How to Find an Ant Nest

How to Find an Ant Nest

If you’re besieged by ants, then you may know that the best way to deal with them is to go after the entire colony. It’s a great strategy, but finding the colony can be a lot more difficult than you would expect. After all, ants can disappear into places where it’s impossible to follow them – whether it’s behind a baseboard or deep into the ground.

Regardless, knowing where an ant colony is hiding itself is helpful when you begin eradication efforts.

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Can You Follow Ants Back to Their Nest?

Trailing ants back to their nest is possible, but it can be very difficult. Ants are often hard to track due to their size and ability to sneak into spaces were humans cannot. Still, if you have patience and determination, you can try following the ants you see. With luck, they will take you back to their nest site.

However, you should be aware that ants rarely walk in a straight line from a food source to their colony site. Instead, many ants walk a zigzag pattern -- the result of previous ant-explorers searching for something to help feed the colony. Those scouts laid down a pheromone trail for other ants to follow. Since these trails often meander, it can take an ant a long time to cross even a short distance.

Of course, pheromone trails do “straighten out” over time. As a particular route becomes more and more used, shortcuts emerge and the pheromone path is refined. If you’re lucky, you’ll be following the ants on that path!

Quick Tip: Don’t follow one ant, instead observe multiple ants! Following an individual ant back to its nest can be tedious. Try to observe a wider area to see if you can spot several ants on their way back to the nest.

How to Find an Ant Nest Indoors

Tracking ants to a nest inside your house is very important. You want to address these house ants as soon as possible to eliminate the colony that could be damaging your structure and polluting your food and water.

  • Look for Wood Shavings – This could be a sign of carpenter ants. These shavings will often appear underneath beams in your cellar or attic.
  • Look for Swarmers – First, determine if the “ants” are really ants and not termite. Assuming they are ants, be aware they may be nesting outside and entering through a crack beyond your foundation. Indoor swarmers may be a sign of pharaoh ants or carpenter ants.
  • Look for Dead Ants – Piles of dead ants, particularly around a window, is another sign of an interior infestation nearby. Once again, check to see whether these bugs are ants or termites, and then take the appropriate steps to further locate the nest site.
  • Look for Moisture – Aside from food, ants need moisture. Inside your home, wet wood can invite an ant invasion, so study these areas for signs of these insects. Leaky pipes or pipes that get covered in condensation may also be an attractant to a variety of ant species, including odorous house ants. Since a route to water should be well established, it should be easy to follow these ants back to their nest site.

Two Great Ways for Battling Ants Inside the House

If you have ants inside your house, TERRO® offers several great options for controlling these bugs.

  • Method 1 – Bait – TERRO® Liquid Ant Baits hold a sugary Borax mixture that’s blended to take down an entire colony of ants.
  • Method 2 – Dust – Spread TERRO® Ant Killer in the cracks and crevices where ants crawl and hide.

How to Find an Ant Nest Outdoors

Finding ant nests outside isn’t hard. They’re practically everywhere! What’s hard is finding the specific nest that’s the base of operations for the ants invading your home. Still, if you work hard at eliminating all the ant nests in your yard, you should eventually hit upon your invaders.

  • Look for Mounds of Dirt – pavement ants, will excavate dirt from their nests, leaving highly visible piles of fine dirt.
  • Look for Aphids – Some ants, including carpenter ants, have learned that aphids excrete a sweet, nectar-like substance called honeydew, which they harvest as the aphid feeds off a plant. If you have a plant that’s suffering an aphid attack, then there’s probably an ant colony taking advantage of the aphids. Your best bet is to treat the ants before the aphids, since removing the aphids first may cause the ants to start raiding your house!
  • Look for Rotten Wood – For fire ants and carpenter ants, there’s nothing more cozy than a rotten stump to build their colony inside. If you have any sort of non-treated wood that’s been left undisturbed for a long time, then there’s a good chance it’s the home base for your local carpenter ant community and crazy ants particularly favor this location for their nests. Similarly, fire ants may have hollowed-out spaces underneath your foundation or other poured cement features, including sidewalks, driveways and porches.

Two Great Ways for Battling Ants Out in the Yard

Addressing your ant colony problem before it gets into your home is always preferred. TERRO® has numerous outdoor pest control products, including:

  • Method 1 – Powder – Shake the powder of TERRO® Ant Killing Powder around your home's foundation to entice foraging ants to carry these slow-killing particles back to their nest.
  • Method 2 – Outdoor Baits TERRO® Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits offer the same ant-killing power of our indoor bait while remaining weatherproof. Place these baits on your deck or around your home where ant activity is observed.

Your Solutions

Where did you find the ant nest for the ants invading your home? We would love to see your description below in the comments. You can also send us pictures the next time you visit TERRO® on Facebook. For more ideas on controlling the ants in your home and yard, subscribe to the TERRO® eNewsletter, which includes great deals on TERRO® products and informative articles on how to control your household pest problems.