The Do's and Don'ts of Ant Control

August 28, 2020

You walk into the kitchen and see a trail of ants crawling along your countertops. Maybe you spilled a little coffee a few hours early and neglected to clean it up. Maybe a few stray breadcrumbs from the sandwich you made for lunch were left behind for a few days without you noticing. Whatever the case, you’ve got ants. So what should you do about it? You might think a quick Google search will give you the answers, but the truth is there’s a surprising amount of bad information about ant control. We’re here to bust some of those myths and tell you what you can do to take care of ants that will actually work. 

The Don’ts of Ant Control 

So what are a few myths that have been propagated online about ant control? Some of them are more believable than others, so let’s start with the most convincing of the bunch:

Vinegar Wards Off Ants 

This one seems sensible enough; vinegar is an acidic solution and is found in many cleaning products, plus it has a very distinct odor, somewhat unpleasant odor. If people don’t usually like the smell of vinegar, why would ants? Truthfully, vinegar temporarily masks the smell of an ant colony's pheromone trail, but it is no long-term solution. Ultimately it does not actually kill the ants or damage the ant colony, which means that nearby ants will be back once that odor wears off. 

Salt and Pepper Will Keep Ants Away 

Online, there are a number of articles that claim mixing pepper or salt with a hot water solution, and then spraying that solution in areas where you think ants may be coming from is a sure way to keep ants out of your home. Much like vinegar, there is some temporary benefit to this, but again, it is only temporary. If you’re dealing with an infestation, this solution won’t provide you much more than an unusual-smelling home. 

Citrus Fruits Can Stop Ants in Their Tracks

You’re probably starting to see a trend here: products that have strong or distinct odors are frequently recommended as a method of DIY ant control, and this one is no different. The myth goes that squeezed lemon and orange, and even their rinds, can ward off ants, but this is at best anecdotal.

Cinnamon is an Ant Stopper  

This one is interesting because there is actually some real science to back it up. Well, almost. While cinnamon on its own is not going to leave your home ant-free, cinnamon leaf essential oil has been shown to be effective at repelling ants. So if you do want to use this method, skip the cinnamon you sprinkle on your toast and head to the nearest health food store to grab cinnamon leaf essential oil. This isn’t going to wipe out an ant infestation, but it’s not a bad method to keep ants from entering your home. 

All of these have some common sense to them, but the one that we found especially odd was related to a product that you’re more likely to find in an elementary school than anywhere else…

Chalk Can Keep Ants Out

The story goes that you draw a line of chalk near an ant colony or along an ant trail, and because of the unusual smell of chalk, ants will be so disoriented that they won’t want anything to do with that colony anymore. This might work for a brief period of time, but at the end of the day ants will quickly re-establish the pheromone scent that draws them to locations, and you’ll just end up with lines of chalk on outside of your home and a line of ants still marching toward your front door. 

So what can we learn from the “don’ts” of ant control? Truthfully they aren’t all completely useless, because there is a nugget of truth to all of them. But the reality is that these are all temporary solutions, many of them with roots in anecdotal evidence and even folklore; none of these DIY ant control options are going to actually get rid of an ant infestation, or completely stop ants from entering your home. 

The Do’s of Ant Control 

If you really want to get rid of ants, you’re going to have to turn to the real deal stuff: insecticides and ant bait. This is a process that can take a lot of work, and you’ll be handling and applying some pretty serious products. You’ll also need to do a careful inspection of both your home and your yard to find any possible ant nests. Frankly, this is something that we would recommend leaving to the professionals; it’s very easy for you to pour a lot of time and money into doing ant control right, only to realize that you’ve missed an ant nest and that your problem is no better than it was before. 

Still, there are a few practical things that you can do to help your ant problem that doesn’t require the handling of pesticides, including: 

  • Trimming back bushes, shrubs, and trees that brush against your siding or roof that provide a bridge for ants to reach your house. Remove these pests and find out how they gained entry to stop future incursions.
  • Keeping a 3 to 6-inch clearance space between the soil around the foundation and the bottom row of siding to prevent ants from nesting in the siding.
  • Avoid stacking firewood next to the house. Firewood makes a perfect retreat for ants.
  • Ants like bare spots in the yard and they like to build nests under layers of thatch. Maintaining a healthy lawn is one way to get rid of ants.
  • Rake the lawn or bag the grass when you mow to eliminate thatch.
  • Sweep up food crumbs, wipe up spills, take out the garbage and don't leave dirty dishes sitting around the house

If you find yourself encountering an ant infestation, contact A-1 Pest Control to help! We can provide home pest control packages that take care of all types of ants native to North Carolina, including fire ants!

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