Bulging red blisters covered my body as a harsh stinging sensation coursed through my veins. Already bogged down by the thick Georgia heat, my sweat-drenched skin couldn’t take the burn from the yellow rays and pulsating bumps.
I swung my head from side to side in search of the deadly predator that had to be causing my pain — I was in the wilderness of Fort Benning after all. But I fell short in my observations. That is until I looked down.
Slithering around my torso and ankles were small dots of red. After a closer look, I could see that the dancing dots had thread-like legs and wiry antennas. I watched in confusion as one dove what felt like a claw into my stomach.
Ants. What felt like an entire colony of miniature monsters storming my being was just a few tiny fire ants crawling over my scorching skin. Each new bite resulted in the injection of their venom and a red bump — and they sure did keep biting. By the time I shook them all off, I was covered in 50 swollen red spots.
In my mind, I was an invincible soldier, but all it took was an encounter with these tiny insects to bring me to my knees — quite the wake-up call.
These critters can do a lot more harm than you’d expect, and they aren’t just out in the woods of an army base in Georgia but are virtually everywhere. And they can do a lot more than just bite you.
If these opportunistic creatures have overrun your home or lawn, you need to know how to combat them. Keep reading to learn the problems that they can cause around your property and the different ways you can get rid of them.
What Problems Do Ants Cause Around Your Home?
Don’t let their small size fool you. Ants can do some serious damage on several different fronts. Let’s take a look at the problems ant infestations bring with them.
Damage Your Home
You notice some damage to the structure of your home. The wood appears as if it’s decaying. “Must be termites,” you think to yourself. Well, look closer because you could be wrong.
Carpenter ants burrow into wood to build their home. They hollow out the wood and leave it looking clean and smooth. Termites, on the other hand, use the wood as a food source, so they might cause damage faster than carpenter ants. But an infestation of these types of ants will still compromise the structural integrity of your home.
Left untreated, the population of these small bugs will grow exponentially, and these new inhabitants need a place to live. The framing and support beams of your home are a perfect spot. As the colony spreads, your boards will weaken and warp.
This weakening can cause the following problems:
- Doors that stick in the doorframe
- Windows that won’t open smoothly
- Walls that cave in or bulge out
- Ceilings that sink
- Floors that slope
- Electrical shorts from compromised wiring
These little ants can wind up costing you a lot of money.
Destroy Your Lawn and Garden
Ants are opportunistic omnivores. If you haven’t treated your garden, ant activity can decimate it in a matter of days.
Farming ants, one of the most common species, secrete hormones from their exoskeletons to attract their prey. This prey includes aphids and other small insects. So what started as a farming ant infestation in your garden will become an aphid infestation as well.
Field ants create massive mounds that burst above the ground. Not only are these mounds unsightly, but they can also cause real damage to your yard. The field ants inside them will feed on your grass and will dig holes in the earth to construct their mound.
To make matters worse, a colony that begins as a tiny anthill will grow and multiply at a rapid rate, and eventually wreck the home and garden you’ve worked so hard to maintain.
Contaminate Your Food
These clever creatures are eager to capitalize on any opportunity for food and shelter that may present itself — and, boy, are they hungry for a new place to stay that’s stocked with food to eat. So, if they have the chance to slip inside your home and roam about, they will.
It can be something as simple as leaving a bottle of ketchup out of the fridge. Or, sometimes, maybe ketchup winds up dripping down the side of the bottle or dropping onto the counter — an innocent mistake that is especially not uncommon if you have kids.
These bugs will take advantage of that mistake and take any droplet of food they can find right back to their colony. And while this may appear harmless, I assure you it’s not. These pests will crawl through your trash bins, around your bathroom sink, and even around your toilet.
The mere thought of what gunk may be lurking between those tight spaces should be scarier than it is disgusting. One human’s goop is an ant’s food, and these critters will take anything you give them. And what do they give you in return? Easy access to countless intrusive strains of bacteria.
Ants pick up several toxic microorganisms on their journey to the filthy crevices of your house, to their colony, and back again. Then, they wander through the open food in your pantry, over the utensils that you put in your mouth, and many other places I’m sure you’d rather not think about.
Don’t see the big deal, yet? Let’s look at the different bacteria they can spread around your house:
- E. coli
These bacteria can cause a serious infection, cause you to be violently ill, or even kill you. And all this from an itty, bitty ant problem in your home.
Bites and Stings Can Be Dangerous
You already know about my unfortunate run-in with fire ants, and it should be used as a cautionary tale. An ant will bite you if it feels threatened, and, considering the size difference, I would say most species of the insect would feel threatened by us.
Ant bites are certainly painful, but the bite alone is not hazardous to your health. The real problem with bites is the risk of secondary bacterial infection they pose — something scratching will only worsen.
And believe me, I completely understand the relief that comes from scratching that itch. But that can lead to infection. If the area is not properly cleaned and cared for, you could get something like cellulitis, or a serious bacterial skin infection.
Some species of ants can inject a small amount of venom when they bite, like the ones I encountered at Fort Benning. While my experience was certainly painful and unpleasant, there are people out there who would have had it way worse: those that are allergic to ant venom. Their allergic reactions are characterized by a swelling of the throat and tongue, nausea and severe stomach cramps, tightening across the upper torso, dizziness, and trouble breathing.
That sounds terrible, but it gets worse.
Some people can even experience anaphylaxis, or a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It entails a response of the entire body that is like that of a typical severe allergic reaction. But anaphylaxis can easily lead to unconsciousness or even cardiac arrest should it be left untreated for too long.
That little ant in your grass doesn’t seem so little anymore, does it?
How to Know if You Have an Ant Infestation
Some signs of ant populations around your home are pretty obvious. Signs that these pests are planning an invasion are a little harder to see, so arm yourself with this knowledge before they invade.
Ant Hills or Nests
An anthill may seem harmless, but beneath the surface could lie thousands of these pests. And you better believe they are plotting and planning to find a food source. Usually, that source is inside your beautiful home.
These ants are crafty and will make their way inside through different entry points to forage for their supper. So, beware of these nests that show up on your lawn. This is where their journey starts as they make their way inside your home.
These ant trails mean that the ants have their marching orders. They march in single file from their ant hill towards the food source.
At this point, they have discovered a viable place to forage for a meal. Once the food has been discovered the creepy crawlers will lay pheromones down on the trail that leads directly back to their hills. This pheromone trail will also attract others of their kind.
In essence, they have built a nutrient pipeline that flows back and forth from their target in your house to their nests on your lawn.
Crafty and efficient, right?
Your Pet’s Food Bowl
Ants aren’t picky. They are happy to forage on pet food. It’s all edible to them.
So, if you notice that these bugs have invaded your dog’s bowl — or cat’s bowl for all the cat lovers out there — it’s a sign that they may be crawling around in other areas of your house as well.
You Spot Them Around Your Home
This may seem obvious. And spotting a single ant roaming around doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole colony has found a source of food in your home. However, when you see multiple around your kitchen, bathroom, or trash can outside, you need to be concerned.
These insects are the explorers for the queen and they have orders to go out and find a food source for the colony. They are always on the hunt for something to eat. So, if you begin to find them frequently in your house, the smart money says a nearby colony is in your yard.
12 Tips for Getting Rid of Them
Okay. Now it’s time to get rid of ants that are invading your yard. There are many ways this can be done, and how you want to kill the ones around your home is up to you.
Some methods are natural, some are not so natural. Either way, these critters are strong in number and can carry life-threatening diseases. So, what are you going to do to get rid of the ones that are plotting to invade your home?
Choose your pest control method and let’s get to work. (2)
There are some home remedies that you can use to try to get rid of ants or at least throw them off their tracks. The home remedies use relatively safe and natural products.
1. Hand Soap
While this won’t kill ants, it will confuse the heck out of them. Mix the soap with water in a spray bottle to spray on the ant trails and other points of entry to your home.
The soap will destroy the pheromones directing the pests from their colony to their target areas in your home. Without those pheromones, they cannot communicate with one another. This forces them to start all over again.
2. Tea Tree Oil
This essential oil will repel and kill ants. Pretty cool, huh?
You can use this essential oil in one of two ways. If you want to use it as a spray, mix ten drops of tea tree oil with two cups of water. Spray at the site where you have seen the ants scavenging.
You can also soak balls of cotton, or even Q-tips, and place them where you have seen them around your home.
However, be careful to keep this away from your pets as they can also become very ill if they encounter the oil.
3. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is a natural insect repellent. Mix ten to twenty drops of the oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle to get rid of ants in your yard.
Spray the mixture on your baseboards and windowsills or anywhere you think might be an entry point for the insects.
4. Cayenne Pepper
The use of cayenne pepper is one of many home remedies that act as natural insect repellents.
Some evidence shows that if you sprinkle cayenne pepper around your baseboards and behind your appliances, it will keep ants away from your house.
5. White Vinegar
Mix white vinegar with water at a 1:1 ratio for another natural insecticide to get rid of ants in your yard.
This mixture will kill the pests while also effectively acting as a repellent. Squirt the mixture directly on entry points and ant trails to deter them.
You can also spray on a cloth and wipe down all the hard surfaces of your kitchen. The vinegar will clean your kitchen while keeping the bugs away at the same time.
6. Liquid Detergent and Glass Cleaner
Anecdotal evidence suggests this mixture, like soap, will destroy their pheromone trails and deter ants at the same time.
Spray the mixture on any areas where they congregate and any paths that they frequent in your yard. This will remove their pheromones and take them back to square one.
Cornstarch is harmless on its own, but if you find large numbers of ants congregating in your yard it can come in handy to get rid of them.
Pour the cornstarch liberally over a large number of ants and add water. The result is dead insects molded into cornstarch.
Bug Control Products
At the end of the day, sometimes home remedies just won’t cut it and you will rely on ant baits and insecticides.
8. Diatomaceous Earth
Yes, diatomaceous earth is a type of silica formed of the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms. Despite the misleading name, it is not poisonous. It kills the ants by absorbing the oils in their skeletons and drying them out. Even though it is not poisonous, it will irritate your skin at the contact site, so be careful when using this product
Ant baits, such as Terro Liquid Ant Bait, are a chemical treatment for homeowners to use to get rid of the vermin.
An ant bait will provide these social creatures with what they imagine to be a savory treat they can take back to their nests in your yard. What that poor explorer has done is brought a form of insecticide disguised as a meal into its nest. The critters share the poison and slowly die off.
An ant bait should not be placed on the pheromone trails as they will avoid them altogether. Place these products in areas of high activity like behind the stove or near the baseboards of your house.
10. Non-Repellent Spray
These sprays are incredibly effective and can be used as a supplement to baits. The spray itself is not detectable and the insects will walk through it and coat themselves in the residue. The spray will not kill the ant on contact. Instead, it will make its way back to its home and slowly poison the rest of the population with the insecticide from the spray.
When you use non-repellent sprays in combination with baits the ants don’t stand a chance.
11. Contact Insecticide Spray
Whether indoor or outdoor, these sprays, such as Raid, will kill these bugs on contact. Of all the treatment methods, this one is the most effective and quickest for killing the pests.
However, since this option involves a dangerous chemical, if you have children or pets running around it probably is not the route you want to take.
12. Call the Pest Control Professionals
Sometimes things are better left to the pros. If you are fighting a losing battle against these crafty creatures, then ring up an exterminator. They have the knowledge, experience, and equipment to get rid of the ants you have in your yard.
You’ll know when you’re beat, so raise the white flag and pick up the phone.