and cotton farmers with their crops.
c) Driver Ants and Army Ant:
In Africa and South America, the driver and army ant species are masters at teamwork, as each ¼ inch-long colony members contributes to a powerhouse comprised of between 170,000 and 700,000 workers. In the wee hours of the morning, the ants pile out to search for food and when met with adversity – simply swarm their prey – cutting their bodies into small pieces using fiercely sharp jaws. Army ants are so well respected in Africa, residents are known to temporarily abandon their residence, as army ants pass over the huts, gathering any insects they may feast upon. When the army ants move on, the residents return to huts ridded of insects, roaches, and other pests.
Signs of an Ant Infestation
When you spot a few ants gathering at your baseboards, there is no need to jump into a definite panic – ants are great travelers and will go to great lengths to bring back food for the nest. Sometimes, a few transient workers get lost or aimlessly wander into a home by accident. Familiarizing yourself with the following signs of an ant infestation helps to confirm or discredit your fears, as well as find the best course of action:
a) Sighting of Large, Winged Ants:
When large ants with wings emerge from the ceilings, walls, and crawl spaces of your home, you are amidst a serious ant problem.
This is the name given to the material that often piles up outside of nest openings, which gather in spider webs and decorate windowsills. It is made up of wood shavings, soil, dead ants, and part of other insects.
The winged reproductives of the ant colony often take to the air during the spring season and often become trapped in spider webs, appear on window ledges, and become caught in light fixtures. Sighting a large gathering of these ants is a sign that an infestation is near.
d) Faint, Rustling Noises:
Within the walls and woodwork, a faint sound is heard when an active ant infestation is present in your home. Sometimes, the carpenter ant releases a clicking sound, when alarmed. If you tap against the wood using a screwdriver where you believe a potential nest is hidden, you can use a stethoscope to detect activity.
e) Damaged Wood:
Some ants are known to cause wood damage, which is a direct effect caused by burrowing tunnels linked to colonies.
Home Remedies for Ants
Before setting out the ant traps and buying the chemical sprays – at the first sight of ants – try considering the plenty of home remedies that use common ingredients found right in the household that prove quite effective in eliminating the problem. A few methods to consider include:
Since ants are not too fond of spearmint, pennyroyal, and tansy, you may want to plant these selections close to the home in an effort to ward off ants. To keep red ants out of the way, the planting of sweet fern is recommended.
b) Boric Acid :
To combat ants, a homemade bait may contain 3 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, and 4 teaspoons of boric acid. Another recipe involves 2 tablespoons of boric acid and 1 cup of corn syrup.
c) Vinegar and Water:
The next time you wash down your counters, mix equal parts of vinegar and water to detract ants.
When ants make it a habit of hovering about a pet food dish, you may wipe the floor and around the dishes with a cloth dipped in kerosene. Some pet owners then set the food dish within a larger dish that contains water.
e) Avoid Picnic Disaster:
To keep crawling ants away from a picnic table, place each leg in a small pan of water.
f) Mint Apple Jelly:
Combine two tablespoons of boric acid powder for every 10 ounces of mint apple jelly to create an effective ant control remedy.
g) Confectioners Sugar:
To eliminate ants, mix equal parts of borax with confectioner sugar. The ants bring the mixture back to the nest, which aids in killing the rest of the colony .
h) Tea Bags:
Using a tea bag filled with mint tea can control ants in their most active spots. Sometimes, the use of dry, crushed mint leaves or cloves will help combat your ant problem.
i) Soapy Water:
A small spray bottle containing soapy water can be used to spray and ward off ants.
j) Peanut Butter:
Combine six parts of peanut butter with one part brown sugar, adding ½ teaspoon salt with one part boric acid to control ants. A boric acid, peanut butter and jelly blend is also known to control a large number of common household ants with the exception of Argentine ants, carpenter ants, big-headed ants, and field ants. This remedy effectively treats infestations of odorous house ants, acrobat ants, little black ants, pharaoh ants and pavement ants. To make the mixture, combine 2 tablespoons each of peanut butter and jelly with 1 tablespoon of boric acid. The bait is then placed on a sheet of paper in the location where ants are foraging. It is important to keep children and pets out of the way.
Spraying vinegar around the doors and window frames, under appliances, and close to known ant trails will help kill ants.
Placing a cinnamon stick in the pathway of ants sometimes keeps ants from coming through doors and windows. In many cases, they do not dare cross it.
A mixture comprised of 40% water, 40% alcohol, and 20% dish soap is known to treat most species of ant. Some insects die upon contact. The combination also helps to eliminate the chemical trail left behind by ants so others are unable to follow the same path into your home.