How do you get rid of a pest that’s almost everywhere? Ants are so common that they’re found in every continent except Antarctica, which should give you some idea as to how tough they can be to get rid of. This is thanks to a few traits; one being their sheer strength in numbers, with the other being the fact that many people underestimate them. Ants are complicated creatures with some unique traits that it’s important to understand before you start dealing with them. If you find a trail of ants in your kitchen, simply squashing them and hoping for the best isn’t going to help! This buyer’s guide will help you find the right ant killing products and use them correctly, meaning you can get rid of your ant problem as quickly as possible.
Ants are driven by a single desire; to grow their colony. This is the most important thing to remember when you’re dealing with an ant infestation. Ant colonies are complicated but they’re also very predictable, so understanding a bit more about how they work is always the first step towards getting rid of them.
The ants that live in a colony all have their own jobs to do. These different job roles are known as castes, and the vast majority of ant species across the world are all divided into the same castes. Below, we’ll look at what makes each different caste tick and tell you how you can use this to your advantage.
You probably know that the queen is the head of the colony. All the other ants live to serve the queen – they go out on missions to find food and bring it back to the colony, they constantly build and expand the nest for her, and they’ll defend her against any threat with their lives. In return, the queen constantly lays eggs and allows the colony to keep growing. This means getting rid of the queen should be your top priority when dealing with ants – as long as she remains, the infestation isn’t going anywhere.
The hard part is actually locating the colony, as they’ll usually be hidden away underground or in a sheltered spot. Luckily, there’s one product that lets you use the ants’ devotion to their queen against them: ant bait stations.
Ant bait stations contain a sugary, poisoned bait that’s irresistible to ants. Place them anywhere you’ve seen ants and they’ll quickly find it and take the bait back to the queen. Once the queen eats it, it’ll kill her and any other ants that try it. The vast majority of ant colonies in this country have just one queen, although taking her out isn’t always enough on its own. That’s because, even if the queen is dead, you’ll still have to deal with…
Workers are the most common and arguably the most important kind of ant. They build the colony, defend it from threats, and find food for the queen. Once the queen lays her eggs, it’s the workers who look after those eggs and raise the ant larvae after they hatch. Despite the fact that the worker’s life revolves around the queen, they don’t simply give up and stop working once the queen is out of the picture. They can adapt to help the colony survive.
Worker ants are all female. This means they can lay eggs themselves if the queen is killed. However, they can only lay unfertilised eggs as they can’t mate. These unfertilised eggs only ever hatch into male (flying) ants. This will stop the infestation from getting much bigger, but it won’t kill it off entirely. That means it’s advisable to keep re-treating the affected area with pest control products even if the infestation seems to be getting smaller.
Some species of ants – like the wood ant, which is found in the UK – can take over these queen-less colonies by smuggling in their own queens inside. These impostor queens will lay their own eggs, which the host worker ants will dutifully raise as their own until the colony is back at full strength again.
Scout ants aren’t really their own caste at all; in fact, they’re identical to worker ants. However, they have a special job in the colony which sets them apart – they strike out on their own to search for food before leading the rest of the workers to it. If you end up with ants in your kitchen or your bin store, they were led there by one of these scouts!
Scouts leave an invisible pheromone trail which the rest of the ants follow dutifully. They march in single-file and most of them will follow this trail no matter what (the only exceptions are other scouts, who’ll break off from the main trail to search for other food sources). This means, if you find one of these trails, you should follow it as far as you can and cover it with insecticidal dusting powders and surface sprays. Even after you’ve poisoned the trail, the ants will continue to follow it! They’ll either die quickly or they’ll track the poison back to their colony before they do.
Flying ants are the men of the house in an ant colony. Their one and only job is to mate with virgin queens – after this, their purpose is fulfilled, and they’ll die. They stay in their colony until the weather is warm enough, at which point both they and the queens (who also have wings until they’ve mated, at which point they find a spot to start their own colony and bite their wings off) leave the nest to mate. This seems to happen at roughly the same time across the country, leading to the infamous “flying ant day”, when millions of ants take to the skies at once!
What all of this means is that you’ll only really see flying ants for a few days of the year. This means they’re hard to get rid of, but on the plus side, you’ll never find them infesting your kitchen. As they spend much of their lives in the colony, the best way to get rid of them is to use ant bait stations.
How to Get Rid of Ants
Now you know a bit more about ant behaviour and what products to use to counteract it, you might want to know a little more about how to use these pest control products properly. We’ll go into a bit more detail about this below. Bear in mind that it’s best not to rely on one method, and you should always re-treat an area a few days after initial treatment. This is simply down to the sheer number of ants that make up a colony.
You can use ant bait stations both indoors and outdoors, although it’s best to place them in a sheltered spot away from direct sunlight and rain. For best results, we recommend tracking the ant trail as far back as you possibly can and putting the bait station near to the entrance to the colony. Depending on the size of the infestation, it can take between two weeks and two months to fully wipe out the colony, so it’s best to combine a bait station with some other pest control products.
Sprays and powders offer two different ways to spread the same ant killer along their trail. The powder is good for spreading into cracks and crevices in indoor areas, where there isn’t any wind. They also allow you to treat around electrical sockets or fuse boxes where a spray might not be appropriate.
Sprays are better for treating outdoor areas or along walls and windows. Our Protector C spray soaks into the applied area and provides protection for up to 6 weeks, meaning it’s essentially a treatment and re-treatment all at once!
Both powder and spray should be applied liberally across and trails and around food cupboards and bins. If you find the entrance to an ant nest, you should apply it around there, too!
If a room is severely infested with ants, it might not be practical to use only dusting powders or sprays. If you’re really under siege from millions of ants, a smoke bomb is a great option to thin their numbers. Try and seal the infested room as best you can, let off the fogger, and leave the room, closing the door behind you. The insecticidal smoke will disperse into every corner of the room, wiping out massive numbers of ants. However, a smoke bomb shouldn’t be relied upon to wipe out a whole infestation on its own as it’ll likely miss the queen.
Remove Food Waste
One of the best ways to prevent ants doesn’t involve buying any pest control products at all – just make sure you clean up any food waste! Ants will eat just about anything, but they’re especially keen on sweet things. Any soft drink or beer spills, dirty dinner plates, or used takeaway boxes should be cleaned up or disposed of appropriately. As they’re so small, it’s virtually impossible to stop ant scouts from entering your home or workplace in search of food. What you can do, though, is make sure they can’t find any food so they don’t have any reason to bring the rest of their colony over! You should also make sure your bins are kept a good distance away from your home for the same reasons.
Be Careful in Summer
As we mentioned above, flying ant day is when millions of male ants leave their nests to mate with young queens. It usually occurs around July or August every year, and it happens at roughly the same time across the country. Once the ants have mated, the queen goes to settle her own new colony. This means you should be extra careful about food waste and general hygiene in the weeks following flying ant day! There’ll likely be thousands of hungry new ant colonies around your home during this time, so you shouldn’t give them any reason to enter your home.
Watch Out for Aphid Farming
One of the more surprising things about ants is that they know how to farm! The things they farm are aphids, common garden pests who feed on plants and secrete a sweet substance called honeydew. Ants like to eat honeydew (and sometimes the aphids themselves), so they’ll protect colonies of aphids from their natural predators, such as ladybirds. If you enjoy gardening, be aware of ants gathering around your prize plants – closer inspection could reveal a severe aphid problem! The opposite applies, too – if you notice more aphids than usual in your garden, keep a close eye for ants making their way into your home.