We’ve all been there; you are cleaning up your counters for a get together with friends and family. You want your home to look nice and make a good impression. As you wipe down that counter, you notice something odd; a little black body scuttling around the backsplash. Your blood runs cold. What is that? You take a closer look. It’s an ant. Ew! You then spot something moving out of the corner of your eye. It’s another one. You can’t believe it. From what you have read, the rule of thumb applies; for every ant you see, there are hundreds of them you don’t.
Who is Mr. Ant?
Ants are small, six legged insects that measure 1.5-15 millimetres long, depending on the species. They are distinguished by their big abdomen and bent antennae. There are over 1,000 species of ants in North America; however, only three make an appearance in the home. These are the Black Ant, Carpenter Ant and Fire Ant. The most common ant to infiltrate your home is the Black Ant.
Ants can be seasonal, depending where you live in North America. If the climate is cold in the winter and warm in the summer, ants will make an appearance during the middle of spring and will stay until the weather cools down. If you live in a warmer climate, they are around all year.
How do I Know I Have an Infestation?
Having ants doesn’t mean your home is filthy. Ants invade your home for one purpose: food. As they are scavengers, these bugs will crawl in through cracks and crevices to find what they are looking for and then bring it back to the queen in the nest. Once the queen sets up the nest, worker ants will scout ahead.
A sure way of knowing you have an ant infestation is simply by seeing them. Noticing an ant or two here and there does not necessarily mean they have moved into your home, but if they are present everywhere you look, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
In the case of Carpenter Ants, pay attention to sound. Carpenter Ants create a rustling sound similar to dead leaves as they burrow through wood. Another indicator will be the shavings of wood they leave behind as they are tunneling.
Types of Ants
As mentioned, there are three common species of ants you can find in your home. Here is the breakdown:
- Black Ants: These ants are harmless and are scavengers. They enter your home in search of food to bring back to the queen in the nest. You can generally find these bugs in the kitchen where food is housed.
- Carpenter Ants: These insects are more serious if found in your home. They prefer dark areas of the home, such as attics and basements and thrive on water damaged wood. These ants tunnel their way into walls where they set up their nests. If you suspect Carpenter Ants are making your home their own, you need to react immediately, as they create structural damage.
- Fire Ants: Although Fire Ants rarely make an appearance in the home, they can come in when searching for a food source. Fire Ants are characterized by their red bodies. They can be very aggressive and they bite and sting. The venom in a sting can create a severe allergic reaction and in some cases, death.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Ants
Now that we have covered the top three ant species, it is safe to say there are many ways to get rid of them. These ways have been divided into four categories: General Housekeeping, Holistic, Commercial and Other.
- Get rid of clutter. It is easy for ants to hide if there are alot of knick knacks on your counter and around the house. You want to be able to have a good view of the kitchen.
- Wipe down surfaces, especially after you prepare food. Because ants are attracted to sugary foods and liquids, you want to eliminate this option for them.
- Dust and vacuum everyday. While we are not suggesting to make every day a spring cleaning endeavor, you want your home to be as clean as possible. Even a few crumbs on the floor or behind the oven can attract ants. You will want to vacuum those hard to reach areas every few weeks just to make sure.
- Purchase airtight containers. Ants can actually get into boxes. Put those cookies and cereals into food storage canisters and put them away in cupboards.
- Make sure your trash is stored in a well-sealed container and take it out regularly. Ants have been known to go through your trash to find food.
- Seal up any cracks or crevices in the home, especially around the foundation, doors and windows.
- If you sustained water damage, take care of it immediately. Call a contractor for more information.
- Make a spray out of any of the following scents: vinegar, eucalyptus, peppermint, citrus or cinnamon. These scents deter ants. You can spray these on countertops, along baseboards and around the areas you suspect ants are coming in.
- Create a mixture with borax. This is an effective way of killing ants and part of the colony. Be careful when using borax, as it can be harmful to children and pets.
- Although it may seem like the easiest solution, try not to stomp on an ant to kill it. If you do, pheromones are released and only attract more ants.
You can find the following at a Superstore or Home Improvement Center:
- Ant Control Sprays: ant sprays are good for keeping the pest out. Spray the solution around cracks, crevices and entries into the home, such as doors and windows.
- Ant Control Baits: Use the bait in the area where you notice ants coming in. The ants will share the bait with the rest of the colony, therefore eliminating the nest and hopefully killing the queen. Baits can last up to three months before being replaced.
- Diatomaceous Earth Products: spread in areas where ants are known to travel. The fine particles adhere to and then pierce the ants’ exoskeletons and joints and cause dehydration.
As always, you are welcome to call an exterminator for an ant infestation. It is strongly encouraged to contact them if you are dealing with Carpenter or Fire Ants. The exterminator will find the nest and then remove it. As in the case of Carpenter Ants, reach out to a licensed building inspector for specific recommendations to fix the damage.
Did you Know?
Ants communicate by pheromones, smell, touch and sound.
Ants do not have lungs. They breathe in and out through tiny holes in their bodies.
Ants can lift up to twenty times its own body weight.