Can Ants Survive in Water?

Ants are one of the most common household pests. And because they're highly social and effective communicators, seeing one in your house likely means you will see many more. One DIY method that's commonly recommended for dealing with ants is drowning them or using boiling water to kill them, but can ants survive in water? Find out.

ants in water

Some species are tenacious and difficult to get rid of. In fact, some ant colonies, like a carpenter ant colony, can have satellite colonies in your yard or home. So eliminating one might not actually solve the problem. On top of that, a single ant queen can live for decades and lay up to 800 eggs per day, meaning she can create millions of offspring in her lifetime.

One DIY method that's commonly recommended for dealing with ants is drowning them or using boiling water to kill them, but can ants survive in water? Find out what you need to know about dealing with ants in your home — including the most effective course of action for removing them.

How Long Does It Take for Ants to Drown?

The length of time it takes for ants to drown really depends on the species of ant. Some species of ants can survive in water for weeks, if needed.

You may have seen photos or videos of fire ants forming rafts in nature to avoid floods. This actually happens. When a fire ant colony is under threat from flooding, they will link legs and mouths to form a raft, placing the queen and larvae at the center, and float to a new, safer location.

Ants breathe through tiny holes throughout their body called spiracles. As long as these openings remain dry, ants can get oxygen and they won't drown. And ants can float and kick around on the surface of water for mobility.

Should You Use Water to Treat Ants?

While pouring water on ants or ant colonies is a commonly recommended DIY treatment, it's not effective, and can actually do more harm than good.

For some outdoor ant colonies, the excess moisture may simply cause ants to relocate, rather than eliminating them completely. Remember that ant colonies often have extensive networks of tunnels below the surface, so any type of water treatment is likely to only be partially effective.

The excess moisture can also draw other species into the area.

Can Ants Survive in Hot Water?

Some sources may also recommend using hot water, but the outcome will likely be the same. Cleaning ant trails with soap and hot water may help prevent or reduce foraging by removing certain ant trails, but other tunnels and ants in the network and colony will survive.

Similarly, using hot or cold water on ants in your home is ineffective — and it's messy. You may succeed in killing a few, but you won't treat the underlying problem, and you'll have to mop up afterwards.

Signs of Ant Infestation

As a homeowner, the smart thing you can do is be aware of the signs of an ant infestation and seek professional help when you need it.

The most obvious sign of an infestation is finding live ants in your home. These are most likely worker ants, which leave the colony in search of food.

When worker ants move out of the colony, they leave trails of pheromones — tiny chemical signals — so they can find their way back. As the ants use this path, they leave more pheromones, strengthening the signal. And if the path led to food, it will be more frequently used, thus strengthening the "signal" more, which draws even more to the food. Other ants will catch on and follow the same route. This explains why ants are so often seen marching in a line under a window, by a door or through small cracks in walls.

Inside homes, some species of ants are commonly found in kitchens, where food sources are abundant.

How to Prevent Ants

You don't have to wait until you see ants to seek professional help. Offense is your best defense. There are some things you can do yourself at home to help prevent ants, like sealing all of your food in airtight containers, regularly wiping down countertops and sweeping floors to remove crumbs. But your best option at prevention is professional help.

A Terminix® Pest Control Plan can help provide your home the protection it deserves against ants and other pests.


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