If you’re a true animal lover with an ant problem, you’re faced with a dilemma: You want the ants out of your living space, but crushing them or spraying them with pesticides seems too cruel. After all, ants are such interesting creatures with complex and fascinating social structures. Isn’t there a better, more humane way to rid them from your home? Yes, there is!
So, how to get rid of ants without killing them? Getting rid of ants without hurting them will require lots of patience and effort. In other words, the best way to get rid of ants without killing them is to remove their source of food. This means doing a thorough check on all of the food and drinks in your home, from cleaning up messes to ensuring it is properly stored. After that ant deterrents come into the play. There are certain products that can deter ants and we are going to recommend some of them in the later sections.
Once you are certain that all of the food and drink products in your home are tidy and stored in sealed containers, it is important to erase any remaining pheromone trails.
The first thing to understand when dealing with any pest is to understand why they have entered your home in the first place. With ants this is simple, they have come to find food. Ants are foraging animals. This means ants leave their nests to go out and find food.
Once they have located a food source, their job is to bring the food back to the nest and indicate to the rest of the colony where the food can be found. To accomplish this, the ant will leave chemical trails (pheromone trails) behind them as they make their way back to the nest.
Now that we have a general idea of where to start, let’s go in-depth on how to get rid of ants in your home.
Getting Rid of Ants Without Killing Them: Step by Step Guide
Step 1 – Address the Reasons Why Ants Have Invaded Your House
To ensure that the ants don’t continue to find food in your home, make sure you cover each of these points.
Check All the Food Stored in Your Home
This includes any food stored in your pantry, on your countertops, and in drawers, as well as your cellar or garage. Be absolutely certain that these items are sealed up completely. That means any opened food should be stored in sealed plastic bags or plastic/glass containers.
Be sure to check unopened goods, as well ensure that the packaging isn’t damaged. Once you are sure that all food items are stored properly, check the outside of the containers for any drips or food residue.
To be on the safe side, use warm soapy water to wipe down the outside of food containers. If you can, store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. If you have pet bowls in the house, be sure to empty and wash them after each meal for your pet.
Clean Your Home Thoroughly
First, wipe down all the countertops and tables in your home. Use warm soapy water to ensure that any stuck-on food is removed completely. Also be sure to check your oven, microwave, and toaster inside and out for crumbs or food residue.
Then, use a mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% water to spray and wipe down countertops. This will ensure that all pheromone trails are erased completely.
Note: If you have marble or granite countertops, skip this step, as vinegar can be damaging to these surfaces.
After you’ve wiped down all surfaces, vacuum your entire home thoroughly. Use an attachment to get into any cracks and crevices where crumbs of food might be hiding. Don’t forget the couch and other upholstery.
Take out the Trash
Even small traces of food on packaging can attract ants to your garbage can. Empty your kitchen trash can daily to avoid giving ants a chance to find it and keep an eye on the trash can itself. It’s a good idea to wipe down the inside and outside of your trash can regularly to keep it free from food residue.
Physically Remove Ants Without Killing Them
This can be difficult to do since ants are so tiny and fragile. However, it isn’t impossible! Try using a dustpan brush or broom with soft bristles. Brush over the ant/ants slowly and gently.
They will usually get caught up in (or hang on to) the bristles. At this point, you can take the brush or broom outside and shake it rigorously to remove the ants, or just leave the broom outside for a short time, allowing the ants to crawl off.
Step 2 – Use Ant Deterrents
There are a number of products which deter ants but won’t kill them if you use them properly. Let’s look at these options and how to use them in more detail.
- Made from d-Limonene (orange peel extract)
- Indoor/outdoor insecticide
- Works on insect pests
Orange Guard is a great product to use if you want to deter ants from your home effectively, without using harsh chemicals. It contains an ingredient called d-Limonene, which is just a fancy way of saying orange peel extract.
However, be careful not to spray this product directly on the ants, as direct contact with the wet product will kill them. Simply spray it around ant entry points or anywhere else you have found ants in your home.
As a bonus, this product also deters other insects, like cockroaches and fleas, and is safe to use in any part of your home, including areas where food is prepared.
Ants do not like the scent of mint and will avoid mint leaves entirely. The great thing about mint is that it’s easy to grow it by yourself and it really smells great. Bundle mint leaves together and place them inside cupboards and other places you have found ants wandering your home.
Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Citrus Oil
While these oils smell pleasant to us, ants hate them! Drip 4-5 drops of oil onto a cotton ball and place it inside cabinets, cupboards, or any other areas of your home where you see ants. Replace the cotton ball every two days to ensure the scent stays strong.
Vinegar is not just effective in removing pheromone trails, it also works as an ant deterrent! Use the 50% water, 50% vinegar mixture to wipe down kitchen surfaces (except for marble or granite). The scent of the vinegar will help deter ants from visiting the area again.
Step 3 – Make Sure Your Doors and Windows Are Sealed Properly
We all know how tiny ants are, they can fit through even the smallest cracks around doors and windows. Do a quick check around the perimeter of all your doors and windows. If you see any cracks, seal them using caulk or weather stripping.
More Reasons Not to Kill Ants
In case you’re still on the fence as to whether or not to kill the ants in your home, here are a few more reasons not to, We have also made a separate article on how dangerous they are. Read both of them and make your mind.
They Are Good for Your Garden
While ants are building their nests underground or searching for food, they are aerating the soil. Aeration means creating tiny holes in the soil allowing air, rainwater, and other nutrients inside. This produces healthier soil which is more likely to grow hardy grass and flourishing plants.
They Are a Valuable Part of Your Local Ecosystem
Ants are an important food source for other animals, making them a crucial part of the food chain and ecosystem. If you care about the environment, you should also care about ants!
Ants Are Fascinating Creatures
If you spend even a short time observing ants, you’ll begin to understand just how interesting these tiny creatures are. If simply watching them doesn’t convince you, here are a few intriguing facts about ants.
- Ants are, in relation to their size, one of the strongest animals on the planet.
- Queen ants can live up to 30 years.
- Ants take good care of their young, feeding and tending to them until they are able to become an active part of the colony.
- Ants who are injured outside the nest don’t have a great chance of survival. Remarkably, some species of ants will find their injured comrades and rescue them – carrying them safely back to the nest where they can recover.
Can Ants Cause Danger to Your Health?
While ants are not aggressive animals, you should still be aware of potential risks if you are dealing with an ant infestation. While it is not common, ants can transmit diseases such as salmonella and E. coli.
This is why it is so important to dispose of any food that may have come into contact with ants and to store food properly. Ants can also bite or sting, which can cause problems for people who may be allergic.
If you or someone you know gets bitten or stung by an ant, simply pay close attention to the bite location and any unusual symptoms that would indicate an allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing.
If this happens, contact professional help immediately. Another potential concern when it comes to ant bites or stings is the possibility of infection. In the case of a bit or sting, keep the area clean and be sure not to scratch. Scratching could cause tears in the skin and introduce bacteria into the bite which leads to infection.
Ants are generally peaceful animals who are just out looking for a bite to eat. Removing them from your home doesn’t have to involve killing them. There is a more humane way to ensure that these fascinating creatures stay outside, where they belong!
With bigger infestations and certain ant types, you will have to use more advanced methods to get rid of them. In some cases you will even have to call exterminators, it all depends on how serious the infestation is. Remember ants are not to be played with and they can cause damage and health problems. The health of your family and you should always be more important.
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List of Sources
Some Natural Pesticide Alternatives, Sonora Environmental Research Institute
Cremer, S., Ugelvig, L. V., Drijfhout, F. P., Schlick-Steiner, B. C., Steiner, F. M., Seifert, B., … Boomsma, J. J. (2008), The evolution of invasiveness in garden ants, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen
Ants Are Ecologically Beneficial, Iowa State University
Jessica Tay Ying Ling, Ants Can Feed Plants, Arizona State University School of Life Sciences
Farji-Brener A., Werenkraut V., The effects of ant nests on soil fertility and plant performance: a meta‐analysis, Journal of Animal Ecology, British Ecological Society