Ants in Your Home
Ants are one of the most successful survivalist insects in our world today. In New England ants are seasonal. If you are seeing ants in the winter it probably means the colony is inside your home. There are thousands of different types of ants all over the world but in the northeast, there are a few. They are carpenter ants, pavement ants, black ants and citronella ants. Carpenter ants are the only ant that will cause serious structural damage to your home. Other ants may hitchhike up from the south which is not uncommon but will die off during the winter months.
Number wise ants outnumber humans 1.5 million to 1. All ants start outside in a colony designed for the local environment. They find food such as other insects and water near their colonies or homes. The problem starts when they invade our homes. This happens because all ants forage for food and in doing so communicate with the other ants by means of a pheromone scent, a chemical left behind to tell other members of their colony what they were doing, bringing food back or still looking. If during the foraging one finds a morsel of food they alert the rest of the colony and within a short period of time you can have hundreds of ants in your home.
So what’s the best method in controlling ants in your home? Never letting them in to start with. These are some best practices for keeping ants in general at bay:
- Keep your floors free of food crumbs and wipe up spills especially fruity or sweet children’s drinks.
- When you are cooking outdoors make sure you don’t leave food on the grill, clean it like you would your kitchen.
- Make sure you do not leave dirty dishes in the kitchen sink at night. Make sure the water around the sink is wiped up also.
- Wipe the outside of a sticky (sugary) container like a bottle of honey before you put it away.
- Fix leaking pipes. How many times have you pulled wet items from under the kitchen sink? Wet from leaking drains or sinks missing caulk.
- Seal openings in your foundations when you see small piles of dirt from ants working their way in.
- Repair door sweeps so ants will not walk through the front door.
Keeping Ants Outside
There are things you can do outside your home to minimize ant populations close to your home. Instead of piling bark mulch up against your home and over the basement windows scrape some off each year. Bark mulch holds moisture and is a great place for ants to colonize. Make sure the gutters drain away from your foundation. Redirecting rainwater is a great way to keep your basement from collecting all the roof’s rainwater. Ants love the shade so keep your shrubs and other items trimmed back away from your foundation and allow the sun to keep the foundation dry.
Can I Treat Ants Myself?
Treating ants can be very tricky. Depending on the species of ant and the way it reproduces. Incorrectly treated you could end up splitting the colony into fragments and each new fragment will then rebuild to the numbers it was originally.
There are a lot of natural home remedies that include applying cinnamon or peppermint oil around your baseboards and countertops or coffee grounds around your foundation available online. The best thing to do is to use soap and water in areas you are seeing the first foragers. If they do not make it back to the colony and their pheromone scent is cleaned up you may be able to ward off the invasion of the rest of the colony.
Never use a can of pesticide labeled for ants inside your home, worse yet in your kitchen on the countertop. The best thing to do is to contact your local pest management professional and ask for a home inspection. They will explain all your options and go over ideas that will change the environment in and around your home so ants will not find it inviting.