Where do they come from? What do they want? How can I get rid of them?
Most common ants live outside in the ground, in nests or ant hills. Several hills and nests can make up one colony. The queen ant (which can live up to 30 years) runs the place and is responsible for making new ants. In the spring, as things start to warm up, ant colonies send out “scouts” to forage for food and fuel. These foraging ants leave a scent trail so they can find their way home and so other ants can follow. While foraging ants may be attracted to food material inside your home.
If you see an ant, don’t just kill it and think you’re done. Ants never travel alone and when you kill an ant it sends out a signal to call for other ants.
Here’s what to do when you spot an ant…
Watch the ant for a while. See if you can tell what it’s looking for and where it came from.
Go ahead and kill the ant (get it out of your system).
Clean the area around the ant with a strong soap or window cleaner to remove the scent.
Note: Resist the urge to just “squish them all”. They give off a scent when squished that will attract others. You need them alive so they will be able to carry poison back to the nest.
Try to determine what the ant was after.
Remove the attractant and clean the area.
Look for others (there’s never just one).
See if you can determine the path the ants are using.
Clean the ant path with strong soap or window cleaner.
Find the entry point (where they entered the house).
Fill any cracks or patch any holes where the ants get in the house.
Use an ant powder or bait on the outside of the entry point, that way the ants won’t need to enter the house to get the bait (Hardware stores sell ant killer/bait powders. Do-it-yourselfers use boric acid (Borax) and sugar in small amounts. Here’s a recipe…
Also use ant powder or bait inside the house (some will make it in).
Ants will continue to show up for some time (days). Keep cleaning the area around any dead ants, clean the trails and the entry points.
Most ‘ant killer’ is made up of an attractant and an ant poison. Ideally the ant is attracted to the poison and carries it back to the nest where many ants will be killed.
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You will never kill all the ants, they will make more! You can only hope to keep them to a minimum in your home. Most attempts to control ants are temporary at best so be careful with poisons and be wary of false claims.
ps/ Ants perform many ecological roles that are beneficial to humans, including the suppression of other pest populations, aeration of soil [source] and an occasional Pixar movie.
This article is written in the most general, non scientific terms for people who have spotted a few ants in their home and would like to get rid of the ants.
This article is not meant to deal with major ant infestations in out buildings or ant colonies near bio waste facilities in the Florida everglades (see: Empire of The Ants 1977)
Ants are everywhere. Ants thrive in all ecosystems, and form 25% of the terrestrial animal biomass on earth.
Getting rid of all the ants in your yard is impossible. However you may be able to stop them from showing up in your home.
Larva (grow in size as they are fed by adult ants – look like rice)
Pupa (silk-like cocoon – ant body takes shape inside)
The whole process can take 8-10 weeks in warmer climates and much longer in colder climates.
*The winged ants you see in the spring are at the beginning of the cycle. The nuptial flight is when queens and males fly from the nest and then mate when they land to start a new colony. After mating, the male ant dies and the female ant loses her wings and lays her eggs.
AntArk.net has a great depiction of how the cycle works.