Do Ants Die in Water? Let’s Find Out!

Ants are known to be very enduring insects; they can carry weights that are much heavier than them and can survive circumstances we thought impossible for tiny creatures like them. 

But what most people don’t know is that, like many other insects and animals, ants rely on oxygen and die when drowned in water.

Ants cannot swim and can only float in water and can survive up to 45 minutes when submerged. Anything longer than that, they will drown.

When ants are exposed to water, their bodies automatically react in a way that would save them from drowning. Their legs start to paddle quickly which gives them the appearance of swimming but what they’re really doing is trying to scramble up something to get out of the water.

If there’s nothing for them to climb up, they will eventually tire and drown.

ants by the side of a puddle of water

How Long Can Ants Survive under Water

Ants are microscopic insects. Their tiny body does not have room for lungs or any other organs to help them store oxygen. Instead, ants have spiracles.

Spiracles are holes around their body that are connected to the trachea. The trachea carries air down to the abdomen where it diffuses into the ant’s body.

An average ant can hold its breath for about 45 minutes. However, this number varies depending on the species of ant.

When an ant gets wet or gets onto a surface of the water, its initial body reaction is to shut down or block these spiracles to prevent water from entering and drowning them.

This process is called apnea. While their spiracles are closed, the ant cannot breathe and will eventually die if they stay underwater for too long.

However, a few species of ants can strategize their way to survival! These particular kinds of ants are called fire ants. They have different types of spiracles that are on their abdomen.

This allows them to take in oxygen while they are floating and stay alive for long periods of time on the surface of the water.

These fire ants can stay afloat in water for up to two weeks. They link their bodies, specifically their legs and mouth, to make a trail to safety and give them a chance to keep their spiracles dry. However, there is also a risk to it.

If an ant is submerged underwater for a long time, its abdomens might absorb too much water and eventually rupture, which leads to an instant death even if it didn’t drown.

Related Articles: Can Ants Survive in a Hot Car?

Effective Ways to Kill Ants Using Water

Now we know that ants have the ability to float and hold their breath for hours up to weeks; trying to drown them with water alone might not be the best solution to our ant problems. However, there are still a lot of effective ways to get rid of them using water with just a little tweak here and there.

Here we have listed some most effective ways to kill ants using water and how to do them successfully:

Use Boiling Water

Boiling water is an effective way to kill ants instantly. The boiling water will cook them alive, and they won’t be able to escape it.

All you need to do is pour the boiling water directly on the ant nest, or anywhere you see them crawling around.

Create a Moat

You can trap ants by creating a moat around the object you want to protect using any type of liquid. The most common liquid people use is water, but you can also use oil, honey, or anything sticky.

Simply surround the object with the liquid and wait for the ants to fall in and drown.

Make a Soapy Solution

Another way to kill ants using water is by making a soap solution. The dishwashing soap will break the surface tension of the water and will make it harder for the ants to float.

To do this, mix one part of dishwashing soap with ten parts of water and pour it over the ant nest or directly on them.

A Mixture of White Vinegar and Water

Another effective way to get rid of ants is by mixing white vinegar and water. The acidic nature of the vinegar will kill the ants on contact.

To do this, mix one part of white vinegar with three parts of water and pour it over the ant nest or directly on them. You can also soak a cotton ball in the solution and place it near the nest.

red carpenter ants by the mouth of a glass

Pressure Washing Technique

If you have a pressure washer at home, you can also use it to get rid of ants. The high-pressure water will kill them on contact and will also remove their nest.

Make sure that you know the trail and the nest location before you start pressure washing to get rid of them completely.

Cornstarch Solution

Another way to kill ants using water is by making a cornstarch slurry. The cornstarch will act as a barrier and will prevent the ants from breathing.

To do this, mix one part of cornstarch with two parts of water and pour it over the ant nest or directly on them. You can simply wipe them away after a few minutes.

There are a lot more ways to kill ants using water. You can choose any method that you want, depending on what you have at home. Just remember to be careful when using boiling water or a pressure washer to avoid any accidents. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Water to Get Rid of Ants

So far, we know that there are plenty of ways to get rid of ants using water. Most people who have tried this method say that it is pretty effective in getting rid of ants. However, like everything else, there are also some advantages and disadvantages of using water to get rid of ants. Let’s take a look at them:


  • Water is readily available, and you probably already have the ingredients or equipment you will need at home.
  • It is pretty easy to execute. Most of the techniques mentioned above have easy steps to follow and do not require much effort.
  • It is safe for both humans and pets. It’s non-toxic and won’t leave traces or damage afterward.


  • It might not work against carpenter ants or fire ants.
  • The ants might just move their nest to a different location. Worst, they might dig deeper, and it’ll be harder to reach them afterward.
  • It does not address the root of the problem. There’s a big chance it will not reach the ant colony, or it won’t kill the target queen ant.
ant floating on water

As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages of using water to get rid of ants.

If you want to address your ant problems at home (or anywhere), we highly suggest reaching out to pest professionals as they can give you the best, safe, and quick solution to your ant problems. However, if you want to give it a try, do not forget to take precautionary measures to make sure you won’t harm yourself in the process.

Final Thoughts

So, do ants die in water? The answer is yes, but it depends on the ant species and the amount of time they are submerged. Some ants have evolved to be able to survive for long periods of time underwater, while others will quickly drown.

Either way, water is a major threat to ants and their colonies and should be used with caution. If you aim to get rid of them, water can be your friend, but be sure to know your pros and cons and know the best approach that will work for your ant situation.