The internet is full of pointless amateur advice like using duct tape or flour. Trying all of that against ants is in vain, you won’t get rid of these creatures so easily. We’ll bust all the myths and silly recommendations, and tell you in detail how to get rid of ants by referring to reliable sources and entomologists. Here, we’ve listed 20 effective products, including baits (stations), non-toxic and natural insecticides, powerful professional insecticides and essential oils for those who value everything natural.
Scientific Methods of Getting Rid of Ants
The worst mistake you can make when getting rid of ants is to only eliminate the insects you can see on the surface, I.e. the foragers. Most of the colony hides underground or inside their nest together with the queen. Killing her is the key to destroying the entire colony.
Various web-sites and blogs recommend sprinkling the places where ants enter your house with flour or talcum and using duct tape, salt and ground pepper and other household treatments against them. Some methods can repel insects from your picnicking spot for a little while, but other than that, they are useless. Their advanced social structure will help them find their way back quickly and collectively.
Baits contain insecticides, are available in liquid, solid form or in drops and take some time to act (up to several weeks). How do they act? Foragers lead other insects to these baits and the latter will bring poisoned food to the colony. Eventually, the bait will reach the queen. The University of California experts consider bait more effective than sprays as the former contains hydramethylnon, fipronil, boric acid or avermectin. It is best to apply it in early spring and change the bait type during the year as the insects change their preferences each season.
NB! «Place the baits next to wherever ants are seen, preferably beside ant "trails" (invisible odor trails which workers follow between food and the nest). Do not spray other insecticides or cleaning agents around the bait stations as this will deter ants from feeding on the bait. Initially, you should see an increase in the number of ants around the bait station -- DO NOT SPRAY THEM. This indicates that the ants are feeding on the bait and transporting the insecticide back to the nest. An activity will often subside in a matter of days as the number of ants in the colony declines. Continue to place additional baits wherever ants are seen», as recommended by the University of Kentucky.
There are no special ant traps as it is pointless to catch individuals. You need to resiliently destroy the entire colony inhabiting the mound. As a rule, an ant trap means bait stations resembling traps. They are aimed at attracting the insects, feeding them poison and setting them free so that they can share the contaminant with the others in their mound.
Ants’ taste is a separate subject. They turn out to be gourmets, and many people don’t understand why some baits work perfectly well, while in other cases, the insects ignore those baits completely. “Ants are rather finicky in their food preferences and may alter them throughout the year”, - as the University of Kentucky entomologists claim. “If one bait product isn't attractive or doesn't seem to be working, try another. Optimal results usually require a sustained period of feeding, not just a brief visitation by a few ants.”
The scientists unanimously name using poison bait as a key method when eliminating ants as the foragers carry it to the nest contaminating the entire colony and, what is crucial, the queen. According to the information from the University of Arkansas, there are slow and fast acting types of bait. Slow acting ones are more effective as the entire colony is poisoned within 1-5 weeks. Fast acting baits provide control in 3 to 7 days. IGRs that prevent queens from producing new workers are the slowest as the treatment takes from 1 to 4 months. We’ve compiled a range of products for you below.
Natural and Organic Products
University of California experts approve of such natural products as certain plant-based oils (e.g., peppermint, rosemary, clove, orange, and thyme). These types of products typically provide excellent contact activity but have limited residual activity. Clemson University Cooperative Extension specialists add Diatomaceous Earth, limonene (extracted from oranges and other citrus fruit peels), eugenol (from clove oil), and spinosad for fire ants to this list. Indian scientists also mention oregano oil while the Malaysian experts have found out that cinnamon oil can repel and kill ants in certain concentrations.
Apart from the cinnamon oil, some of the listed oils also have a repelling effect. The main disadvantage of all natural products is that they act on contact while our main goal is to kill the queen. Boric acid, a stomach poison that causes insects to die from starvation, is the only exception. If an ant brings such bait or dust on its legs in the mound, it will surely poison everyone else.
The scientists don’t name any particular repellents, but they claim that the above mentioned oils happen to have a certain repelling effect. They recommend spraying insect repellents on boots and clothing for fire ants protection.
To repel Argentine ants Drs. H.Shorey and P.Phillips recommend using a natural occurring repellent, called Farnesol. Cotton twine dipped in Farnesol and wrapped around the trunk of a skirt-pruned tree, repels pests for up to three months. The Farnesol price is quite high though, it costs $24.00 for 10 ml.
Using insecticides is the best strategy on large outdoor areas. The University of Kentucky specialists advise: «When a below-ground nest is discovered, the colony often can be eliminated by spraying or drenching the nest location with a liquid insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), or a pyrethroid insecticide such as Spectracide Triazicide®, Ortho Home Defense System®, or Bayer Advanced® Lawn & Garden Multi-Insect Killer. Large colonies will require greater amounts of liquid to move the insecticide throughout the network of underground galleries within the nest (using a bucket to apply the diluted insecticide concentrate is an effective method). Another effective and convenient way to control some species of outdoor and indoor-nesting ants is with a granular bait product, such as Combat® Ant Killing Granules. Sprinkle the bait in small amounts beside outdoor mounds, along pavement cracks, and other areas where ants are nesting or trailing».
Advantages & Disadvantages of Different Types of Ant Killers
|Type||Ingredients and How They Work||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Baits and bait stations||Poisoning of the entire colony.||The killing effect is not limited to workers, the entire colony including the queen is dead.||Ants are gourmets and change their preferences frequently, so you will probably have to frequently change the bait types.|
|- slow-acting||Hydramethylnon, Boric acid, Fipronil, Spinosad.||Workers bring poisoned bait to their queen.||Take 1-5 weeks to work.|
|- fast-acting||Indoxacarb.||Results are seen within 3-7 days.||The poison cannot kill the queen.|
|Diatomaceous Earth||Causes lethal dehydration when under the shell.||Organic||Acts on contact only, will not necessarily kill the queen but anything that comes into contact with it.|
|Boric acid (dust)||A stomach poison and causes insects to die from starvation.||Organic||Workers will bring the dust to the mound but it is not guaranteed to reach the queen.|
|Oils and natural sprays||Clove, peppermint, geranium, cinnamon leaf oils - contact action.||Organic, some have repelling effect.||Act on contact only, will not kill the queen.|
|Liquid insecticides||Bifenthrin. Gamma-cyhalothrin, Deltamethrin Kill on contact||Are powerful, can cover large areas and create a protective barrier around the house and target many pest insects.||Toxic|
|IGR Insect Growth Regulator||Pyriproxyfen (Nylar) - insect sterilizer to be poured down the mound||Will sterilize the queen and make the colony go extinct.||Too slow, action time can reach up to 4 months.|
If fire ants bother you, read our review of the 17 products for getting rid of this species as the products and active ingredients differ.
Top-20 Best Indoor and Outdoor Ant Control Products
We’ve picked 20 different products that are effective against ants. We’ve classified them into five categories:
- Baits (stations) and Gel
- Non-Toxic, Natural Insecticides
- Powerful Liquids (Pyrethroids)
- Professional Insecticides
- Essential oils for those who value 100% organic products
We’ve picked six different treatments for home and outdoor use. Note that there is no universal bait for all kinds of ants because, as you remember, their tastes differ and that’s why the product might not be effective immediately.
There are fast and slow acting baits. Fast-acting active ingredient is indoxacarb; slow-acting ones are: hydramethylnon, spinosad, fipronil, and boric acid. The former type acts within 3-7 days, and the latter acts within 1-5 weeks. Slow acting baits are considered more effective as they can even eliminate satellites that are not seen. As most homeowners would like to see the bait work as soon as possible, fast-acting baits continue to be the most popular ant killers.
Best Indoor Ant Killers
We’ve found four ant killers for using indoors: one is fast-acting bait, and the last three act more slowly, but it is guaranteed to kill the entire colony along with the queen.
Advion Ant Gel Insecticide with Plunger
This is a bestselling insect bait and it has over 1600 customer reviews on Amazon.com. Its active ingredient, indoxacarb, is a fast-acting one and is effective within a few days. This gel tube is just over an ounce (30 ml), costs ~$26.08 and can serve you for up to two years (this is the expiration date declared by the manufacturer). It is aimed at getting rid of most ant species indoors which is attested by high ratings of Amazon.com users (80% is the highest rating). In order for the bait to work, squeeze a small amount of it on a crack near the nest or any other place out of reach of pets and children.
Price: ~$26.08 Check the current price
Combat Max, Ant Killing Gel
Advion Gel’s closest rival costs only ~$6.98 per 27 grams and has a different active ingredient: fipronil. To use, squeeze this gel out of the syringe on any place reachable by the ants. It acts within an hour and you will see preliminary results within 3-5 days. The manufacturer notes that this fipronil-containing product is safe for kids.
Price: ~$6.98 Check the current price
Combat Source Kill Max A1 Ant Bait, 6 Count
A pack of 6 bait stations costs ~$8.80. The baits act according to the domino principle described above. The poison doesn’t kill an insect instantly as it is a relatively slow-acting poison and lets it interact with other ants and contaminate them. The bait is also useful against cockroaches. The solid substance located inside the station is not to be removed as it is toxic for skin and mucous membranes. Store it out of children’s reach. Simultaneously, the bait doesn’t emit any toxic fumes and is harmless if used correctly.
Price: ~$8.80 Check the current price
AMDRO Kills Ants Bait Stations
So far, this brand is not very popular but it offers a slow-acting stomach poison Hydramethylnon that disrupts the ant’s ability to convert food to energy. It will take 1-2 weeks to kill the entire colony along with the queen. The ~$5.33 pack includes 4 bait stations for indoor use. This treatment is active for three months, after which the stations require replacement. The nice perk is that the manufacturer promises a refund if the product proves useless.
Price: ~$5.33 Check the current price
Best Outdoor Ant Baits
You can use both slow and fast-acting baits for eliminating the ants outside. Pick the most appropriate one but bear in mind that if you use fast-acting ones, you might need to repeat the bait use as the poison might not be able to kill the queen.
Terro 1806 Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits - Slow-Acting
A pack of 6 stations, each containing an ounce of bait, costs ~$10.55. The stations are installed, either in the soil or on the surface (you can also place them in your garage). The action is similar to that of most types of bait: a worker is contaminated with a poison that is passed on to other individuals including the queen. The product has lots of positive reviews.
The second form of the treatment available is stakes. Two packs contain 16 small stakes and cost ~$13.49.
Price of Terro bait stations: ~$10.55 Check the current price
Price of Terro bait stakes: ~$13.49 (2-pack) Check the current price
Combat Ant Killing Bait Strips - Relatively Slow-acting Poison
60 bait strips cost ~$13.98. They are placed in difficult to reach places and also act according to the domino principle. They are invisible and thanks to being numerous, can poison a large territory. Although the buyers leave decent reviews on Amazon.com, the product isn’t very popular yet.
Price: ~$13.98 Check the current price
The scientists name boric acid, limonene, eugenol, Diatomaceous Earth and certain plant-based oils (e.g., peppermint, rosemary, clove, oregano, orange, and thyme) among effective organic treatments.
Safer Brand 51703 Diatomaceous Earth, Crawling Insect Killer
Diatomaceous Earth is a classic and most popular organic treatment against insects and arachnids that kills on contact. The fossil remains of diatom algae are crushed to a state where they become acute and harmful to insects. The sharp edges of this so-called mountain flour cut through the chitinous cover of an insect and cause deadly damage to its insides. Diatomaceous Earth is safe for humans and animals, since it cannot penetrate their elastic skin. It is sold in packages of 4 pounds and costs ~$9.47. Sprinkle the places of congestion and possible migration of ants in the house with it.
Price: ~$9.47 Check the current price
PestGuard Zap-A-Roach Boric Acid (2-pack)
Two 16-oz boric acid tubes cost ~$10.89. This is a traditional means of controlling insects. Boric acid is a stomach poison that causes insects to die from starvation. Boric acid is to be poured down the cracks, areas behind skirting boards and other hard-to-reach places where insects live. Workers will bring the acid to the mound on their bodies but it highly unlikely that the poison will reach the queen and kill her as well. Despite this, this traditional product still has quite a high Amazon.com rating.
Price: ~$10.89 (2-pack) Check the current price
Blubonic Industries 100% Orange Oil d-Limonene
The bottle contains 32 oz of d-Limonene. It is hydrocarbon which essential oils of citrus contain and which gives them the typical smell. It is used in perfumery, alternative medicine and when getting rid of any insects. The product costs ~$37.10. Dissolve the product in water (and shake the mixture from time to time) and you will successfully combine house cleaning and pest killing: “I noticed a Dan Ryan-size traffic pattern of ants marching down my window frame and onto my kitchen counter. Rather than get out the insect killer, I sprayed the window frame and counter with my home made cleaner. Guess what? Dead ants, and they didn't come back. Cool!”
Remember that d-Limonene is not found separately in nature and gives off a very strong smell of orange. That’s why if you don’t feel like getting into dissolving, use diluted d-lemonene in Orange Guard 103 Water Based Indoor/Outdoor Home Pest Control. It contains only 5% of d-Limonene and it is specifically aimed at eliminating home insects that are afraid of the citrus smell.
D-limonene was recognized as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is widely used in the food industry. That is why products containing limonene are labeled as safe for use in areas near food.
Price: Blubonic 100% Orange Oil d-Limonene ~$37.10 Check the current price
Price: Orange Guard Spray ~$17.47 Check the current price
Eco Defense Organic Home Pest Control Spray
This ~$18.97 product’s label reads eco. It contains such active ingredients as sodium lauryl sulfate, geranium oil, and peppermint oil. Though the University of California approves of using peppermint oil, the effectiveness of the overall mixture has not yet been proven and can only be estimated by decent Amazon.com user feedback. Some users note that this spray can only kill ants with which it comes into contact while others claim that pure peppermint oil is much more effective in terms of repelling, and not killing. Read over 600 customer reviews on Amazon.com to make your own decision.
Price: ~$18.97 Check the current price
Ecosmart 33119 Organic Home Pest Control
This is yet another organic product based on carnation and peppermint oils. A 24-oz spray bottle costs ~$13.73 and promises to kill on contact and repel over 100 insect species, including ants. The manufacturer specifies that the product is safe for kids and pets and does not contaminate home surfaces. Many users claim that the product can indeed kill insects on contact, although this doesn’t happen instantly but within a few minutes after contact. They recommend wearing a protective mask when spraying the house as this organic spray’s smell is very peculiar.
Price: ~$13.73 Check the current price
Ortho Home Defense MAX Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter RTU Wand
This is a powerful pesticide with bifenthrin as an active ingredient. It is sold for ~$14.05 and is supplied in a 1.1 gallon canister. It is sprayed over a dry surface and no moist cleaning is permitted within a day. It kills the insects and creates long-term protection (for up to year indoors and for up to 3 months outdoors). A spray is supplied with the canister. Judging by the reviews, it can reduce ant population in a day, but be ready for a repeat use of Ortho.
Price: ~$14.05 Check the current price
Spectracide HG-95830 Triazicide Insect Killer for Lawns & Landscapes Concentrate
This ready-to-use spray with gamma-cyhalothrin as an active ingredient costs ~$17.56, but a concentrate is also available. It acts on many insect species and their larvae as well as on arachnids and ticks. It kills ants as well, but judging by the Amazon.com information, it is ineffective against red fire ants. This product covers up to 5,120 square feet of lawn. No residual effect has been found as the insecticide will only kill the insects it contacts. The product is for outdoor use only.
Price: Spectracide ready-to-use spray: ~$17.56 Check the current price
Price: Spectracide concentrate: ~$5.50 Check the current price
This spray contains a powerful pyrethroid bifenthrin. It is sold as a concentrate for ~$41.87. Mix it with water before use. The product will act for up to three months provided it is properly used on dry surfaces, both indoors and outdoors. The users also recommend spraying a building’s foundation outside along the perimeter to create a killing barrier for any insects attempting to penetrate your house.
Caution! Don’t use this insecticide near water bodies as it is toxic for aquatic plants and animals. When spraying it, wear protective gloves and avoid contact with skin and mucous membranes. Once the treated surfaces are dry, they are safe for children and pets.
Price: ~$41.87 Check the current price
Suspend Sc Insecticide
A pint of the product containing 4.75% deltamethrin costs ~$41.10. The insecticide is to be dissolved in loads of water (up to 64 gallons), so you’ll spray a large area with it. It can be used both inside and outside (by the way, even professional exterminators use Suspend Sc). Pay special attention to spraying skirting boards if your house is infested with ants. The product is odorless and highly rated by the Amazon.com customers. Read over 700 customer reviews to make sure it is true.
Price: ~$41.10 Check the current price
Many love the idea of everything being natural. The main disadvantage of oils is their contact properties. Since killing the queen is crucial for getting rid of the entire colony, natural treatments, alas, are powerless here. That is why you’d better resort to using baits if a large colony has infested your house. For those who still want to try and use natural remedies, here are some oils: oregano oil and two eugenol oils. Eugenol is made of several plants’ oils: clove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. Pick which smell you like best: oregano, cinnamon or clove.
Price: Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil: ~$18.95 Check the current price
Price: Clove Essential Oil: ~$10.36 Check the current price
Price: Oregano Essential Oil: ~$8.99 Check the current price
Caution! Concentrated essential oils are dangerous for pets, especially cats, pregnant women and small children.
IGRs – Queen Sterilizers
IGRs are the slowest-acting treatments in our review. All IGRs prevent queens from producing new workers. These baits take from 1 to 4 months for control. Although IGRs may take longer to achieve results, control may last up to a year, especially if treated areas are greater than one acre. Here is a pyriproxyfen-based product available online.
I.G. Regulator, 4 oz by Martin’s
Pyriproxyfen is the active ingredient of this concentrate. A ~$23.20 4 oz bottle contents are to be dissolved in water, according to the manual. It can then be sprayed both indoors and outdoors. The amount of IGR is sufficient for treating 6 000 sq ft.
This product promises to ensure effective long-term control on fleas, roaches, flies, mosquitoes, gnats, crickets, litter beetles and ants. The IGR effect must reach not only workers, but also the queen as she is responsible for producing offspring. That is why it is important to be more thorough and consistent in treating the mound as well as your lot and house (if you happen to discover the nest at home). Since this is a slow-acting product, be ready to wait for several months. In the long run, you will be able to finally get rid of several pest insects at once, which is an advantage.
Price: ~$23.20 Check the current price
|Fast-acting||Indoxacarb||Place this bait on the trails, in the corners, floor cracks, under kitchen appliances, furniture and near the entrance to the nest.|
Combat Max, Gel
|Relatively Slow-acting||Fipronil||Place this bait on the trails, in the corners, floor cracks, under kitchen appliances, furniture and near the entrance to the nest.|
Combat Source Kill Max A1 Bait, 6 Count
|Relatively Slow-acting||Fipronil||Place several bait stations near the places where there are lots of insects, or their trails.|
AMDRO Bait Stations
|Slow-acting||Hydramethylnon||Place it into wardrobes, in areas behind furniture and appliances. For indoor use only.|
Terro Outdoor Liquid Baits
|Slow-acting||Borax||Place several bait stations near the places where there are lots of insects, or their trails.|
Terro Outdoor Liquid Bait Stakes (2 Pack)
|Slow-acting||Borax||Stick the stakes into the soil near your house and near the spot of insects activity.|
Combat Bait Strips
|Relatively Slow-acting||Fipronil||Place several strips in hard-to-reach places where there are lots of insects.|
Safer Brand 51703 Diatomaceous Earth
|Fast-acting||Diatomaceous Earth||Pour it along insect trails.|
PestGuard Zap-A-Roach Boric Acid (2-pack)
|Slow-acting||Boric acid||Pour it along insect trails, in the corners, floor cracks, under kitchen appliances, furniture etc.|
Blubonic Industries 100% Orange Oil d-Limonene
|Fast-acting||D-limonen||Dissolve in water and spray along insect trails, in the corners, floor cracks, under kitchen appliances, furniture etc.|
Eco Defense Organic Home Pest Control Spray
|Contact activity||Sodium lauryl sulfate, geranium oil, peppermint oil||Spray along insect trails, in the corners, floor cracks, under kitchen appliances, furniture etc.|
Ecosmart 33119 Organic Home Pest Control
|Contact activity||Clove oil, peppermint oil||Spray along insect trails, in the corners, floor cracks, under kitchen appliances, furniture etc.|
Ortho Home Defense MAX Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter RTU Wand
|Fast-acting||Bifenthrin||Spray it indoors in places where there are lots of insect. Outdoors: spray over soil, along insect trails and pour down a mound.|
Spectracide HG-95830 Triazicide Insect Killer
|Fast-acting||Gamma-cyhalothrin||Spray over soil and pour down a mound. For outdoor use only.|
|Fast-acting||Bifenthrin||Dissolve in water and spray over soil and pour down a mound.|
Suspend Sc Insecticide
|Fast-acting||Deltamethrin||Dissolve in water and spray over soil and pour down a mound. Or spray it indoors in places where there are lots of insects.|
Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil
|Contact activity||Cinnamon, leaf oil||Dissolve in water and draw a line along the perimeter of the house or yard.|
Clove Essential Oil
|Contact activity||Clove Essential Oil||Dissolve in water and draw a line along the perimeter of the house or yard.|
Oregano Essential Oil
|Contact activity||Oregano Essential Oil||Dissolve in water and draw a line along the perimeter of the house or yard.|
I.G. Regulator, Martin’s
|Slow-acting||Pyriproxyfen (Nylar)||Spray over soil or pour down a mound.|
How to Use Baits Properly?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, scientists consider slow-acting baits to be more effective than fast-acting ones. However, regardless of the bait type, it’s crucial to use it at the right time and in the right place. To obtain the best results, the scientists recommend following these rules:
- Use bait immediately after opening the pack or container because its effectiveness is reduced as it dries up. If you don’t need to use it all at once, store the remaining substance in a zip-lock bag but don’t keep it for over 3-6 months.
- Don’t bother ants before laying the bait around the mound. It can hurt you as the disturbed insects can swarm chaotically and sting you while trying to protect their home.
- If insects start moving around actively after you have lain the bait, don’t disturb them and don’t kill them, let them quietly spread the poison in the nest.
- Don’t pour the bait over wet soil or grass, wait for it to dry. It is also sensible to keep track of the weather forecast: make sure that no rain is forecast for the 12-24 hours following the poison use.
- Use the bait when the foragers are in search of food. Remember that they are least active when it’s too hot or too cold. Afternoon and evening, when the temperature is within the range of 70-95°F, is perfect for using the poison. If the weather isn’t appropriate, conduct the following experiment. Place some edible bait (such as potato chips) near a busy mound. If the foragers have shown up within 10-30 minutes, it’s high time to replace the chips with some poison.