The Best Ant Killers for DIY Pest Control
To find the right product for controlling ants in and around your home, start with our top tips and recommendations—and don't miss our top-favorite picks among the best ant killers available.
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- Best OverallTERRO Liquid Ant BaitCheck Latest Price
- Best for Outdoor UseTERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Killer Bait StakesCheck Latest Price
- Best for Perimeter DefenseTERRO T600 Ant DustCheck Latest Price
When ants swarm your food prep areas, invade your yard, or otherwise make their creepy-crawly presence known, getting rid of them can be challenging.
Many of the best ant killer solutions capitalize on the insects’ tendency to gather, getting ants to bring the poison back to the nest to wipe out the entire colony. Others are formulated to set up perimeters that will keep ants out. The smartest defense is to target the problem with the right insecticide while also ensuring your loved ones’ safety. Read on to learn all about ants and why we’ve identified the following options as top picks for eliminating these pesky intruders.
- BEST OVERALL: TERRO Liquid Ant Bait
- BEST FOR OUTDOOR USE: TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Killer Bait Stakes
- BEST FOR PERIMETER DEFENSE: TERRO Ant Dust
- BEST FOR CHILD AND PET SAFETY: Orange Guard 101 Home Pest Control
Before You Buy
First things first, identify the species you’re dealing with. These are the ants you’re most likely to encounter in North America:
- Odorous House Ants: Small brown or black ants that nest in walls and under floors. They are drawn to sugar and are most active in the spring and summer months.
- Pavement Ants: These brown or black ants commonly swarm over paving tiles in what looks like an epic battle with other pavement ants. Some pavement ants, known as alates or swarmers, have wings and can fly to begin new colonies.
- Carpenter Ants: One of the largest ant species in North America, carpenter ants are black and, as the name implies, have a fondness for wood. This destructive species of swarmers and workers bore holes in walls, floors, and ceilings, leaving telltale piles of sawdust in their wake.
- Fire Ants: Small, reddish-brown fire ants, which build mounds in the yard that look like piles of loose dirt, pose the most immediate threat to humans and pets. They have a painful sting that produces a burning sensation, as well as swelling and itching. Those allergic to insect stings must be especially careful, as fire ant venom can cause swelling of the throat and trouble breathing.
Types of Ant Killers
Ant killers come in two main types: Baits and kill-on-contact pesticides.
- Baits draw insects in with attractive scents and tastes and allow ants to take small pieces of poisoned bait back to the colony. Active ingredients like fipronil or hydramethylnon have a delayed effect so that a worker ant can carry or ingest the bait without dying immediately. This lets them either return the bait to the nest for consumption or die within the nest where their bodies release the poison. Baits are generally considered the best option if you are unsure where the nest is located.
- Kill-on-contact pesticides use active ingredients, such as deltamethrin or d-limonene, to kill ants and other insects when applied directly. They may destroy the nervous system or exoskeleton of individual ants, but they cannot be carried back to a nest. Due to this limitation, kill-on-contact solutions are best for perimeter defense or if the nest is visible.
Key Shopping Considerations
There are a few key factors to consider when shopping for ant killers. These considerations will help you make the best choice for your home whether you want an ant bait or something with a more natural approach.
Ant killers either have a delayed onset or work instantly, depending on the active ingredient. For serious infestations that include daily sightings of 10 or more ants in a given area, both an instant killer and a delayed-onset poison to target the nest can be used to knock out the problem.
Sodium tetraborate decahydrate (simply known as borax), hydramethylnon, and fipronil have a delayed onset so that ants will gather the poison and return it to the colony and distribute it, while also signaling other ants to go retrieve more poison.
Delayed-onset ant killers poison within 24 to 72 hours; however, the length of time for a nest to be destroyed depends on poison placement, nest population, and many other factors. In general, delayed-onset poisons should be used continually until the bait is no longer being taken and ants are no longer seen.
Among active ingredients that work immediately, the chemical deltamethrin interferes with ants’ central nervous systems. For a natural alternative, d-limonene, which is made of up to 95 percent of the components in orange peel extract, deteriorates the coating of the respiratory system, causing ants to suffocate.
Ant killers can be applied in a wide variety of ways. With so many different application methods, you may wish to try a few to see what works best for your specific situation:
- Bait stations are small, plastic containers that ants enter, grab a piece of poisoned bait, and march back home none the wiser. Place bait stations in low-traffic areas, such as behind appliances or in a crawlspace, to keep kids and pets away from harmful poisons.
- Gel baits are squeezed into cracks or behind appliances. Ants slowly consume the gel over time, sealing their colony’s fate.
- Liquid baits can be suspended on small stakes in the yard. A diagonal opening ascends like a staircase, allowing the bait to be taken from each step of the access hole at the same time. Liquid bait can also be used in simple bait stations.
- Granule bait may be sprinkled in or around a nest. Ants grab the individual granules and return to the colony.
- Sprays can be aimed directly at ants or applied as a surface poison that is absorbed through the ants’ skin.
- Ant dust is a powder that kills through contact or ingestion. It can be used to create a perimeter around a home or to seal off cracks and other entry points.
Prior to treating an ant infestation, consider the safety of people and pets in the home.
Some bait stations and gels use bright colors to call attention to their threat, but these colors can attract children and animals looking for a toy or treat. Only put bait stations where kids and pets can’t access them. Sprays and ant dust can be absorbed through family members’ skin, posing a serious risk if used in high-traffic areas.
Fortunately, d-limonene, the natural active ingredient in some kill-on-contact insecticides, is harmless to humans and pets. However, it doesn’t provide the same level of defense as a more potent product, and it won’t be useful against an unseen nest.
Ant killers may include extra features such as stay-fresh tabs that keep the bait as potent as possible; helpful applicators, like a syringe for gels, a shaker for ant dust, or bait stakes for the yard; and waterproof options for outdoor application.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: TERRO Liquid Ant Bait
Thanks to a sealed bait station loaded with borax and a stay-fresh tab you simply snap off to activate, TERRO liquid ant killer remains effective for up to three months. The design also securely contains the bait, freeing you from handling the chemical. The TERRO product comes in a pack of 12 stations; simply leave them in low-traffic areas where ants have been seen.
2. BEST FOR OUTDOOR USE: TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Killer Bait Stakes
TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Killer Bait Stakes includes eight green stakes that can be inserted into the ground in a perimeter around the home to draw in and destroy nearby colonies. The bait is accessible through a diagonal hole in the casing that has an ascending staircase pattern, allowing more ants to access the bait at a time—this increases the total number of ants that can be killed with a single stake. The stake design prevents the bait station from being blown or knocked over, and casing further protects the bait from the elements. Before inserting the stakes, remember to remove the activation tab that keeps the bait fresh until it is ready for use.
3. BEST FOR PERIMETER DEFENSE: TERRO T600 Ant Dust
Deltamethrin, the active ingredient in TERRO Ant Dust, is absorbed through the skin or through ingestion and immediately begins interfering with the insects’ central nervous systems. It can be used inside the home to block cracks and crevices and it’s waterproof, which means it can be used outdoors as well. This contact killer comes in a shaker container for controlled application on grass, flowers, and around the perimeter of the house for up to eight months of protection against fire ants, carpenter ants, cockroaches, spiders, and ticks.
4. BEST FOR CHILD AND PET SAFETY: Orange Guard 101 Home Pest Control
If curious kids and pets are present, or if ants are an issue in a food prep area, Orange Guard 101 Home Pest Control is a smart solution. Active ingredient d-limonene, formulated in a water-based spray, is environmentally safe and non-toxic to people and animals. It can be used as a direct spray to kill on contact and also applied in a perimeter around the house and in cracks and crevices to prevent infestations. While d-limonene affects insects’ respiratory system, causing them to suffocate, its strong aroma also deters ants, roaches, and fleas.