Drowning ants in water is a DIY solution that is doing rounds on the internet.
But does that work? Do ants die in water?
Keep reading to find it out.
Do Ants Die In Water?
Yes, ants die in water. Ants can’t swim, and they drown if you put them in water.
It’s because ants’ legs are too small to generate sufficient forward force to swim.
But wait, don’t conclude yet. There’s more to it.
Even though the ants can’t swim, they can float.
The amount of time ants takes to drown varies from one ant species to another.
Some ants can survive for weeks by floating on water.
For example, fire ants (tiny red ants that leave a burning and painful bite) don’t drown fast.
When in water, fire ants float by interlinking their legs and mouth till they reach a safe location.
That’s a widespread technique fire ants use in nature when floods destroy their nests.
Ants don’t have noses and lungs. Instead, they breathe through the tiny holes in their body, known as spiracles.
Ants can survive in water till the water doesn’t flood the spiracles.
No matter what the ant species is, they can easily survive on water for 24 hours.
How? It’s because of the water’s surface tension.
The water molecules on the water surface stick together to form a firm layer that keeps the ants afloat.
That’s why insects can walk on the surface of the water.
So, the DIY way of drowning ants in water isn’t as effective as you may believe.
But there’s a way to drown ants in water. And that’s by removing the surface tension of the water.
How To Drown Ants In Water?
Before you drown ants in water, add some dish soap drops in water.
The soap will weaken the water’s surface.
Soap breaks the surface tension of water by preventing the molecules from sticking together.
As a result, ants and insects drown in soapy water.
To up your game against ants, add some sugar and soap in a cup of water. Keep it in places where you see ants often.
The sugar will attract the ants.
When the ants step on the water, they’ll drown because soap has weakened the water’s surface tension.
But that’s not all. Soapy water kills ants in two ways.
First, soap kills ants by penetrating the ants’ exoskeleton.
And second, by covering the body of the ants and making them unable to breathe.
Soap dissolves the water repellant wax that coats ants’ exoskeleton.
As a result, the exoskeleton dries up, and it breaks.
Also, soap engulfs the ants’ bodies and blocks the spiracles that ants use to breathe.
The end result? The ants suffocate and die.
But will this method get rid of ants in your home? Not likely.
This method is suitable for experimental purposes just to see if ants die in water. But it won’t get rid of the ant infestation in your home.
Why Shouldn’t You Pour Water Over Ants To Kill Them?
Now that you know the science behind how ants can survive in water for at least 24 hours, should you use water to kill them?
In a word, NO.
It’ll work against you.
If you pour water, even hot water, over ants colonies or nests, ants will relocate to other places in your home and yard.
Hot water may kill a few ants, but it won’t eliminate an entire ant infestation.
On top of it, ants do make an extensive network of tunnels deep in the ground.
Once you pour water, ants will undoubtedly use those tunnels to escape.
So, pouring water over ant colonies is the wrong approach. You’d also increase the moisture level, which would attract other pests.
What’s The Best Way To Kill Ants At Home?
If ant infestation is severe and runs deep into your home and yard, then hiring a pest controller to do the job is the best approach.
A pest controller will remove and kill the ants from their source and destroy their colonies too.
Plus, they’ll also put safeguards that will protect your home from ant re-infestation.
But there are some products that you can use to kill ants.
Ant baits are one of them. Keeping ant baits in places where you observe high ant traffic will do the work.
Or, you can also keep ant baits in places where ants hide, like in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
Ant baits have ant-killing poison mixed with pheromones.
Pheromones are chemicals that ants secrete to communicate with each other, especially when they’re near the food source.
Insecticide dust, diatomaceous earth, and insect growth regulators are also effective against ants.
Insecticide sprays also work, but you need to be careful when you’re using them. Always read the instructions on the label before using insecticide sprays.
But insecticide sprays can be risky for the elderly, children, and pets.
Are Ants Attracted To Water?
In a word, yes, ants are attracted to water. Like all other beings, ants need water to survive.
Water sources in your home like sinks, plumbing areas with leakage, toilet tank, and wet floors and walls attract ants.
Ants get most of their water from food. But when food is scarce, ants may lookout for water.
Also, ants nest in damp places. So, cracks and gaps in moist walls and floors are ideal places for ants to make nests.
Sugary and salty water are most attractive to ants. Studies show that salty water attracts ants more than sugar.
The best ways to make your home safe from ant invasion are –
- Reducing moisture content in your home by fixing water leakages.
- Keeping your home clean, especially from food wastes.
- Sealing gaps and cracks on floors and walls to prevent ants from making nests.
- Keeping your yard or garden free from any organic and food debris.
- Sealing the crevices in walls that ants use to sneak inside your home.
Ants die in water, but they can survive in water for days and weeks before drowning.
The surface tension of the water keeps the ants afloat. And that buys them ample time to reach a dry surface.
However, adding soap to water can drown and kill ants.
But pouring soap water, regular water, or hot water over ants or ant colonies isn’t a practical approach for getting rid of ants.
Normal water won’t kill ants. Hot water and soapy water may kill a few many ants, but many of them would escape.
Nang Chen is an Entomologist and Arachnologist who is associated with Vienna’s museum of natural history. He’s also a consultant with real estate groups, insecticide conglomerates and law enforcement groups as a forensic entomologist. Nang Chen holds an M.S. from South China University and he’s a regular contributor to our site.