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Protecting your home and exterminating ants from your property

As warmer weather sets in, there is always an increase in pest activity. One of the top most common pests that you will find this time of year is ants. Ants are social insects that can form large colonies, with numbers totaling in the thousands. Most ants that are spotted indoors are coming in from outside in search of food, water or shelter. Typically, ants will march into your home or business to look for sweet and sticky food stored in kitchen cupboards and food pantries. Once an ant has discovered a food source, it leaves a pheromone trail. This chemical helps other ants from the colony to find the food, too.

Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent these pests from invading your surroundings, and what to do if they have already moved in.


Do

Do seal up potential points of insect entry

Sealing up entry points is the first step in keeping insects from entering your home. Insects take advantage of even the smallest openings in order to enter homes in search of food, water, and shelter. Begin identifying areas where insects could gain entry, such as cracks in the foundations and gaps around doors and windows. Then, take steps to repair these areas using good quality silicone sealants, screening, weather-stripping, etc.

Do fix leaks or eliminate excessive moisture

Ants may be known for their fondness of kitchen crumbs, but don’t forget that they also need water to survive. That dripping pipe in the basement or under a sink will certainly attract the attention of a thirsty ant, not to mention other pests. Inspect near hot water pipes and heaters, bathrooms and dishwashing areas to identify and repair leaks, and also be sure to replace any water-damaged wood.

Do keep tree branches and other vegetation trimmed away from the house

Those trees and shrubs certainly add curb appeal to your home, but they are also attractive to ants. Ants will use this vegetation as a direct highway to lead them right to the inside of the house. Trim back trees, bushes, shrubs and other vegetation so that they are not in direct contact with the house.

Do keep kitchen clean: seal containers, wipe counters frequently, and empty the garbage religiously

Clean, clean, clean! Ants are attracted to sweet and sticky substances. That sugary beverage that spilled and wasn’t cleaned up is like a neon light flashing to attract ants. Ants are also attracted to greasy foods. Wiping down counters, mopping and vacuuming the kitchen floor and around the dining room table to eliminate crumbs will go a long way in keeping ants from parading across your floors and counters. Also be sure to remove garbage from your house daily, and to change the liners frequently.

Do store sugar, syrup, honey, baked goods, and other sweets in closed containers

Since ants have a sweet tooth, the best preventative to keep them from your food and pantry is to ensure the sweets are in containers that have tight fitting lids. An open bag of sugar can never truly be sealed by simply folding the bag closed. The best bet is to transfer the contents into another container with a lid that seals completely.


Don't

Do not leave food uncovered

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Leaving a loaf of bread on the counter without re-tying the bag is an invitation to a picnic for ants. A dirty dish placed in a sink to be put into the dishwasher in the morning is another example of an open invitation for these pests looking for available food.

Do not overlook potted plants

One major food source of ants is honeydew, or the sugar-rich liquid produced by insects such as aphids and scale insects---known as honeydew-producing insects. Ants tend to nest near honeydew-producing insects in order to collect their honeydew, and provide protection to these insects in exchange for the food source. When honeydew-producing insects are found living on potted plants indoors, oftentimes, there is an ant nest nearby. Therefore, be sure to inspect potted plants for the presence of honeydew-producing insects that could be attracting ants indoors.

Do not forget about external pipes leading into the home

Ants prefer to travel or make trails along structural elements, such as utility pipes, cable lines, and telephone lines. When these structural elements lead to the inside of a home, they create a direct path for the ants to enter as well. Therefore, remember to seal openings around utility pipes and lines where they enter the structure.

Do not underestimate the surrounding property

Most ants spotted indoors are actually nesting outdoors in an area close by. Therefore, use habitat modification on the property surrounding your home to make it less hospitable for ants to live. Keep in mind that most ants prefer high humidity, moist soil, and shaded habitats. As such, reducing irrigation and keeping the grass cut short to increase sun exposure to the ground, will decrease favorable nesting and foraging conditions for the ants.

Do not hesitate to contact a pest management professional should you suspect an infestation

Although many homeowners seek to use “do-it-yourself” pest control products, the results are usually less than satisfactory. Many over-the-counter products will actually spread ant infestations, as the ants will react to the chemicals by actually forming new colonies. Additionally, eliminating an ant infestation usually requires locating and targeting the nest directly, which may prove highly difficult for the untrained person. To avoid making the issue worse, contact a licensed pest management professional for help with ant control.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Ants are social insects that form large colonies, so spotting one ant can signify that there are more nearby. Most are nesting outside and coming inside in search of food, water or shelter. In order to prevent ant invasions into your home, seal up potential entry points, keep tree branches trimmed, and eliminate excessive moisture sources.

Practice good sanitation by cleaning up spillage or crumbs and storing food in closed containers. Inspect potted plants for honeydew-producing insects and keep your grass mowed short to prevent favorable environments or attraction by ants. If you notice signs of an invasion, it is best to contact a pest management professional to prevent the problem from getting worse and to provide the safest and most effective solutions to eradicate the infestation.


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Photo Credits: mathisa/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Nancy Troyano, PhD, BCETraining manager / Entomologist

After graduating from Lehigh Carbon Community College with an A.A.S. degree in Veterinary Technology, Nancy became a certified veterinary technician. Nancy worked as a zookeeper while pursuing a B.S. degree in Environmental Science at East Strou...

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