Keep Ants Out of Your House!

By on September 23, 2013

Ants attack a rhubarb leaf.

In our new video, Tricia shows a variety of ways to deal with ants that are coming into your house—and pesticides are the last resort.

Here’s how to keep ants out of your house, without using any pesticides at all.

ants at work

Ants are welcome in our gardens, most of the time, and we all respect their impressive social organizations. The downside to their good organization is that once they find a food source in your house you will get a steady stream of six-legged visitors.

Prevent ants from coming in the house

Following the principles of Integrated Pest Management, the first defense against ants is prevention.

Prevent the ants from getting close to your house by keeping outdoor plants and mulches one foot away from your foundation, walls, windows, and roof. Otherwise the ants can use the plants as bridges to your home.

The walls of your house should be a barrier to ants, but they won’t be an effective barrier if there are cracks in the walls. At least once a year, and certainly before a rainy season, check your house walls for exterior cracks, then use caulk to seal the cracks. Easy entrances for ants are the holes that are cut into the walls, for any pipes or electrical work. 

Don’t attract ants with spilled food

You probably keep a clean kitchen. Or at least you think you do—until a column of ants appears, heading for a spill you didn’t see.

Be vigilant about wiping up food spills immediately. Ants are particularly fond of sweets and fats. Don’t let them see your house as a smorgasbord of delicious treats. When it’s an anty time of year, spray your counters well and clean off those spills.

Stop the scout ant and you’ve stopped them all

Let’s say you’ve planted well away from the house, caulked any cracks, and wiped up all your food spills. And still the ants show up. When the ants come marching in UC Davis recommends you start by identifying the ant species and gives you helpful tools. Different ant species can require slightly different control methods and your controls will be more effective if you understand the unique behaviors of the troublesome ant species.

First, check outside the house and see where the ants are entering the building. Possibly a new crack opened since your last inspection, and you can caulk that up. Or the plants near your foundation have grown into contact with the house and are offering a highway for the ants.

If you want to stop the ants, and kill as few as possible, stay alert for the sight of just one ant. A lone ant is probably a scout, looking for a food source for its group. If you kill the scout ant you keep it from reporting back to the others. So the loss of one ant life relieves you from having to kill a whole column of ants.

If you want to take the last step and kill ants, bait stations are very effective.

If you get a terrible ant invasion and want to use a pesticide, Terro is a bait that is labeled for use on ants. Use it as an Ant Bait on paper, indoor Ant Bait Stations, and Outdoor Ant Bait Stations.

Admire the ants out in your garden, and hope that they don’t come inside to admire you cooking in your kitchen.

  Comments (12)


I would love to know how to control ants that invade my chicken coop. What will take out the ants without harming the chickens? We live in the south where we have fire ants. I also need outside yard control. These ants are vicious!

Posted by Mari on Sep. 28, 2013 at 8:11:12 AM


You can also use a mixture of boric acid and sugar mixed in water.  Soak cotton balls in the mixture and place in a used cottage cheese carton with holes made into the sides above the cotton balls.  The boric acid is poison and the ants will eat the sugar and carry the poison back to the nest.

Posted by William Jacobs on Sep. 28, 2013 at 11:05:24 AM


Seldom do I have an ant problem inside the house.  What I do find is small ants scour the garden and trim new shoots of just germinating vegetable plants.  Most of the time this process kills the plant, which, needless to say, really irritates me.  Cute ant colonies or not, I’d just as soon stomp them all if it would keep my garden safe.  (It’s a vegetable garden so I refrain from toxic chemicals to deter the ants.)

Posted by Ward Starring on Sep. 30, 2013 at 10:07:33 AM

Mari, The Terro Outdoor Bait Station is labeled for ants and would keep the chickens from eating the boric acid.  To be extra safe, you could put out the outdoor bait station and cover it with a crate or milk crate or other cover that would let ants get to it, but not the chickens.

Posted by on Sep. 30, 2013 at 11:45:55 AM

William and Ward,

Thanks for your suggestions!

Posted by on Sep. 30, 2013 at 11:46:48 AM


I have used cornmeal sprinkled around in the kitchen and in the garden. I heard that they take back the meal to their hive and it brings some mold spore back and kills the whole lot of them.  I have been successful with this and hey the chickens might enjoy it too!

Posted by Lili on Oct. 03, 2013 at 7:27:12 PM

Lili, Thanks for your tips! Sounds like some happy chickens….

Posted by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 2:53:39 PM


Ive been using grits, works great they eat take back to queen and she eats they all blow up… Colony dead. ever time I see a ant pile I put havnt had any in bout two years or so ..

Posted by kevin on Jun. 15, 2014 at 7:43:16 AM


I have used food-grade diatomaceous earth, feed it to my pets daily it is a natural dewormer as well as supplies silica in their diet, and their waste will kill the bug larve that are deposited. For chickens we make a dusty area with DE mixed in.. it kills lice fleas ticks, if they come in contacts. it shreds their exoskeletons and they dry out, ants wont cross it, I also mix some in the flowerpots twice a year.

Posted by Birgit on Aug. 17, 2014 at 12:12:49 PM


I’ve never had ants in the house, but I use peppermint to keep them out of the barn. I simply spread peppermint sprigs around doorways and feed bins. Peppermint-oil spray should work, too, but I’ve never needed it, Black rat snakes keep mice away, but I think peppermint might also work.

Posted by Anne on Sep. 19, 2015 at 2:47:08 AM


Any idea as to how to get rid of carpenter ants. They are destroying my raised beds. I have used neem oil and DE but have not been able to get rid of them.

Posted by Brandi on Jun. 25, 2016 at 2:54:33 AM


Brandi, have you tried really soaking the soil in your raised beds? Ants don’t like really moist conditions. Otherwise have you tried putting out bait stations that are labelled for carpenter ants?
Otherwise you might want to call a professional for help.

Posted by Suzanne on Jul. 01, 2016 at 3:46:15 PM

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