I’m adapting to long-term lifestyle of outdoor living, and getting constantly assaulted by this or that type of bug has been a major issue.

Sleeping in a tent has thwarted most my opposition at this point in my transition, such as mosquitoes, gnats, and horse-flies. Yet one pest still gains access, and I find this one the most invasive! My current enemy is the red-ant, and they invade my tent by any means necessary.

What are my options to completely eradicate ants in the immediate environment around my tent?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 12:45
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    A solution was offered here.
    – Rob
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 18:40
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    @Rob Probably not very helpful. You can eat all kinds of animals but you still don't want them to be in your tent, especially alive.
    – scai
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 9:24
  • I can say that preventing ants indoors is easy: never leave food out (adding a lid to any trashcan containing food makes a huge difference) or windows open for long periods of time. So I believe the top answer.
    – Andrew
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 16:36

6 Answers 6


The best way is to reduce (actually to remove) any kind of attractions they like: food and water. If they cannot find anything useful, than they will stop releasing scents that attracted other ants.

This means, you have to make sure there is no (open) water or drinks nearby, no sugar in any way, and no food in general. Keep everything enclosed, in such a way it doesn't smell, there is no opening and clean up everything fast after use (better, eat and use food/drink away from your tent).

It can take a few days before the scents the ants are releasing will go, but the above will help.

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    That also helps against many other animals too probably and is more hygienic, especially when living outdoors a lot. Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 20:56
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    Another idea would be to create a dedicated "ant trail" away from your tent in a location where you don't mind to have ants around. Simply mix some sugar and water and create a line with it on the ground Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 7:15
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    @TianaPyre Cleaning up isn't the issue, you must not have things ants want in the first place. You simply cannot have food in there then clean up because it would require superhuman, forensic tier cleaning. The ants will rally the troops for a single crumb or a spilled drop of sugary drink, because one means more. Don't eat in the tent, don't store food in the tent, don't do either near the tent. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 15:17
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    I think the inclusion of poison/chemicals here isn't super necessary. I think it detracts slightly from an otherwise very good answer. As you say yourself, the ants will (probably) still come.
    – noah
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 19:14
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    This is the best answer. I have also gone to store all my food outside the tent in baskets and bags held up from tree branches a good length from the ground. So far, no ants inside tent, and the food in the trees have been safe(from ants at least). I assume that the ants could be preyed upon if they travel to far from ground level, so I’m using this to my advantage.
    – Tiana Pyre
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 18:12

There are a number of articles on the web telling you how to kill ants that invade your campsite with common household products. See, for example, Tips And Tricks To Stop Ants From Invading Your Camp. Also, as @Michel Keijzers said in his excellent answer, be fanatical about removing ant attractants.

However, I suggest considering a different strategy. Remove yourself from ant-infested regions. They perform useful functions in the ecosystem, and don't deserve genocide.

This is easy for me to say, because almost all of my camping is done above timberline in the Sierra or the Rockies. Ants are no more than a minor nuisance, if that, there. I fully realize that this may not be practical for the OP and other sufferers.

This Question reminded me of the old movie, Elephant Walk starring Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Finch. A macho manly man (Finch's late father) built his house on an elephant migration trail that led to their watering place, and Finch spent most of the movie trying to deflect elephants from his house. Eventually, the elephants lost patience and smashed the house. Taylor (of course) and Finch survived.

All I am saying is that you try to avoid Ant Walk and consider ensuring that you are not on an ant trail or an ant's nest.

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    I love camping in the Rockies and that was the roots of my current adventures. Yet, now I find myself adapting to environments outside my comfort zone.
    – Tiana Pyre
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 21:37
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    Very good answer, trying to avoid the ants is best. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 8:57
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    "They perform useful functions in the ecosystem, and don't deserve genocide." red ants (aka fire-ants) are an invasive species, they are replacing the local carpenter ants in many locations in the eastern US who used to perform that function, (and arguably did a better job, since they help break down lignins). Worse, they sting, a quality which the opposing, native carpenter ants do not possess. Many people (myself included) would thus argue that red ants do, in fact, deserve mass myrmicide. DOWN WITH THE RED ANTS!
    – Him
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 10:09
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    OTOH, if @TianaPyre is being overrun by native non-stinging ants. Do simply clean up after yourself and otherwise learn to live with the ants. If you kill them, fire ants may take their place, and fire ants are much worse, I assure you.
    – Him
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 10:11
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    @Scott Not all red ants are fire ants, especially not if the person labeling them is not an ant expert. Many carpenter ants are reddish in color. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 13:49

Salt is the answer. A continuous line of fine salt around your tent and campsite. Ants don't like crossing it. You have now angered the ant God so you have to do an appeasement offering. Smear the base of a tree outside your perimeter with strawberry jam or any other sweet and delicious gel. Put a healthy dose of it up the trunk and in crevices. Don't be grinchy. They'll start going there and not into your tent. I have used this double strategy and it works quite well. But hey, you are always going to find one or two where they shouldn't be.

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    Salt is really bad for plants. This is a high-impact strategy.
    – Reid
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 16:31
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    Diatomaceous earth would work against insects better than salt. It gets into the joints in their exoskeletons and cuts them up.
    – Dan D.
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 3:50
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    Won't this also attract bears or other wildlife?
    – Erin B
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 18:05
  • @erinb that depends how long you are camping. It is a temporary solution. It will not attract more bears or raccoons than your campsite would naturally, I think. Prolonged camping in a single spot is not healthy for you or the environment, it is why cities were built in the first place.
    – Stian
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 7:16

You are outnumbered. You will never be able to "completely eradicate" ants. Outsmart them instead.

Build a moat.

A trick for keeping ants off a table is to put each table leg in a small container of water. If your tent is sufficiently water proof then pitching the tent inside a large kiddie pool with a bit of water might help. Smaller tents might even be able to be pitched atop an air matress which itself is in the kiddie pool.

Note that I've never tried this and I can think of a host of problems that it might cause. But you will have to decide if those trade offs are worth it. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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    This. But perhaps build a frame to put the tent on and each of the legs stand in a small container of water. That is if it's a relativley permanent place you stay.
    – Andreas
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 8:32

Pour boiling water into the anthill

If a bit of animal cruelty isn't beneath you, pouring boiling water into an ant nest gets the job done. Scientists sometimes use this method for precision killing (example).

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    I don't support killing an entire anthill out of nuisance. Leave nothing but footprints, m8.
    – Stian
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 15:45
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    @StianYttervik: Care to elaborate on why you downvoted? The top answer starts with "You could start using poison, chemicals or more biologic repellent liquids against ants", all of which seem to leave a lot more traces than boiling water. Also, as I read the (original) question it seems rather clear that the OP is wondering about killing the entire anthill. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 15:48
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    @StianYttervik Well, done properly, this will certainly leave nothing of the ant population... Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 15:51
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    @DenisdeBernardy it may not be appropriate to connect a comment with a vote. As example there are currently 2 down votes on your answer, and two upvotes on the comment by Stian, who can not upvote their own comment. In my experience, most people who take the time to right a comment, don't downvote at the same time, with out mentioning it. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 17:10
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    If you happen to have some molten aluminum around, you can try using it instead of water. I don't know if it is much more effective than the water, but it will result in an interesting piece of 'art' afterwards: youtube.com/watch?v=IGJ2jMZ-gaI
    – pkaeding
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 23:51

If you have a large enough car, depending on your environment it can be a better solution - for example, in a prius if you fold down the back seats there's easily enough space to sleep with a decent mattress as well. Keep a window open a tad to allow fresh air in, but put a car cover over to block sunlight and unwelcome eavesdroppers, and you're good to go - I'm quite tall, and I sleep in one fine, given the right kind of weather. Certainly a lot warmer than a tent, that's for sure. And keeps the bugs out

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    That doesn't seem to answer OP's question. They don't look for advice on where to sleep, but how to live despite ants wanting to join them. Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 7:47
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    A car is a lot harder than a tent to carry with you on a mountaineering or canoeing trip. Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 16:16
  • @GrzegorzOledzki Might want to actually read the answer there Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 22:30

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