With the right tips in hand, you can drive ants out of your home—and keep them out—this spring and summer.
Ants enter homes looking for three basic things: food, water, and nesting habitat. Food is the number one reason, and many species of ants love protein, sweets, and fats. "Once a foraging ant has found suitable food, it will communicate this to other ants, usually through a trail pheromone," says Sydney Crawley, an expert in insects and vertebrate pests. workers towards the food source, explaining why you may see more ants over time."
The keys to getting rid of ants are: exclude, sanitize, and apply pesticides.
Exclude: Caulking or sealing openings that may allow ants to enter can prevent invasion. It is also helpful to prune ornamental plants and trees that touch the house. "There are many species of ants that protect plant-dwelling aphids in exchange for honeydew. The branches serve as bridges that provide a convenient way for ants to get right into your home," Crawley says. You should also repair tears in your window screens, replace sealing strips, and check around electrical conduits to make sure your home is as tightly sealed as possible.
Sanitize: Keep your food locked away. Ants in a home commonly feed on food crumbs, drops of liquid, or debris on dirty dishes. "I see a lot of ants in animal bowls, for example," says the expert. Leaky faucets and standing water can also attract ants. Fix leaky faucets and stagnant drains to keep ants away.
Apply pesticides: Ant baits can help solve most ant problems. A sugar-based bait with a toxin, such as boric acid, usually works well because many of the species of ants that enter homes are fond of sugar. This will work slowly, as the foraging ants bring the food back to the queen, and you have to kill the egg-laying queen to get rid of the colony. If you don't see any reduction in ant activity after a week, it may be because the ants are not currently feeding on sweets, so you may need to switch to a protein or fats. “The product label should tell you what the matrix of the bait is and whether it is for sugar-loving ants, or others,” warns the expert. Here are some types of bait to consider:
An important note: If using bait, do not spray chemicals, such as Raid Aerosols, at ants or ant trails to kill them. "It will contaminate the bait, repel the ants, and you'll start from scratch," the expert said.