Common Ants in Your House (and How to Get Rid of Them)

Ants are everywhere, from rainforests to your backyard, hustling in massive colonies. These tiny engineers do it all—digging the soil, spreading seeds, and protecting their queen.

Did you know there are over 12,000 types of ants, each with its unique gig in the colony? They’re nature’s ultimate team players, showing off just how teamwork can literally move mountains—or crumbs, in their case.

Curious about how they pull off their incredible feats without a hitch? Keep reading to uncover the secrets of their success.

Key Takeaways

  • Ants invade homes for food, water, and shelter, turning any household into a potential haven for their colonies.
  • Identifying ants by their appearance and behaviors, such as carpenter ants nesting in wood or odorous house ants preferring sweets, is crucial for effective control.
  • Preventing ant infestations involves sealing entry points and maintaining clean environments to deter ants from entering and foraging inside homes.
  • DIY solutions like homemade baits with Borax and sugar can manage ant invasions, but persistent issues may require professional pest control services.

Why Ants Invade Your Home

As social insects, ants live in structured communities in large colonies, where each member plays a specific role. For example, larvae are cared for by various castes.

All species of ants can easily exploit the resources your household unwittingly provides, such as:

Common ReasonDescription
FoodA home can be a constant food source for ants who forage for crumbs, spills, dead insects, or unsealed food containers.
WaterLike any living creature, ants need water to survive. Leaky pipes and other sources of moisture can draw them inside.
ShelterYour home provides refuge from outdoor conditions, offering warmth, protection, and the potential to establish new colonies.

Identifying Common House Ants

When identifying the most common ants in your home, observing their physical characteristics and behaviors is crucial in determining the species.

Carpenter Ants (Camponotus spp.)

  • Appearance: Carpenter ants are among the largest ants in the United States, with sizes ranging from reddish-brown to dark brown. Their size can vary significantly, with workers ranging from 6 to 12 mm in length.
  • Distinctive Behaviors: These ants nest inside the wood, including tree stumps, firewood, and building structural timbers. Unlike termites, they do not eat wood but remove it to create pathways and chambers for their nests.

Odorous House Ants (Tapinoma sessile)

  • Appearance: These small ants are dark brown to black and emit a noticeable rotten coconut-like odor when crushed. Workers are typically about 2.4 to 3.3 mm long.
  • Distinctive Behaviors: Commonly referred to as sugar ants, sugar ants prefer sweets, although they will eat almost any household food. Their trails often lead directly to the nest.

Pavement Ants (Tetramorium caespitum)

  • Appearance: Pavement ants are dark brown to black and about 1/8-inch long. Their nests easily recognize them in pavement cracks and the mounds of dirt they leave at the entrance.
  • Distinctive Behaviors: These ants are named for their habit of nesting in or under pavement cracks. The worker ants forage for food in defined lines and can eat insects, honeydew, seeds, and household food items.

Fire Ants (Solenopsis spp.)

  • Appearance: Fire ants are reddish-brown and vary in size within the colony. Workers range from 2 to 6 mm in length.
  • Distinctive Behaviors: Fire ants are aggressive and known for their painful sting, which can cause red bumps and severe allergic reactions. They build large mound nests, which can damage lawns and agricultural areas.

Pharaoh Ants (Monomorium pharaonis)

  • Appearance: Pharaoh ants are small, light yellow to red with black markings on the abdomen, and workers are about 2 mm long.
  • Distinctive Behaviors: Pharaoh ants prefer warm indoor spaces and are difficult to control due to their ability to create large colonies quickly. They can transmit pathogens to hospitals and nursing homes.

Other Common Types of Ant Species

Here’s a closer look at these other common types of ant species you might encounter that are worth mentioning.

Ant SpeciesAppearanceDistinctive Behaviors
Thief Ants(Solenopsis molesta)Very small, yellowish to light brownNests close to other ant colonies to steal food
Argentine Ants (Linepithema humile)Light to dark brown, about 1/8-inch longForms supercolonies that prefer sweet food
Acrobat Ants (Crematogaster spp.)Light brown to black, heart-shaped abdomenAbdomen held up over thorax when disturbed
Crazy Ants(Paratrechina longicornis)Dark brown to black, long legs and antennaeErratic movement, invasive, displaces other ants
Field Ants(Formica spp.)Varies in color from black to brown and red; size can range up to 1/4 inch longMistaken for carpenter ants, they do not cause structural damage
Common Black Ant(Lasius niger)Small, uniformly dark brown to black, typically around 1/8 inch long.Nests often under stones or pavement cracks in gardens and lawns

Preventing Ant Infestations

Keeping ants at bay involves a two-pronged approach: blocking their entry and maintaining an environment that discourages their presence.

Seal Entry Points

Ants are tiny experts at finding ways into homes, exploiting even the smallest gaps. They often establish ant-foraging trails along baseboards or walls, entering through unnoticed cracks and crevices.

As homeowners, you can interrupt these paths by following these steps.

  • Check for cracks in walls, around windows, and near doors.
  • Seal with caulk.
  • Inspect baseboards, utility pipes, and wiring for gaps with appropriate materials.
  • Block access via mulch, wall voids, or other nesting sites.
  • Use weather stripping on doors and windows.
  • Regularly assess new colonies that can form in overlooked crevices.

Natural Repellents and Sanitation Practices

Effective cleaning and natural repellents are vital to making a home less appealing to a large number of ants.

These wingless insects are drawn to even the faintest food sources, and cleanliness can significantly deter them from foraging inside.

Repellent or PracticeDetails
Vinegar solutionMix equal water and vinegar to wipe down surfaces and disrupt pheromone trails.
Peppermint oilWhen sprayed around entry points, a few drops mixed with water can be a natural deterrent.
Sanitize surfacesRegularly clean to remove crumbs, spills, and sticky residues like honeydew from aphids.
Secure food sourcesStore food in airtight containers and promptly clean pet food dishes.
Manage wasteEnsure trash is contained and removed regularly.

DIY Solutions for Ant Control

When tackling an ant infestation, you have a spectrum of DIY solutions. These include crafting homemade baits and traps and safely applying pesticides.

Homemade Baits and Traps

To create homemade baits that are effective against ants, follow these steps:

  1. Combine Borax and sugar: Mix 1 part Borax with 3 parts sugar to create a potent lure for ants. The sugar attracts the ants, while the Borax acts as a slow-acting poison.
  2. Prepare a liquid solution: Dissolve the Borax and sugar mix in warm water to form a syrupy solution.
  3. Soak cotton balls: Immerse them in the solution and place them in areas where ants are frequent.
  4. Set up solid bait stations: Alternatively, use baits and spread the dry mixture near ant trails.
  5. Monitor activity: Replace the ant baits every few days and monitor ant activity to assess effectiveness.

Safe Use of Pesticides

When using pesticides to get rid of ants, safety and correct application are crucial:

Safe PracticeDetails
Choose indoor-safe products.Ensure the insecticide is labeled for indoor use to prevent harm to household inhabitants.
Read the label.Follow the product’s instructions carefully for practical and safe application.
Spot-treat ant trails.Apply the pesticide to areas where ants enter and travel, keeping it away from general living spaces.
Keep away from pets and children.Store pesticides out of reach and only apply them in areas where pets and children won’t have contact.

Professional Ant Control Options

While do-it-yourself treatments can be effective for minor ant problems, certain situations necessitate the intervention of a pest control professional.

What to Expect from Professional Ant Control

Professional ant control services offer a thorough approach to pest eradication, typically including the following:

  • Inspection: A detailed examination to determine the extent of the infestation and the type of ants causing the issue.
  • Treatment options: Tailored solutions can range from baiting systems to chemical spray applications.

When to Call a Professional

If the ant infestation persists despite repeated DIY attempts, consulting a pest control expert is crucial.

Telltale signs that demand a pest management professional attention include:

  • Large ant colonies: Visible, extensive ant trails inside or outside the property.
  • Structural damage: Unexplained sawdust or hollow-sounding wood can indicate carpenter ant activity.
  • Nesting inside: Consistent ant presence suggests possible ant nests within walls or foundations.