Villainized by Hollywood and greatly feared due to their incredible mandibles, army ants are certainly some of the most well known, yet mythicized ants in the world. While they are considered some of the most formidable ant species, (mostly due to their ravenous diet and large numbers), they are also much less dangerous to humans as some would have you think.
Furthermore, the United States doesn’t have to deal with the same species of problematic army ants as our overseas counterparts do.
Still, an infestation of army ants can pose problems in the US, and it’s important to know the signs of army ants in your area so you can take action against them.
Join us today as we talk about army ants and how to get rid of them once and for all.
What Are Army Ants?
Most army ants live in tropical regions outside of the US, but there are some species that live in North America.
There are roughly 200 species of army ants world wide, most of which live in tropical regions like Afraid, Asia, Central America and South America. That said, there are some species of army ants that live in the Southern part of the United States. Because army ants are such prolific reproducers, they can wreak havoc on certain ecosystems, quickly reducing important food sources for beneficial wildlife.
The good news is that army ants are nomadic insects who are almost constantly on the move. They build temporary nests as they go, and rarely stay in one area for longer than four weeks at a time.
However, during this time, army ants have been known to get into homes through vulnerabilities in the siding or foundation. If they decide to spend a few days in your yard or on your property, you’ll certainly know it.
Scientifically known as Ecitoninae Spp, army ants consist of a queen ant, worker ants and soldier ants. The queen and the queen’s rapidly reproducing colony can last for up to 20 years, though the queen’s worker ants and soldier ants typically die out in a matter of a few weeks.
On average, a healthy queen army ant can produce up to 30,000 eggs a day and up to 4 million eggs a month. For this reason, despite being nomadic, army ants can be a serious problem.
The video below gives more insight into the incredible inner workings of an army ant colony.
Horrifyingly, in very large groups, army ants have been known to kill animals like pigs, snakes, chickens, lizards, goats, birds, rodents and more. But don’t worry – the army ants that do this do not live in the United States.
That said, in smaller numbers, United States army ants can be quite beneficial. They primarily eat other insects, making them a wonderful form of natural pest control. However, they procreate so quickly and eat so ravenously that if an army ant colony stayed for long near your property, you’d likely want them gone, stat.
Along with eating everything in sight, if army ants get into your home they could potentially cause hundreds of dollars in food waste. They are also capable of spreading bacteria to the foods they contaminate, and their large mandibles are capable of piercing human flesh, which can lead to a rare but serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
But, how do you identify an army ant from other ant species? It’s actually pretty easy. Keep reading to learn more.
How To Identify Army Ants
Army ants move in incredible numbers, and are quick to overwhelm anything in their path.
Army ants are hard to miss. They are 0.5 inches in length and are distinguishable by their large, scissor-like mandibles. In some regions of the world, people have been known to use these incredible jaws to help close large wounds or otherwise “staple” items together, but in the US, people tend to simply stay away from these scary looking jaws.
Army ants range in color from brown to black, but typically have orange or lighter colored abdominis. Their heads are also lighter in color, ranging from pale orange to brown, and their legs are dark brown or orange.
However, it is neither their coloring nore their incredible mandibles that will clue you in to when army ants are near; it’s their sheer numbers.
Army ants move rapidly in massive colonies, and are most distinguishable by their incredible ability to build nests out of their own bodies. In fact, when on the move, army ants will often forage at night and sleep during the day. Before they sleep, army ants will build an ant mount by connecting themselves to one another using their mandibles. Inside the mound, they protect their queen and her offspring.
Once the sun sets, the living mound disassembles, and the army ants are on their way once more.
What Attracted Army Ants To Your Home?
These ants are nomadic, and only stay in one area for a few weeks at a time.
Because army ants are a nomadic species, chances are they were just wandering through and happened to pass by your property. If they choose to stop on your property for a few weeks to procreate and hunt, you could wind up with these pests inside your home.
Some of the potential attractants that could entice army ants to your property include insects they commonly feed on like other ants, beetles, spiders, scorpions, earwigs, roaches, and practically any other type of pest you can imagine.
While these are generally outdoor insects, army ants can find their way inside your home through vulnerabilities along your foundation or siding. Once inside, they can quickly find their way to your pantry, where they will further devour whatever they can get their mandibles on.
How To Get Rid Of Army Ants – Most Popular Methods
Usually, you can get rid of army ants using many of the same methods you would use when getting rid of other ants.
While army ants are certainly unique and formidable, the good news is that they are relatively easy to get rid of so long as you take the right measures.
Like most ants, army ants can be repelled and controlled using the the following methods:
- Natural Products
- Home Remedies
Not every method listed above will be right for every family or household, and you may even find that a combination of the above methods will work best for you when it comes to getting rid of army ants.
Of course, you should also keep in mind that there are pros and cons to using each of the above listed methods, so it’s important to do some research before deciding which product or method of removal would be right for you.
To get you started, we have listed some of the best products for army ant removal and discussed the pros and cons of using each. Take a look.
How To Get Rid Of Army Ants Using Natural Repellents
In small numbers, army ants can be beneficial. They are actually already a natural form of pest control.
Natural repellents usually use organic ingredients that are free of chemicals or toxins to get rid of pests like army ants. These types of products are a favorite amongst organic gardeners, and are also ideal for people with children and pets who frequently play in the yard.
While natural repellents can work well and just as effectively as many chemical insecticides for army ants, some natural repellents may require more maintenance during application. Others can be more expensive than insecticides as well.
Still, there are plenty of natural products we highly recommend for getting rid of army ants in and around your home, which we have listed below.
Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
If you live in a region with army ants, you’ll want to first ensure they don’t come into your house. One way to do this is to install an ultrasonic pest repeller. These repellers use ultrasonic sound waves and vibrations that are harmless to people and pets, but are highly irritating to pests like army ants.
While there are a number of ultrasonic pest repellers to choose from, we like the Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller listed above because it allows you to change the frequency depending on the severity of your pest infestation. It also reaches up to 120 square meters in the home, and you can order one for every room in the house.
Furthermore, this product is completely safe to use in homes with people and pets. Best of all, it is chemical free, so it’s safe for the environment as well.
Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer
Diatomaceous Earth is an organic compound made of fossilized algae. It is used for a number of different household needs and even comes in food grade quality to be ingested. Also known as DE, Diatomaceous Earth is a natural and safe form of pest control that can be used with confidence in areas where children and pets frequent.
It works against pests like army ants by penetrating their exoskeleton when they walk through it. This dehydrates and kills the ants. Furthermore, because this is a powder substance, it’s likely the ants will try and avoid crawling through it. This also means Diatomaceous Earth is a good product to use to prevent army ants from getting into your home.
Diatomaceous Earth can be used both inside and out and can also protect your home against bed bugs, roaches, spiders and earwigs.
Boric Acid Roach and Ant Killer
Like Diatomaceous Earth, boric acid is another form of ant killer that is made from a natural substance found around dried lake beds. While boric acid is safer to use than many chemical insecticides, it can cause irritation to skin and be harmful if inhaled or ingested in large amounts, so use this method with caution around people and pets.
That said, boric acid is an effective ant killer, especially when ingested by the army ants. This product works best when ingested by the ants, and the above ant killer comes pre-baited to entice army ants to eat it. You can use this bait both inside and out, and also use it against roaches.
Wondercide Outdoor Pest Control Spray
Wondercide products use essential oils and other natural ingredients to deter pests like ants, roaches, spiders and more. This is a great seasonal spray you can use during ant season to repel army ants and many other pests they may be attracted to.
This spray is also all natural and safe to use in yards where children and pets play often. You can spray this along the perimeter of your home, in gardens, on trees, and even on playground equipment.
EcoRaider Ant Killer
Last on our list for natural methods to control army ants is EcoRaider Ant Killer. This product uses non-toxic ingredients like essential oils to kill and repel ants, fleas, and mites. This product is also helpful for keeping future ants for coming around, as it continues working for up to four weeks after application.
For this reason, this spray is ideal for army ants. It also deteriorates the ant’s scent trail, which can lead other ants to your home or a food source.
Best Home Remedies For How To Get Rid Of Army Ants
Crushed chalk can help create a border around your home that army ants will not want to pass.
Home remedies are another great option for anyone on a budget or for those who want to try their hand at do it yourself pest control. When it comes to using home remedies for army ants, many of the same household ingredients you would use for other ant species will work.
Many common household ingredients you likely already have on hand for ant control in your home include:
- Chalk, Cinnamon or Cornmeal
- Castile Soap
- Citrus Fruits
- Salt and Pepper
- White Vinegar
- And Essential Oils
Chalk, Cornmeal or Cinnamon
Like most ants, army ants have a waxy exoskeleton that helps to maintain moisture and keep them hydrated. For this reason, they will avoid walking through powdery substances that dry them out.
This means that household ingredients like crushed chalk, cornmeal and ground cinnamon can make an excellent barrier around your home to prevent not only army ants, but all species of ants from coming around.
Just sprinkle these powdery substances along entry and exit points during ant season, and vacuum it up when you are done.
How To Get Rid Of Army Ants With Essential Oils
Essential oils are an excellent form of natural pest control that many people use not only to repel ants, but also rodents, spiders, roaches, and even bed bugs. The best essential oils for army ant control include:
- Peppermint Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- Citrus Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- And Cedarwood oil
DIY Essential Oil Army Ant Spray
If you have essential oils on hand, it’s simple to make your own army ant repellent spray by following the below instructions:
- 10 – 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice
- 2 cups of water
- 1 spray bottle
Combine the above ingredients into a spray bottle and spray this solution anywhere you suspect ant activity. You can spray this spray around your home’s perimeter outdoors, and inside as well including around the kitchen, in cupboards, and along window ledges.
DIY Cotton Ball and Essential Oil Army Ant Repellent
Another way to use essential oils to repel army ants is to saturate cotton balls in the oils of your choice and place these cotton balls around the house. Just make sure to replace these cotton balls with freshly soaked cotton balls once every two to three days.
Pro Tip – dogs and cats are especially sensitive to undiluted essential oils. If you choose to use the cotton ball method, make sure you place these cotton balls out of reach of pets.
DIY White Vinegar Spray
White vinegar alone will not kill army ants, but it can be used when combined with other ingredients like essential oils and borax to make a great repellent spray.
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 1 cup of water
- 10 drops of the essential oil of your choice (optional)
- 2 tbsp of Borax (optional)
- 1 spray bottle
Mix the above ingredients into a spray bottle and spray it anywhere you have noticed ant activity. You can use this spray as a cleaning solution as well as an army ant repellent by spraying it on surfaces and along entry and exit points.
How To Get Rid Of Army Ants With Insecticides
Because they move in such large numbers, army ants may be difficult to get rid of with natural methods alone.
While natural products and home remedies can work well to get rid of army ants, you may find that you also need to use some insecticides to control these pests. Insecticides may also help repel future army ants, as they will help rid your property of other common pests that army ants are attracted to.
However, keep in mind that most insecticides contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to people, pets and the environment. Insecticides should be used only as directed and kept safely out of reach of children and pets in the home.
TERRO Borax Liquid Ant Killer
Adult army ants cannot eat solid foods, so baiting them with a liquid ant bait is going to be the easiest and most efficient way to kill them using poisons. The above bait by TERRO includes several pre-baited bait stations to lure and kill ants. The order includes 12 stations and the poison inside is borax.
However, while borax is a more natural form of insecticide, as we listed above, these bait stations should still be kept out of reach of children and pets.
Combat Max Indoor/Outdoor Ant Killer Gel
Another liquid form of ant killer ideal for army ants is made by Combat Max. This product includes a gel poison and a syringe, for easier application. Best of all, it works to kill all the ants in the colony, including the queen.
The product begins to work within an hour of application and can continue killing surviving ants for up to five days. However, while this product does come in a child-resistant syringe, the gel itself can be harmful to children and pets. Use this product only as directed and do not apply it in areas where children and pets play or frequent.
Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer
A good, year-round insecticide we would recommend for larger army ant infestations is a perimeter insecticide spray by Ortho. This product comes in a large gallon container and includes a wand for easy application.
It works against ants, roaches, spiders, and other crawling insects, and creates a barrier around your home that lasts for up to one year when applied correctly.
However, this spray does contain chemicals that can be toxic to people, pets and the environment. It should be used only as directed and kept out of reach of children and pets.
How To Get Rid Of Army Ants – When To Call A Professional
While most army ants will move on within a few days, some can stay in your yard for up to a month.
Many people are fearful of army ants, especially when they see their large mandibles. Furthermore, their sheer numbers can be quite intimidating and may lead to you feeling like you can’t conquer these pests on your own.
If you have noticed an army ant infestation near your property and are concerned, it may be a good idea to contact a professional for help. On average, most pest control experts charge between $150 and $500 for army ant removal.
Once you have managed to get rid of the army ants on your property, we suggest you go about looking into ways to prevent them from coming back.
How To Prevent Future Army Ants In Your Home
You can prevent future army ants from becoming a problem by following some routine good habits.
Although army ants are nomadic and tend to move on in a matter of weeks, that doesn’t mean they won’t be back. You can work to prevent your home from becoming another temporary camp site for these pests by following the below tips and tricks from experts.
Keep Up With Routine Home Maintenance
Hey, you may not mind if an army ant colony passes by on your property. After all, they can help you get rid of a number of common pests in your yard and garden as they go. However, they really become a problem if they get inside your home.
To keep them outside, ensure that you routinely practice home maintenance. Repair any vulnerabilities around your home by sealing cracks and crevices, and make sure windows and doors shut and seal securely.
Keep Your Home Clean and Tidy
Army ants will not be tempted to go inside your home if they don’t feel there is an ideal food source there for them. To keep them at bay, make sure you keep the inside of your home nice and tidy. Store garbage properly, sweep and clean on a routine basis, and organize debris and clutter.
It’s also important to make sure you store food properly. Keep perishable foods in the refrigerator when not in use, and refrain from leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight. It’s also a good idea to keep pantry foods in air-tight containers made of thick glass or palstic.
Practicing these good habits won’t only help to keep army ants at bay, but also other pests like rodents and roaches.
Keep Up With Proper Landscaping
Landscaping can help decide where army ants choose to forage. Pests in general prefer overgrown areas rich in vegetation, and army ants are no different. To keep them from getting too close for comfort, make sure you landscape your yard and ensure that your grass is routinely trimmed.
You can also line your home with cedar mulch to repel common pests like army ants and the insects they may be attracted to eating.
Ensure that Vegetation Is At Least Three Feet From Your Home’s Siding
Along with keeping up with routine landscaping around your property, it’s also a good idea to keep vegetation from growing too close to your home’s siding. By trimming back tree branches, shrubs, and flowers that grow too close, you are removing an easy pathway straight into your home.
Use A Year-Round Pest Control Inside and Outside Of Your Home
And, of course, keep up with routine pest control year-round. Remember, army ants generally feed on other insects, so by reducing the number of insects on your property you will also reduce your chances of dealing with army ants.
So, now that you know more about the United States version of army ants, what are your thoughts? Are you relieved to learn that these pests are not as dangerous as those living in other countries?
Give us your feedback on army ants in the comment section below.
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.