Essential Oils for Ants

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Essential oils are the essence of a plant. They are extracted from the seeds, roots, barks, stems, leaves, or flowers of a plant by a process of steam distillation.

The oils give plants their unique aroma, but they also protect plants from disease and predators, as well as assisting with the pollination process. They aren’t only helpful for plants though, they can bring us plenty of benefits too. They have been used in cooking, in beauty therapies, and in medicines for many years.  Essential oils are also widely used in aromatherapy practices, as once inhaled, they can easily reach the limbic system of the brain which controls emotion, and mood, via the smell receptors in the nose. This makes them very useful for bringing about benefits in relation to altering mood and stress levels. Some oils have been proven to be useful for depression and anxiety.

There are over 3000 known essential oils, and their composition varies depending on how they are harvested, what time of year it is, and how they are processed. This all impacts on the purity and potency of an oil. Oils can be used alone or as part of a blend, depending on the desired benefits of the user.

How essential oils can be used


Essential oils are absorbed quickly by the smell receptors in the nose and travel to the limbic system of the brain, which controls mood, emotion, and memory. This is why oils are so popular in aromatherapy. Some oils are used for boosting mood and some are used for calming purposes, among many other things. Oils can be put into a diffuser so they disperse in a room, or they can be inhaled directly from a handkerchief or from the bottle. If you mix them with water, they make a good room or linen spray. They are also effective for cleaning household surfaces, especially if they are citrus-based. They not only cut through grime, but they will leave your house smelling lovely too.


Many oils have a long history of use in cooking or baking. As well as giving food taste and aroma, they can add many health benefits, in a very concentrated dose.

Taking an oil as a supplement gives you a very concentrated dose of benefits, but always be sure to follow instructions on dosage, as some oils can be highly toxic in large amounts. Natural does not mean safe, and the active compounds in essential oils can act just like those in a drug. You can use oils instead of dried herbs and spices in cooking, or you can add them to milk, smoothies, and soups. Remember that a little oil goes a long way though, so start off using a small amount.

Topical use

Essential oils can easily penetrate the skin. They are widely used in massage for this reason, and when diluted with a carrier oil, they can be dispersed in the body more easily and bring about considerable local or systemic benefits. Always do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm to check for sensitivity, and start with a small amount of oil at first. Never apply oil to the ears or near the eyes, or to any areas of sensitive or broken skin. Remember, too, that some oils can increase sensitivity to the sun, so use them with caution. This is especially true of citrus based oils.

Try adding a few drops of oil to your bath, to a hot or cold compress, or to your favourite body lotion.


How to get rid of ants

Some essential oils are known to be effective insect repellents, and this includes pesky ants. There are more than 12,000 known species of ants, and the tiny insects can lift up to 20 times their own bodyweight. Queen ants can live for many years and can produce millions of offspring.

Ant live in large colonies, which can consist of millions of ants.

There are three kinds of ants in a colony: The queen, the female workers, and males. The queen and the males have wings, while the workers don’t have wings. The queen is the only ant that lays eggs. The male ant’s job is to mate with the queen ants and they do not live very long afterwards. Once the queen grows to adulthood, she spends her life laying eggs. An ant colony can have one queen or many queens.

Ant colonies also have ‘soldier’ ants that protect the queen, defend the colony, gather food, and attack other colonies who might be competing for food or space. Ants will take away the eggs of any colony they defeat. When the eggs hatch, they become ‘slave’ ants, who gather food and build anthills.

Types of ants

Argentine Ants

This species of ant is native to Argentina and Brazil and they can be found in the southern states of the US, as well as in California, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington.

Argentine ants are attracted to sweet substances but will eat almost anything including meats, eggs, oils and fats.

Argentine ant colonies tend to be located in wet environments near a food source. These ants are not a threat to health per se, but they can contaminate food by leaving their bodily waste behind.

To get rid of these ants, eliminate standing water and cut back tree branches and plants, as they sometimes use these to get into your home.

Make sure that firewood and building materials are not stored next to your home, as ants like to build nests in piles of wood.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants get their name because they build their nests in wood

Carpenter ants get their name because they build their nests in wood. They can cause significant damage to your home.

Each colony is started by a single queen. She starts her nest in a cavity inside of wood, where she raises her first set of offspring. When they are mature, the offspring become workers then they gather food to feed the next set of offspring. This happens at such a rate that the colony grows very quickly and can consist of 2000 or more worker ants.

Carpenter ants do not eat the wood they remove when they build their nests, they leave it outside the entrances to the colony in small piles. Carpenter ants eat living and dead insects, meat, fats and sugary foods of all kinds, including honeydew and nectar from plants.

They tend to build nests near water and damp wood, such as tree stumps or firewood. They usually enter buildings through wet and damaged wood.

Carpenter ants don’t carry disease, but when building a nest inside a home, they dig tunnels inside the wood, which weakens it and potentially damages the structure of buildings.

Eliminate standing water, and make sure there are no little cracks around windows and door frames where they can get in.

Odorous House Ants

This ant gets its name from the strong, rotten smells it gives off when they are crushed. They tend to nest in or around houses, and live in colonies of up to 100,000 ants. These ants eat dead insects and sugary, sweet items, like melon. They live in exposed soil, under stones, logs, mulch, debris and other items. They also like to nest in wall or floor cracks. They are not a threat to health, but they can contaminate food when they eliminate their waste. To get rid of these ants, eliminate standing water and make sure there are no cracks or openings around the bottom of your house.

Pavement Ants

Odorous House Ants

These ants can live inside, but they mainly reside in cracks under pavements. Colonies tend to have 3,000 to 4,000 members and have several queens.

Pavement ants will eat almost anything, including insects, seeds, honeydew melon, honey, bread, meats, nuts, and cheese.

This ant mostly nests in soil next to and beneath slabs, sidewalks, patios, and driveways. If they make a nest indoors, it is usually under a building’s foundation or within hollow foundation walls.

Pavement ants do not pose a threat to health, but they can contaminate food by leaving their waste behind. To get rid of these ants, eliminate standing water, and make sure there are no cracks around the bottom of your house.

Red Imported Fire Ants

Red imported fire ants are more aggressive than other ant species and have a painful sting. These ants and their mound nests should definitely be avoided. Red imported fire ants can adapt to many climates and conditions in their environment. They mostly feed on vegetation. They tend to build their nests in soil outdoors in a building’s foundation, and the act of building their nests or mounds can damage crops. They can enter buildings through cracks in the walls. The sting of a red imported fire ant is painful and causes a welt which often blisters.

To get rid of these ants, eliminate standing water and make sure there are no cracks in the walls of your home where they could enter.

How to get rid of ants

There are plenty of chemical repellents on the market, but if you don’t want to use chemicals, because you have children or pets, here are some natural ways to get rid of ants:


Ants hate vinegar

Ants hate vinegar, which means that you can make an effective and inexpensive ant repellent with something you most likely already have in your home. Blend white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray it anywhere you see ants entering your home and also on their nests. If you have a serious ant problem, you can try using neat vinegar to get rid of them.

The vinegar-and-water method works well as a pesticide as well as a repellent. Spray it directly onto ants to kill them, or spray it where you suspect they might be entering your home.

Chalk or Flour

Ants follow the same path when they are moving around, because they leave pheromones behind, which is how they find their way back to their nest.

Chalk is made of calcium carbonate, which interferes with an ant’s ability to follow the pheromone trail. Flour will do the same thing.

Adhesive Tape

Sometimes, all you need is a simple solution. If you can find out what the ants are attracted to in your home, create a sticky barrier around it which will trap the ants as they try to cross it.

Lemons and Oranges

Citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges, contain a compound called limonene

Citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges, contain a compound called limonene. Limonene repels ants, so citrus fruits are excellent natural repellents. Apply some lemon or orange juice on the windowsills, and the other nooks and crannies where ants normally get in. Then scatter the lemon peels and slices outside entrances.

You can also try washing your floors with the juice of four lemons mixed with water.

If you know where the colony is, blend orange peels and water in a blender until smooth and dump the mixture onto the nest.

Boric Acid

Use boric acid like flour on doorways, cracks, and shelves. Once the ant encounters it, the boric acid will dry out their skin and kill them.

Be very cautious about using boric acid because it can be very toxic when ingested by pets or children.

Be aware that boric acid will only work on certain types of ants, so if you’re using boric acid and you still have an ant problem, it’s possible that the boric acid isn’t having an effect on them and you need to try other methods.

Spices and Essential Oils

Many spices and oils found in nature give off scents as a means of warding off potential predators. Ants can do a lot of damage to plants, which is why these plants are equipped with these strong odours to keep them away.

Cayenne pepper, cinnamon, mint, chili pepper, peppermint oil and black pepper will all work to deter ants. Sprinkle the pepper wherever you see ants, and they’ll stay away. They will likely head for cover near your house however, so scatter the pepper if you suspect they are trying to get in somewhere.

Always use caution while handling cayenne pepper, as it can irritate the skin and eyes. Use with caution if there are children or pets around.


If you know where the ants have built their nest, flower pots and hot boiling water can be an effective way of dealing with an ant problem. Place a flower pot upside-down over the top of the ants’ nest.

Pour hot, soapy water through the flower pot’s drain hole. The soap will cling to their bodies and essentially cause them to drown. Even if some ants survive, they will leave the nest and go elsewhere.

If you add coffee grounds to your flowerpots, it will fertilise your plants and repel insects.

Essential oils for ants

While there are several essential oils that may be used as a natural way to get rid of ants and other insects, these essential oils are considered the best essential oils to keep ants away, according to research:

Cedarwood Essential Oil

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In a 2014 study, researchers looked at the potential insecticidal benefits of cedarwood essential oil. In their experiment, cedarwood essential oil was placed between several species of ants and a food source. The study found that the ants were repelled by the cedarwood essential oil, and that it was even effective against imported red fire ants.

Patchouli Essential Oil

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One of the benefits of patchouli essential oil is its ability to deter insects, especially ants. In a 2013 study, patchouli essential oil was tested for its natural insecticide qualities against 3 different species of ants. The patchouli essential oil was found to repel all 3 species, and killed over 80% of them.

Peppermint Essential Oil

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For a natural homemade ant repellent, consider using peppermint essential oil. One of peppermint essential oil’s beneficial qualities is its high menthol content, which has been shown to effectively repel ants and other pests such as cockroaches, mice, and rats.

Vetiver Essential Oil

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There are several beneficial properties of vetiver essential oil, including its natural antibacterial, antifungal, and insect repelling qualities. Because of its scent and chemical composition, vetiver essential oil can be used as a natural insecticide to help repel ants, cockroaches, termites, and ticks.

Orange Essential Oil

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If you are dealing with the harmful red fire ants, you might want to consider using orange essential oil as a natural ant killer. D-limonene, one of the main compounds in orange essential oil, penetrates the ant’s respiratory system and kills them.  The oil can either be sprayed directly on ants or on their nests.

DIY Ant Killer spray

DIY Ant Killer spray

Using a homemade ant spray is a natural and chemical-free way to get rid of the pests. This is an effective remedy which uses different essential oils so it can be effective against different species.

To make the spray, combine the following ingredients:
– 15 drops peppermint essential oil
– 10-15 drops tea tree essential oil
– 1/4 cup water
– 1/4 cup vodka
– 3 drops of orange essential oil
Combine the Ingredients in a plastic bowl, and mix thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into a Spray Bottle, and store it in a cool, dry place.
Spray the mixture on anywhere you see the ants, but avoid furniture or food.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.