9 Simple Steps to Get Rid of Ants and Keep Ants Out

Ant Control

Ants in the House
Keep ants out of your house. jmalov/E+/Getty Images

You've found ants trailing across your kitchen floor again! Although it may seem impossible to keep ants out of your house, there are things you can do. To get ants out -- and keep them out, follow the nine simple steps below.

How To Get Rid of Ants
 

1. First, understand the ant colony and its queen. 

To solve an ant problem, you need to first eliminate the ones you don’t see to get rid of the ones you do see.

It sounds strange, but it's true. This is because the queen -- the one who lays all the eggs -- never leaves her nest. She just stays there, being fed by the workers (the ones you see) and continuing to reproduce more ants. So you can spray and spray the ants you see, and she'll just keep making more to take their place.

2. Watch the trailing ants.

So, although it may sound silly, the first step in controlling ants is simply watching the ones that enter your home to see where they are coming from and going to. An ant will seek food, but once it finds food, the ant will return to its nest with the crumb, leaving a scent trail behind it. By doing so, the ant leaves a trail for its fellow worker ants to help in gathering the food.

3. Don't spray the ants! 

As discussed in #1, the ants that you see are worker ants. Their job is to find food and take it back to feed the queen and her young, who are being groomed as the next generation of worker ants.

Because of this, these worker ants are your ticket into the colony. If you spray and kill these ants, the colony will simply send out more workers, and you'll never reach the queen. So what do you do? See #4:

4. Set out ant bait.

Instead of eliminating the worker ants, use them! Following all label directions, place ant bait stations along the trail you identified (in #2).

The workers will find the bait, carry it back to the nest, and feed the queen, eventually killing her and eliminating future populations.

5. Hold off on cleaning

Although it is good to eliminate other food sources, you don't want to mop away the ant's odor trail yet. The trail will now lead the workers to your bait instead.

6. Be patient.

The ants will carry the insecticide bait back to the nest, but it can take several days to eliminate the colony, or even a few weeks if the colony is very large or it has several queens. (Some ant species do.) You may even need to replace the bait station if they empty the food or liquid bait.

7. Know when to spray.

If the trailing ants have led you to an outdoor, below-ground nest -- now can be the time to spray. Drenching the nest with an approved insecticide spray (following all label directions) can be effective.

8. Keep it clean.

Sanitation is critical for the prevention and control of any pest. Like all living creatures, ants need water, food, and shelter for survival. Ants will leave the shelter of their colony to seek food and water. Don't make it easy for them! Keep foods sealed, floors swept, and all surfaces cleaned.

9. Keep ants out.

Ants are tiny creatures and can enter homes and buildings through minute cracks and crevices.

To minimize this, seal around windows and doors, and all cable, pipe, and wire entry points.

A brief summary of the 9 steps:

The ants you see trailing in your kitchen are workers looking for any crumbs you've left behind. When they find the crumbs, they carry them back to the nest leaving a trail for other worker ants to follow. These ants feed the queen who makes the baby ants - and never leaves the nest. So ... to get rid of ants, you need to get rid of crumbs the ants want, then put down ant bait so they carry it back to the nest instead; feed the queen, and eliminate the entire colony.