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Ants are a common nuisance pest and they're only getting more common. According to a 2011 study conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), ant infestations are on the rise due to increased moisture, changing pest control practices, and new species. If six-legged invaders have encroached upon your property, control requires a two-pronged approach of identification and extermination. Do-it-yourself techniques can be effective, but widespread infestation often necessitates calling in a professional exterminator.
Ant Removal Considerations
Only 25 of the 700 ant species found in the United States are known to invade homes. This identification guide provides pictures and descriptions of the most common pest ants. Some of them nest in outdoor areas around homes and only enter structures in search of food while others can take up permanent residence inside.
Among the techniques used by exterminators are gel and powder baits, insecticide sprays, and barrier sprays. Eliminating the nest (and more importantly, the queen inside the nest) is the key to preventing further ant problems. If the nest (or nests) can be located and treated with insecticide directly, this is ideal. Baits designed to be carried back to the nest and consumed by other ants can achieve the same effect, albeit more slowly (usually a week or two). Barriers form an ant-deterring perimeter around your property. In the case of carpenter ants, an exterminator may have to drill into the house to gain access to nests.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM refers to a broader, common-sense approach to pest control. It includes things like cleaning up crumbs and spills, fixing leaky plumbing (ants are drawn to water sources as well as food sources), eliminating areas where ants like to nest (such as mulch piles), and trimming vegetation around the home. Many IPM strategies can be implemented by the homeowner.
DIY Ant Removal
Boric acid powder mixed with table sugar is a popular home ant remedy, and Terro Ant Bait has been said to work wonders. These chemicals are designed to be picked up and carried back to the nest, so you'll need to lay them along ant trails. You can also follow ants back to the nest and treat the problem at its source, whether with insecticide, bait, or boiling water.
Like the pros, you can create chemical barriers to deter ants, but be careful not to contaminate objects used by you and your family. Non-chemical deterrents such as white vinegar, cinnamon, black or cayenne pepper, and baby powder can also be effective deterrents. Cleaning household surfaces where ants have been spotted will kill the scent trail. Spot-spraying ants with products like Raid might provide catharsis, but it won't do much to solve the problem long-term.
DIY Ant Removal Resources
- The University of Nebraska
- Colorado State University (specific to fire ants)
- North Carolina State University
- National Pest Management Association
Ant Extermination Average Costs
- A one-time treatment by an exterminator might cost $150 to $1,000 depending on the type of ant (carpenter ant treatments tend to be more expensive), the property size, the severity of the problem, and the methods used. A one-time treatment may come with a guarantee (that is, the company will retreat the area if ants reemerge).
- Quarterly, bi-monthly, or monthly services run $350 to $700 per year. These plans entail an initial treatment followed by regularly scheduled retreatments. They're typically guaranteed, meaning you can schedule a follow-up visit whenever an outbreak occurs (even before your next scheduled treatment). Make sure to read the fine print, though. Service plans often self-renew unless the customer requests termination.