Ask Angie

How to eliminate ants

Q: What can I do to get rid of the ants that have invaded my home?

Barbara E., Alexandria, Va.

A: Sometimes the tiniest pests create the biggest annoyances for homeowners.

Our team recently interviewed top-rated pest control experts and learned that sugar ants, also known as odorous house ants, are common home invaders in the spring. Sugar ants can be about an eighth of an inch long or smaller, and are attracted to food. Moisture ants are larger than sugar ants, about 4 to 4.5 mm long, and usually show up when there is a problem with excess water in a room.

When ants arrive in our homes, they prove their reputation for being industrious. They can seem to come from nowhere and may be a real challenge to eliminate.

The good news is that an infestation is a nuisance, but rarely poses any actual harm. However, most of us prefer that ants and other insects make their homes outside of ours. If you want to try to deal with ants on your own, here are some things to try:

• Use bait or insect sprays. Make sure to follow all cautions on the box or can, then spray or bait the areas where you see ants. To prevent more ants from entering your home, you may want to spray the exterior area where the house meets the pavement or ground.

• Inside your home, spray cracks around baseboards in the affected area. For ants in the bathroom, spray around the base of the toilet.

• *If you don’t want to use harsh chemicals, you can spray a combination of Windex, vinegar and water to remove visible ants and the chemical trail they lay down for others to follow. To kill ants without harsh chemicals, you can spread powdered diatomaceous earth (a naturally occurring sedimentary rock) on carpeted areas around the ant-affected area. They will die after eating the abrasive substance.

Be aware that do-it-yourself efforts may not eliminate the problem.

The nest itself, where the queen lays eggs, may be unaffected. In addition, sugar ants may have more than one queen.

If your efforts don’t work within about a week, call a well-reviewed pest control expert, who should have tools and experience to deal quickly and effectively with infestations.

For instance, a pro has access to transfer insecticides, which are effective in eliminating sugar ant colonies because each ant that makes contact with the insecticide spreads it to every ant it contacts.

A professional solution can start at less than $200 and rise to about $1,000, depending on the extent of the problem. You may find value in arranging for regular inspections rather than waiting for a problem.

Before you hire a company, be aware that in many states and jurisdictions, exterminators must be licensed. They may also be required to a hold a license to use certain pesticides or chemicals. Make sure also that the company you hire is appropriately insured and bonded.

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