Ants are tiny insects that create huge problems. Many of them bite, which can cause severe pain and ruin the fun you’re having outdoors.
Treating your yard for ants before you ever see them is an effective method to make sure you never have to deal with an infestation and won’t get covered in ant bites.
If ants are taking over your yard, it’s important to know which ant killers are the most effective and which ones will work the best for your home.
What is the best outdoor ant killer? Pesticides in the form of sprays, dusts, gels, granules, and bait traps will effectively eliminate ants when used correctly, though natural solutions, such as boiling water, boric acid, neem oil, and cornstarch, can be used with varying degrees of success as well.
Continue reading so you can find out which solution is best for you.
Outdoor Ant Killer – What to Look For
There are several ant killers meant for outdoor use from which to choose. If you’re choosing to go that route, you should know ahead of time what you’re looking for.
Types of Ant Killer
Ant killer comes in several forms:
- Liquid spray
- Aerosol spray
- Bait traps
Sprays, dusts, and granules are usually applied on top of existing ants, while gel and traps are more often used as preventative measures. However, sprays can also offer long-term treatment that will act as a prevention method.
Different types of ant killers will have different levels of effectiveness.
- Some killers, like sprays and granules, are meant to work long-term and continually kill ants due to the residual effects.
- Others, like baits and traps, are meant for short-term use. These are meant to attract ants so they’ll eat the food and take some back to the anthill. Once the bait is eaten, it poisons the ants and kills them.
Safe for Use Around People and Pets
Pesticides aren’t safe to use around people and pets. They contain toxic chemicals that can cause pain and discomfort. Sometimes the effects are minimal, but they can be severe or even lethal. It will greatly depend on what chemicals are in the product, what was exposed to the chemical, and how long it was exposed to it.
Some products say they’re safe around people and pets once they’re dry. If you use the product as directed on the package, you should be fine, but it’s good to remember that chemicals are always dangerous.
Natural remedies are a safer option. Essential oils and spices can be skin irritants or dangerous to pets, so you should still be cautious. However, the effects aren’t typically as harmful as pesticides.
Ease of Use
Most ant killers are ready to use, meaning you don’t have to mix chemicals with water or set anything up.
If you use a trap, you might have to set it up before you use it, but most of them only take a minute to prepare and place.
Most ant killers aren’t reusable since they’re meant to be applied once or periodically. However, some traps might be reusable if they have a container that holds the bait.
Once the bait is gone, you can add your own bait solution, such as sugar, water, and boric acid, to the trap.
If you want a completely disposable solution, go for the traps. Place them in strategic locations (close to ant activity), and once the ants are gone, throw the entire product away.
With so many species of ants, there’s a lot to learn. Don’t miss out on critical prevention guidelines, effective eradication strategies and helpful information. Access all our ant articles here.
Best Outdoor Ant Killers
Bear in mind that if you come across ants far from your home in an area where they will not likely bother anyone, leave them alone, as ants play a critical role in the natural world.
However, if they are invading your property, being a nuisance, or if you’re concerned someone may be bitten (yes, ants will bite – find out more here), you’ll want to take action right away.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best ant killers on the market.
Best All-Around Trap: Home Plus Metal Ant Bait Killer
This small, sturdy, affordable bait trap uses food attractants to draw the attention of more ants. It kills a wider range of ant species than most bait traps advertise. These traps are small metal tins and the bait is non-liquid, so they can withstand weather pretty easily. The small access points also help keep other animals and pets out!
They’re very easy to use, too as you can see from my setup below. Simply press in the sides and place near a source of ants. As you can see, I used mine outdoors and placed it under a nearby plant (to help protect it from blowing away in the wind – they’re pretty light!)
They’re not refillable, but you could reuse them with DIY bait if you wish.
- Sturdy metal tin.
- Kills most species of ants.
- Uses food attractants that are more effective than other baits.
- Not refillable.
All-Around Trap Runner-up: Terro Liquid Ant Baits
These bait traps are prefilled and ready to use right out of the box. The trap is a little container that contains liquid bait and borax. Like with any food source, the ants will take the bait back to their nest. As the ants eat it, they’ll die. The queen will eventually eat the bait and die too, which is how the colony will die off.
We’ve marked this one as a runner-up because the bait is liquid and the holes in the trap are larger than the HomePlus option. This means the bait can dry out over the course of a couple months in sunnier locations, and some users have reported animals like squirrels getting into the bait. That increases the risk of a pet disturbing the trap when used indoors!
However, the product includes stakes, which is a benefit as compared to the loose HomePlus competitor. Also, it is larger, so can attract and kill more ants before needing to be replaced.
- Removable stakes.
- Covered bait so it can endure weather.
- For indoor and outdoor use.
- Not as effective if the bait dries out.
- Risk of small animals getting access to the bait
Best Dust: Sevin Ready-to-Use 5% Dust
Sevin is a pesticide dust that’s safe to use in gardens. It works well for ants and will kill over 65 other types of insects.
You can apply this dust to the soil in gardens or lawns and on patios. The convenient shaker canister makes application easy.
Keep children and pets away while you’re using the product. Once the dust settles, it’s safe for them to enter the area again.
Don’t use the product on the day you harvest fruits and vegetables. The ingredient used to kill insects is permethrin, which is harmful to humans. However, it easily rinses off and won’t contaminate food.
- Ready to use.
- Can be used around fruits and vegetables.
- Kills bugs within an hour or so.
- Can’t be used on rainy or windy days.
Best for Fire Ants: Ortho Fire Ant Killer Step 1 and Step 2
These two products are meant to work together. You can use them separately if you’d like, but you’ll see the best results when you use them both together.
Step 1 is dust that should be applied directly on fire ant mounds. It will kill the ants within an hour and should kill the queen, which is how colonies eventually die off.
Step 2 is granules that should be applied to the entire lawn. The granules will kill ants and prevent them from building a new hill in your yard. This product provides up to six months of protection.
- Dust has almost instant results.
- Granules last for up to six months.
- Both products are ready to use out of the package.
- Neither product is not safe for children and pets.
Best Defensive Spray: Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer
This pesticide is a liquid spray that’s meant to be used around the perimeter of your home or indoors.
Spray it outside around the base of your home to prevent ants and other bugs from coming inside. It includes a reusable sprayer wand that extends so you don’t have to bend over.
You can buy a refill and use the same wand instead of buying the product a second time. Be sure to let the product dry completely before allowing children and pets to enter the area.
- Reusable wand.
- Kills ants and other bugs as they approach your home.
- No odor.
- Might take two weeks to see results.
Best Outdoor Bait: Terro Liquid Ant Killer Stakes
These outdoor bait stakes stick in the ground and attract ants. Ants crawl into the trap, collect some of the bait, and take it back to the anthill to store the food.
Some ants might die inside the trap with the bait, but that isn’t the intended purpose. This trap has a see-through part so you can tell when it’s time to replace the bait.
This trap doesn’t have refills, but it’s possible to refill the compartment with a DIY solution if you’d like to do so.
- Easy to push into the ground.
- Kills ants quickly.
- Small size allows them to fit in tight places.
- Doesn’t have refills.
Best for Cracks and Crevices: Combat Ant Killing Gel
This is a gel bait that attracts ants so they’ll take the bait back to their colony. The gel comes in a syringe so you can easily apply it in small spaces.
While it’s frequently used indoors, it’s great to use outdoors because you can apply it in the small cracks where ants like to get crawl through to get inside.
You can place the gel at the base of tree trunks, raised gardens, deck posts, and wherever else you need it.
The active ingredient is Fipronil, which is toxic, so make sure it dries completely before you let children and pets around it.
- Syringe makes application easy.
- Begins killing within an hour.
- Can be used in small spaces.
- Can’t cover large areas.
Best Instant Ant Killer: Terro Outdoor Ant Killer Spray
This aerosol spray will kill ants and other bugs on contact. It’s great for spot treatment and the residue will continue killing ants until it washes away.
If you see ants congregating in an area, aerosol spray will quickly get rid of them.
Be careful when using this product since it might spray into your face. It’s best to wear protective gear when using this and avoid using it on windy days.
- Kills on contact.
- Will continue to kill until the residue is gone.
- A quick fix for an ant problem.
- Might get into your face while using it.
Best All-Natural Instant Ant Killer: EcoRaider Ant & Crawling Insect Killer
This is an ant killer spray that is based on natural ingredients including lemongrass oil, cedar oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, and geraniol.
It kills on contact, and the residue will continue killing for about four weeks.
Since the ingredients are natural, they pose little threat to children and pets. However, they may still cause respiratory and skin irritation, especially if someone is allergic to the ingredients.
- Natural ingredients.
- Safer than other pesticides.
- Begins killing within 10 minutes.
- Citrus scent might be overpowering.
Best Value Bait for Large Areas: Terro Perimeter Ant Bait Plus
This is another granule bait that’s meant to be used around the perimeter of your home. The ants will carry the granules back to their colony, and they’ll die after they eat it.
You can apply this at the edge of your yard away from your home so you can redirect the ants until they eventually die off. It kills slowly so the ants will have time to carry it back to their hill.
- Kills most ants as well as roaches, crickets, slugs, and other pests.
- Won’t harm beneficial insects.
- Bottle designed to easily shake out the granules.
- May not be effective against fire ants.
Best Practices for Preventing an Infestation
Before you can work on controlling the current pest population and preventing future invaders, you need to make sure that the pests you’re dealing with are indeed ants.
Ants usually look something like the photo above, although each species will have their own characteristics that make them stand out from the others.
Most ants are black, brown, tan, or red, although there are some species much more brightly colored or even opaque.
You can easily identify ants by their segmented bodies, six legs, and mandibles, which are the mouthparts that are used to bite.
Many people aren’t aware that certain ants have wings and often mistake these winged insects for termites.
This article explains why some ants have wings and whether or not you should be concerned if you spot them.
It’s estimated that there are 22,000 different species of ants around the world, but only 12,500 or so have been identified.
There are only about 580 species in North America. Some of the most common are:
- Argentine ants.
- Banded sugar ants.
- Carpenter ants.
- European fire ants.
- Pavement ants.
- Odorous house ants.
- Pharaoh ants.
- Red ants.
- Red imported fire ants.
- Yellow crazy ants.
- Pyramid ants.
Most of the ants you’ll spot in your home and yard will be either sugar ants or protein ants.
These are collective terms covering several species based on their preferred food sources. Learn more here.
It doesn’t take much for an ant colony to become a big problem, which is why preventing infestations is so important.
Follow the following guidelines for keeping ants away, and be sure to check our article “How To Get Rid of Ants” for further prevention tips and a complete elimination guide.
Put Away Food
Ants invade yards and homes because they’re looking for food to bring back to their queen.
The number one rule of prevention is to keep food out of reach. You can do this by:
- Storing food in sealed containers: Whether it’s an airtight container (these are ideal) or a plastic bag with a zipper, all food should be sealed shut.
- Keep food off the ground: Sweep and vacuum regularly inside your home. If you have a cookout outside, make sure dropped food gets picked up. Ants move quickly, and they’ll swarm around a piece of food in just a matter of minutes.
- Pick up dirty dishes: Don’t leave a dirty plate sitting around too long, especially if you’re eating outside. Rinse off plates or throw away disposable dishes as soon as possible.
Seal Up Entry Points
Since ants are so small, they can fit into the smallest crevices. If a colony is moving toward your home, look for any possible places they could find their way in.
Possible entry points include:
- Cracks in walls, doors, windows, or foundation.
- Broken glass and damaged screens.
- Open windows.
- Basements and attics.
If you spot an entry point, use caulk to close it up. You’ll need to reapply it as it wears out every few years. If you use caulk outdoors, make sure it’s a weather-resistant kind.
Stop Them in Their Tracks
You’ve probably noticed that ants travel in a line. This is because they send out pheromones to lead other workers in the colony to the food source.
You can disrupt their trail, which will cause them to turn around and go back to their anthill.
You can use water and vinegar, a natural repellent like citrus peels, or pesticides to do this.
Disrupt their trail by placing something in front of them or spraying them with something they don’t like.
If you see an anthill pop up in your yard, you can pour boiling water over it to get rid of it. You can also use pesticides or vinegar to do this.
Although it may seem as if these busy little workers never stop to rest, ants do indeed sleep. Find out how and for how long here.
Fortunately, there are many natural remedies you can use to repel or kill ants. Use these before you try pesticides since toxic chemicals can harm people, pets, and plants.
- Boric acid or borax: They’re not the same, but they work similarly. Mix one of the chemicals with sugar and water. Make a thin solution to dip cotton balls in or form a paste, and leave it outside. They’ll eat, bring it back to the anthill, and will die shortly after.
- Brewed coffee grounds: Sprinkle coffee grounds in areas where you see ants the most. It won’t be as useful once the grounds have dried.
- Neem oil: Neem oil is a natural repellent that repels more than just ants. Apply it wherever you need it as a nontoxic remedy. Be sure to use pure neem oil (like this organic one) and not something that’s diluted.
- Cornstarch: Pour cornstarch on top of ants and add some water. They’ll get smothered and die instantly. This will also help break their trail.
- Spices: Black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon will help repel ants. Sprinkle them around your home or outside to keep them away.
- Essential oils: Peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) will help deter ants. Either put some undiluted oil on cotton balls and set them around the house or mix the oil with water to use as a spray.
Ants can be difficult to get rid of, but there are plenty of ant killers you can purchase to get rid of them.
Remember that pesticides are toxic to people, pets, and sometimes plants. Use the products as the label directs so you can use them safely and efficiently.