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How to Manage Pests

Key to Identifying Common Household Ants

Thief ant—Quick management tips

Overall strategy

Focus efforts on keeping ants out of the house. Follow good sanitation practices to make your home less attractive to ants. Spraying ants inside the home will not prevent more ants from entering. Use baits to control the ant colony. Thief ants are more difficult to manage with baits than other ants. For serious infestations, locate nests and treat directly with an insecticide. Be sure to distinguish from the pharaoh ant which is similar looking and easy to control with baits.

When ants invade your home, take immediate action

  • Sponge invaders with soapy water as soon as you see them.
  • Plug up entryways with caulk or petroleum jelly.
  • Clean up food sources such as spills, pet food, or garbage.
  • Rely on baits to control the ant colony.


  • Look for trails along walls, baseboards, in closets, cabinets, sinks, window sills, and under outside items such as rocks or boards.
  • Focus efforts on excluding ants from entering buildings.

Nest treatments

  • Follow ant trails to find nests; ants are tiny and trails are hard to spot.
  • Nests are frequently located outdoors under stones or logs but may also be indoors in wall or cabinet voids.
  • Slow-acting formulations of liquid materials such as permethrin, sodium borate, or boric acid can be applied as a drench directly to ant nests outside.


Follow good sanitation practices in the home such as removing garbage, picking up pet food, keeping counters clean, and storing food in containers

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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