With the hot weather in full swing a parade of insects and bugs will soon be making their unwelcome debuts. And although these little invaders love being outside they have all summer to find the perfect indoor place to call home for the winter. It’s been my experience that one most determined of these warm weather pests are ants. They have a persistent military attitude that can literally move mountains. Contrary to popular belief ants aren’t just a nuisance at picnics and outdoor events. (Although I must admit nobody likes that “crawly” feeling of being ankle-tickled by an ant. Ugh. It makes me want to put on socks just thinking about it.) Like my friends the termites, ants are most happy when freeloading in your home.
Why Would Ants Want to Come Inside?
Because looking for food, water, and shelter is much easier for them to do in your house. Just because you don’t have soil in your home doesn’t mean they can’t adjust. They’re just as happy to make their nests around the foundation of your house, in sidewalk cracks, in your crawl space, in your closets, and even around leaky pipes (where water is plentiful), as they are in some construction dirt pile in the middle of nowhere.
Whatever you do, PLEASE don’t ignore the little buggers if you see one or two creeping along the corners of your kitchen floor. When ants come marching one by one (hurrah, hurrah) you can bet there’s an army to follow. Reconnaissance ants stray from their colonies in distances of up to 700 feet in search of food and water. Plus, they leave their colony scent in their wake, so even if you squish the tiny patrolmen, the colony may send follow-up snoops, just to make sure no breadcrumb has been left unturned.
Look Out for Argentine and Thief Ants!
In California, the two most common species we run into are Argentine and thief ants. I wrote about Argentine ants previously but haven't mentioned those thievin' thief ants. Thief ants get their common name "thief ants" from their unique habit of nesting near other ant colonies from which they will steal food and other resources. While this behavior doesn't necessarily bother humans, it's this species of ants' love of grease that draws them into homes and into contact with humans. You might as well say they keep their diminutive figure from the Atkins diet. And unlike their South American cousins, the Argentine ants, thief ants are native to the United States.
Bottom line is that if you see ants in your house, there's a good chance they'll be either thief or Argentine ants. The unfortunate part is that if you see one ant, there are thousands of his cousins not far away and there's an outstanding chance that they are hungry!
How Do You Keep ALL Ants Out of Your Home?
- Close off places ants might be able to get into your house; openings around pipes, cracks in your foundation, air vents that lead to outside, electrical outlets, unsealed windows. They’re masters at breaking and entering.
- Keep food off the floor, dump kitchen garbage pails before they’re full, and check for stray food scraps that don’t make it into the pail. Take discarded food to outside trashcans immediately.
- Clean up spills promptly, especially those from sugary drinks. Once a spill dries, you may not be able to see it, but the sugary residue remains, and trust me, ants have a huge sweet tooth.
- Leave work shoes and boots outside. If you’ve been working or playing in the dirt, ants love to hitch a ride on your footwear, and are more than happy to disembark in the comfy confines of your closet.
- Empty your picnic basket outside after you come back from an outing. Also rinse plates before bringing them in from dining alfresco. Ants love to hang out on dirty plates and are hard to see if you clear your outdoor table after dark.
But even if you do all that and you STILL find ants in your house, call my friends at Admiral Pest Control right away. Over-the-counter ant sprays may work on the few ants you see above ground, but it takes an expert to rid your home of the hundreds to thousands of subterranean ants that may be lurking beneath your home. Until you get rid of them at the source the ants will continue to march one by one (or more) into your home.