Where do they come from? What do they want? How do they get in? 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 find 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 the food inside your home, however ants don’t usually nest indoors. Ants can be attracted to a little juice or pop spill on the floor or on a table top or a lost jelly bean between the cushions (or Joan Collins – see Empire of the Ants 1977).
Ants are very tiny and very clever and for this reason there isn’t much hope of keeping them out of your house. The key is to not give them a reason to come inside. Don’t leave attractants for them – clean up all spills, don’t let pets or kids carry food around the house, discard rotting fruits and veggies, keep sugar containers and jam jars sealed and keep food preparation areas very clean.
This being said, ants will show up in even the cleanest kitchen or basement (they are foraging).
Once you spot an ant, it’s time to act. Do not just kill the ant and think you’re done with it. Ants never travel alone, they always leave a trail for others to follow and once you kill an ant it sends out a scent signal to call for other ants.
Here’s what to do when you spot an ant in your home..
- Kill the ant and remove the carcass.
- Clean the area around the ant with a strong soap or window cleaner to remove the scent.
- 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 and then apply bait or ant powder near the entry point.
- For best results use an ant powder or bait on the outside of the entry, 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…
- Ants will continue to show up for some time. 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.
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 too, including the suppression of pest populations, aeration of the soil 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.
By: Mike Benny
Please let me know if this article has been helpful.