Nothing kills an afternoon of outdoor leisure and grilling like a swarm of flying ants in your face.

Ok, so you've got this beautiful patio installed in your back yard, and you have an epic cookout planned for early summer. You've got your menu ready, your guests have RSVPd, and you're days away from the big event.

Then BAM. The uninvited guests show up. Dozens, if not hundreds of pesky flying ants swarming all up in your face every time you go outside. You can't have people over with this nuisance, they'll leave early and never show up again! It's time to take action.

Step 1: Identification

Make sure what you're dealing with is actually flying ants! Winged pavement ants (the usual suspects around a patio) and termites (eek!) tend to swarm at the same time of year, and they look quite similar to each other in the eyes of someone who is hiding under their hooded sweatshirt, waving frantically while running back into the house.

Catch one of the flying pests (it won't kill you, I promise), and give it a quick inspection. An ant will have a pinches waist, while a termite will have just a long straight body. Picture perhaps the number 8 versus the number 0. Ants will have bent antennae, while termites' antennae are straight. Termites have 2 oversized sets of wings that are all of equal size, and ants have 2 sets of wings that are different sizes (large in the front, small in the back).

this is a termite

If you have ants, you should also see a few hills of dirt dug up between your patio stones/pavers/bricks/whatever you're using.

If you have termites, call a professional to come take a look. You don't want those things anywhere near your house.

Step 2: Removal

Here comes the tricky part. You want to kick these ants off your patio, but you don't want to accidentally send them swarming into your home. That's why you should be very careful when using any kind of ant repellent. (Random side note! Repellent vs repellant... which one is correct? Both are acceptable, really, though the more common version is with an E. Quick tip if you forget, if you are getting rid of ants, get rid of them from the word as well. RepellEnt. Not repellAnt.)

Whip up your own batch of ant repellEnt by mixing equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. That alone will work, but at this point you're trading swatting away ants for constantly smelling vinegar. Adding a few drops of essential oils to the mix will both mask the vinegar smell, AND help increase the repelling ability of your spray, depending on what scent you go with. Ants dislike peppermint, cinnamon, and citrus, so choosing one of those oil scents will drastically help.

spray bottle

Now take a cue from Hollywood. Walk out your backdoor in slow motion with 2 holstered spray bottles on your hips. Whip the sides of your seasonably inappropriate long black jacket to the side and draw the bottles from their holsters (again in slow motion), and start the barrage of liquid bullets. Set your guns to spray, not stream. You're not that accurate, Keanu Reeves. But bonus points if you're wearing sunglasses through the entire scene.

Step 3: Preventive Actions

Oh good! You don't see anymore flying ants. You got rid of them all! Or wait... maybe they're just lurking under your pavers, watching you with their beady little eyes, just waiting for you to walk away. Time to break out the preventive measures.

If you know where their colony is (was?) located, grab yourself a bag of diatomaceous earth. Not toxic to us humans, and actually not poisonous to ants, diatomaceous earth is a consistent ingredient in many mainstream insect killers. What happens, essentially, is that the diatomaceous earth sticks to the outside of an ant, slowly drying out and destroying their exoskeleton.

Alternatively, if you aren't quite sure where their colony is located, set out some ant traps.

Mix a cup of warm water with 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of borax. Soak a couple of cotton balls into the mixture, and set the cotton balls onto the edges of the patio. The ants will be attracted by the sugar, take the bait back to the colony, and eventually die from the borax. This mixture also works well if you catch these buggers in your home.

wet cotton ball on a patio

Last step of the preventive actions... clean up your mess! Ants are attracted to what YOU eat and drink, so be sure to pick up all those empty beer bottles, and sweep away all of the burger crumbs.