Ants are more than annoying – they can invade our homes and contaminate our food, causing hundreds of dollars in food waste. Worse, some ants can carry diseases or cause serious structural damage. Other ants even bite.
Most of us are familiar with tiny black ants infiltrating our homes and yards, but what are these tiny red ants cropping up everywhere?
That’s what we’re here to find out. Today, we are talking about how to get rid of tiny red ants and keep them from coming back.
But before we dive into the best practices for tiny red ant removal and prevention, let’s first talk about what on earth these little critters are.
Tiny Red Ants – What Are These Little Pests?
There are seven common species of tiny red ants you may be dealing with.
There are roughly 1,000 ant species in the United States alone, and with a single colony of ants able to house hundreds of thousands, it’s safe to say we humans are outnumbered. That said, there are a few species of ants that are known for their unique appearance.
That’s right, we’re talking about red ants. For generations, people have feared red ants for their nasty bites, but the truth is not all tiny red ants sting. Instead, many of them do what other ants do – they build large colonies and seek out food for their queen.
So, what are the tiny red ants you’re most likely to contend with here in the United States? Take a look.
Caribbean Crazy Ants
Also known simply as Crazy Ants, Caribbean Crazy Ants are more brown than they are red. However, they are very small, which gives them the illusion of being red from far off.
On average, most Crazy Ants grow to be between 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch in length. They are distinguished by their uneven thorax and bull horn-like antennae.
Crazy Ants typically build their colonies along pavement cracks and crevices, inside walls, behind soffits, and beneath electrical conduits.
While they are not dangerous to humans, they are highly attracted to electrical equipment. In large infestations, they can cause shorts and even serious electrical problems, so it’s important to keep an eye on these pests and stop them as soon as you notice them.
Argentine Ants are an invasive species who found their way to the US through human travel. Measuring around 2.2 to 2.8 mm long, Argentine ants are light to dark brown in color. Their almost translucent bodies, however, can often make them appear to be reddish in color.
These pests are incredibly problematic in the United States and some of the most common pests to invade homes. And, because their colonies can hold more than one queen at a time, it is possible for them to multiply exponentially. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a single Argentine Ant colony to house hundreds of thousands of ants at a time.
When a single colony becomes overcrowded, the ants branch out to create more colonies in the area. This means that a single invaded home can contain millions of Argentine Ants.
Odorous House Ants
While primarily black, it’s not uncommon for Odorous House Ants to be confused for or even considered as tiny red ants.
These ants are difficult to misdiagnose during an infestation thanks to the rancid, rotten coconut odor they emit in large numbers.
Measuring about 1/8th to 3/16ths of an inch in length, odorous house ants are highly attracted to sweets and grains. They infiltrate cabinets and pantries, and their odor seeps into the food, contaminating it and often costing homeowners hundreds of dollars in food waste.
Perhaps the most famous tiny red ants on this list, Fire Ants are named for their bright red color and their burning bite. They are larger than some of the ants on this list, though they are still small, measuring only 1.6 to 5 mm in length.
Fire Ants are most active in warmer climates. They like the sun and avoid the shade, often being found in large colonies and ant hills in yards and open fields. For this reason, Fire Ants are rarely the culprits to invade homes.
Still, their colonies can grow quite large and fire ants have been known to attack in large numbers. Their stings are painful and can even be dangerous to those with allergies. For this reason, identifying and controlling Fire Ant colonies around your home is incredibly important.
Like Fire Ants, Pyramid Ants prefer warmer weather and open areas. They are less likely to invade homes and much more likely to build their colonies in open sandy areas outdoors. Pyramid ants are also most prevalent in the South, and are not usually seen in other areas of the United States.
Measuring 1/8th of an inch in length, Pyramid Ants are attracted to sweet foods and will often find their way inside looking for sugar. Still, even if they get inside they will not stay.
And because Pyramid Ants actually eat Fire Ants and other invasive pests, many people consider them to actually be beneficial. Who knew?
Last, we have Pharaoh Ants. These are some of the smaller ants on our list of tiny red ants, growing only to be around 2 mm in length. Their bodies range in color from light yellow to orange, often giving them a reddish appearance at first glance.
Pharaoh ants are home invaders and are attracted to even the smallest crumbs or food particles left behind by people or pets. For this reason, these ants are most commonly found infiltrating pantries and kitchen areas.
Unfortunately, Pharaoh Ants are not only a pest but they can also be dangerous. They are known to spread bacteria and diseases like salmonella and dysentery, especially if they find their way into improperly stored pantry foods.
Are you wondering about other species of tiny red ants you may contend with? This video goes over a few more species to consider.
What Are Tiny Red Ants Attracted To?
Some species of small red ants are attracted to sugary sources while others are attracted to other dead insects.
Regardless of the species, the most common tiny red ants live by the same social structures as other ant colonies. There are three categories of ants in a colony, including the female queen, her female worker ants and the male drone ants.
In each ant colony there are scout ants, who go in search of food sources. Scout ants are some of the more problematic ants for people because these insects are the ones who invade our homes first in search of food. Then they leave behind scent trails to guide other ants to and fro.
Like most home-invading pests, tiny red ants are most commonly attracted to food sources. The exception to this can be Crazy Ants, who are also attracted to electrical equipment.
Still, usually sugary foods, grains, fruits, meats, and even other insects can be a source of food for tiny red ants. If you have any of these items in your home, which you obviously do, then tiny ants could come calling.
Getting Rid Of Tiny Red Ants – Methods Available
There are a few different methods you can use to get rid of small red ants in and around your home.
While you can’t control what tiny red ants are attracted to, you can work to prevent and repel them by following a few common tips and tricks. There are also plenty of products available for purchase to help you get rid of any tiny red ants that have already invaded.
Different traps provide you with different options for tiny red ant removal. However, most traps should be used in conjunction with other methods as they generally only capture and stop a few of the tiny red ants at a time.
Bait stations are some of the most effective methods you can use to get rid of tiny red ants that have already invaded your home. Bait stations work by using poison bait that is time-released, which allows scout ants to take the poison back to the colony, thus killing the queen.
There are pros and cons to using poison bait stations when it comes to getting rid of tiny red ants, and we will give you a few options and list the pros and cons of these options further down.
Sprays are some of the more common pest control products used when it comes to killing and repelling tiny red ants on contact. While many sprays contain chemicals, some don’t. You do have options when it comes to the types of pest control spray you purchase to protect your home, and we will cover all of those options below.
If you’re strapped for cash or simply in a hurry, you may be able to use household ingredients you already have in your pantry or medicine cabinet to get rid of or repel tiny red ants. In fact, essential oils have been found to successfully repel a number of ant species. But that’s not all. Other household ingredients work as well.
Scroll down to the Home Remedies section of this article for more information and a few of our favorite tiny red ant repellent recipes.
Preventing tiny red ants comes in many forms. You can invest in preventive products like ant repellent sprays or ultrasonic sound machines, or you can go about using home remedies and taking specific preventative measures to keep tiny red ants out of your home.
We will talk all about this further down, but for now let’s take a look at some of the best products for how to get rid of tiny red ants using baits and bait stations.
Best Baits and Bait Stations For How To Get Rid of Tiny Red Ants
Ant bait stations often use poisons and target not just scout ants, but also the queen and colony.
As we mentioned above, the best baits for tiny red ants are going to be baited traps that contain time-released poisons. That way, scout ants can consume the toxic bait and then still have time to bring it back to the colony.
However, while bait stations are effective when it comes to removing tiny red ants, they can also be dangerous to use around children and pets. When looking for the best bait stations, we recommend looking for tamper-free stations or baits that are non-toxic to people and animals.
We have listed some below for you to consider if you’re not sure where to start looking.
Terro Liquid Ant Bait Stations
First on our list of bait stations for tiny red ants are bait stations made by Terro. Terror is a trusted pest control brand that makes a number of products, but we specifically like their liquid ant bait stations because they work for so many different species of home-invading ants.
They are also designed specifically for smaller ants and each bait station includes several entry and exit points. Each package contains four bait stations, and the bait is time released, allowing worker ants to bring the poison back to the colony to kill the queen.
Not only do these bait stations work well, they are also small and discrete, so you can place them around your kitchen counter without them being too cumbersome or obvious.
However, please note that these stations can be dangerous to people and pets. Be careful of where you place them and keep them out of reach of children.
Kness 12 Pack Outdoor Ant Bait Stations
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If you’re dealing with tiny red ants outside of your home and want to make sure you stop them before they get in, we recommend using outdoor bait stations like those above by Kness. These stations come in an order of 12 and are designed to stick directly into your lawn or garden.
The bait stations are also tamper-resistant, making them safer to use around children and pets. Of course, still be careful where you place them and monitor children and animals around them.
The stations do not include bait, so the poison must be bought separately. However, these stations can hold both graunaul baits or liquid baits, or even both types of baits at the same time.
Advion Ant Bait
If you’re looking for an ant bait to put in the bait stations listed above, we would recommend Advion Ant Bait. This poison is again time released to provide worker ants enough time to consume the bait and take it back to their colony.
However, this poison does contain an insecticide known as indoxacarb which can be harmful to people and pets. Use it only as directed and keep the bag out of reach of children and pets.
Best Traps and Sprays For Tiny Red Ants
Traps and sprays can help kill ants on contact and allow you to identify the species.
Many traps will only collect and stop a few ants at a time. However, that’s not to say they aren’t useful. Sticky traps and other types of ant traps can not only help reduce the number of tiny red ants you’re dealing with, but they can also help you identify the types of ants in your home so you can better manage your pest control plan.
We also recommend investing in a good ant spray that not only kills on contact but also cleans up the scout ant scent trails and repels future ants from coming around.
Hot Shot Ant Killer Aerosol
If you’re looking for a spray to kill ants on contact, you might like Hot Shot Ant Killer. It is designed for both indoor and outdoor use and not only helps to kill ants but also remove the scent trail left behind by scouts.
The spray continues to kill and repel for up to four months after being sprayed, and it also repels other pests like cockroaches, spiders, scorpions, silverfish and more.
Mighty mint Natural Ant Spray
Another spray we like for tiny red ants is by Mighty Mint. This is an all natural spray that uses essential oils and other organic ingredients to repel ants, spiders, roaches and many more. What we like best about this spray is that it is entirely non-toxic, making it safe to use around people and pets.
It also leaves behind a lovely smell upon application. However, it may not last as long as the Hot Shot spray listed above, though it is by no means less effective at killing and repelling tiny red ants on contact.
TERRO Sticky Traps
TERRO Sticky Traps may not help you completely eliminate the tiny red ants causing you problems, but they can help you to identify the specific species so you can hone in on treatments and remedies.
These traps are also helpful when trying to identify other home invading pests like spiders and roaches. Simply place the sticky traps along countertops, in cabinets and behind furniture and check them often.
Home Remedies For Getting Rid Of Tiny Red Ants
Essential oils have been found to repel not only ants, but countless other pests as well.
If you’ve just stumbled upon tiny red ants in your home and want to begin working on repellent and removal immediately, you may be in luck. Many American households already have ingredients on hand that can repel and kill ants on contact.
Some of the most common home ingredients that can work against tiny red ants include:
- Essential Oils
- Cayenne Pepper
- Black Pepper
- Liquid Dish Soap
- Fresh Lemon
- Baby Powder
- Cucumber Peels
- Citrus Peels
- And Borax
Keeping Ants At Bay Using Powders
Tiny red ants have a hard, waxy exoskeleton that is designed to help them collect and retain water in order to stay hydrated. When that waxy exoskeleton is compromised, ants will quickly dehydrate and die.
This is why certain powdery products work well to keep tiny red ants at bay. That said, ants will likely avoid these powder-like substances instead of walking through them, so using these home ingredients are best suited for prevention or for creating barriers around food products while working on other methods of removal.
Products to use as barriers for tiny red ants include crushed chalk, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt and borax. To use these products most effectively, sprinkle them around doorways, kitchen counters and window ledges to keep ants from gaining access to your home or foods.
Keeping Ants At Bay Using Homemade Sprays
The best homemade spray to repel tiny red ants and to remove scent trails left behind by scout ants contain a combination of vinegar, lemon, dish soap and essential oils.
Combine a few drops of liquid dish soap into two cups of water in a spray bottle. Add 10 to 15 drops of an essential oil of your choice and one tablespoon of vinegar. Slice a fresh lemon in half and squeeze half the lemon into the spray bottle.
Then close the bottle and shake the solution until the soap becomes sudsy. Now you are ready to spray. Spray this solution on countertops, along window ledges and around doorways, then let it sit before wiping it clean with a towel or rag.
Pay special attention to countertops or areas where you have noticed tiny red ants in the past. You may also consider clearing out pantries and cabinets and spraying them down with this solution as well.
Not only will the soap and vinegar clean your surfaces, but the combination of ingredients will mask and remove scent trails so future ants can no longer find the food source that attracted them in the first place.
Getting Rid of Tiny Red Ants Using Scent
Ants, like many insects, are very sensitive to certain smells. They can be easily repelled using plants and essential oils including peppermint, citronella, lemon, lemongrass, lavender, cedarwood and cloves.
You can either choose to grow certain plants and herbs in small planters along your window ledges, or you can use essential oil diffusers, sprays or saturated cotton balls to repel the tiny red ants causing you grief.
Tips On Preventing Tiny Red Ants
Preventing red ants is easier than you think. You can even use natural products and ingredients if you wish.
Once you’ve managed to get rid of the tiny red ants in and around your home, it’s important to work on preventative measures to keep them from returning.
Some of the best preventative tips are as follows:
- Vacuum and Sweep Often
- Do Not Leave Pet Food On the Floor Overnight
- Store Pantry Foods in Airtight Containers
- Caulk and Seal Potential Entry Points
- Repair Ripped or Ill-Fitting Screens
- Do Not Leave Dirty Dishes in the Sink Overnight
- Dispose of Garbage Properly and In Sealed Bins
- Remove Ant Hills and Colonies You Find Near Your Home
- Keep Shrubbery and Plants At Least Three Feet From Your Home’s Perimeter
- Use A Routine Pest Control Product Year-Round
Along with using home remedies and adopting good habits, it’s also a good idea to invest in a few preventative products, which we’ve listed below.
Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
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Ultrasonic pest repellent machines like the ones listed above are popular forms of pest control and prevention because they are easy to use, affordable and effective. They work by emitting an ultrasonic sound that is harmless to people and pets but incredibly annoying to pests.
Best of all, these machines don’t only work on tiny red ants. In fact, ultrasonic pest repellers can work to repel spiders, roaches, bed bugs, rodents and even bats and lizards.
Stay Away Ant Repellent Scent Pouches
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As we now know, tiny red ants are very sensitive to certain smells, so it makes sense that scent pouches would work to repel them. What we like best about using scents to repel pests like tiny red ants is that doing so is safe, kid and pet friendly, and environmentally friendly to boot.
The above scent pouches by Stay Away are made of natural, plant-based ingredients. Plus, they smell great to people. Some of the scents included are lemongrass, peppermint and thyme.
These pouches are safe to use in kitchens and can even be placed in the pantry next to foods. Best of all, they will not only repel tiny red ants but also other pests like roaches, spiders and moths.
Wondercide Outdoor Perimeter Spray
We definitely suggest that you use a year-round pest control spray along the perimeter of your home, especially if you live in an area that is known for tiny red ant activity.
If you’re weary of using chemical sprays or pesticides, we recommend taking a look at Wondercide Perimeter Spray. This spray uses essential oils and other natural ingredients to repel tiny red ants and many other pests.
There is no wait time for the spray to dry and it is safe to use around children and pets. In fact, this spray is so safe you can even spray it directly on plants and playground equipment.
We hope this has been a helpful guide on tiny red ants and that you are now able to better manage these frustrating pests.
Remember, consistency is key so don’t give up. You’ve got this!
Best of luck and thanks for reading!
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.