It was Content Writer Susie’s first summer in her family’s home, and at first, she didn’t notice her new roommates. Some sawdust-like particles next to tiny, perfectly round holes seemed like a mystery that didn’t need to be solved – at first. Then the large, black ants started coming out the woodwork – literally. After a carpenter ant bit Susie’s mother, the family called a pest control expert.
When dealing with ants, the best thing you can do is prevent an infestation in the first place. We reached out to PestWorld.org to find out how to prevent an ant infestation, the most common ants you’ll find in your home, and how to deal with ants that make your house their nest.
Quick tips to prevent an ant problem in your home
According to PestWorld.org, “If left untreated, an infestation of ants can become more than simply a nuisance. Ants can contaminate food and water, and carpenter ants can build tunnels in wood that can cause structural damage to your home.”
Follow these quick and easy tips to help prevent an ant infestation in your home:
- Check around your home for pest entry points and seal up any cracks or holes, especially in places where utilities enter.
- Cut back plants and tree branches from your house.
- Stack firewood at least 20 feet from your home and five inches off the ground.
- Eliminate excess moisture by clearing downspouts and gutters, repairing leaking pipes, and using a dehumidifier as needed.
- Take out your garbage regularly and use trash cans with sealed lids.
- Clean up drink spills quickly and keep your kitchen free of crumbles or other food remnants.
- Wash out used juice containers.
- Store sweets such as honey and sugar in closed containers.
- Keep your pets’ food and water dishes clean.
- Check indoor plants for ant infestation signs and remove compromised plants.
- Remove old landscape materials, debris, and excess vegetation from your property to reduce potential nesting sites for ants.
The usual suspects for ant infestations
More than 700 species of ants live in the U.S., but only 25 are known to invade homes. Here are the most common ants you may encounter in and around your yard, and how to prevent them from getting inside.
Carpenter ants are “structural pests” since they excavate wood and create smooth tunnels through it. These ants have the potential to cause more damage than most other pests, save termites. They can also have incredibly large colonies (up to 50,000 active ants)!
These ants are black, red, or a mixture of both, can be more than half an inch in length, and are found mostly in northern states. (These are also the ones that invaded Content Writer Susie’s home!)
These ants are attracted to moisture and damp wood. If you have any decaying trees or stumps on your property, remove them before carpenter ants move in.
Odorous house ants
More commonly known as “sugar ants,” these tiny ants (no bigger than an 1/8”) give off a putrid smell when crushed. They also can live for years in a home and are most common in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
To prevent these ants from invading your home, get rid of standing water in your yard. Inside, frequently check your kitchen and bathroom as water sources help ants thrive. Always store your sugary foods – syrup, molasses, sugar – in tightly sealed containers and make sure their exterior surfaces are not sticky. Also, check your fruit bowl with overripe items as these also attract sugar ants.
Red imported fire ants
Make sure to stay away from red imported fire ants! You’ll likely find these dangerous crawlers in your garage, landscaped areas, and near your structural foundation. They create mound-like nests that can hold up to 250,000 ants and currently reside in 14 southern states.
Red imported fire ants can sting you multiple times and even hold onto your skin with their mandibles or jaws. When this happens, you’ll have to pull each ant out individually, which means – ouch!
If they do bite you, you’ll experience an immediate burning sensation, followed by the emergence of a raised, red welt. Within 24 hours, the welt will turn into a white pustule and inflict you with intense itching for several days. If you have bee or other insect allergies, you may have a more severe reaction, so beware and seek medical attention if necessary!
How to get rid of an ant infestation in your house
If you have a full-blown ant infestation in your home, the best thing you can do is call a licensed pest professional. Ant infestations pose serious health risks and property hazards, and a professional will know how to get rid of ants in your house.
You may be tempted to complete a few DIY solutions to get rid of an ant infestation. Here’s why many of them will lead you to a professional.
Using “ant traps”
While you may be tempted to use the erroneously coined “ant traps,” these products work best when placed by a professional. This is because “ant traps” are really “ant bait,” which is deadly to ants. The ants bring the poison back to the nest and feed it to other colony members before dying. Different types of ants respond to different baits, so a professional will know which bait to use, where best to place these “traps,” and how much bait to use.
Using ant repellent or spray
Ant repellent or spray only work until they lose their effectiveness. They also won’t kill the colony if you only spray it around your home.
Similarly, “bug bombs” or “insect foggers” will kill ants in proximity to the device when it is activated. Unfortunately, it will not kill the nest since the pesticides remain on the surfaces and very little actually penetrates where ant colonies live. Ants killed by bug bombs also do not return to the nest to spread the pesticide.
Bug bombs can have serious health effects on human inhabitants, especially if not used correctly, so it’s best to use a professional pest control specialist instead.
Employing natural remedies
While you may be tempted to DIY ant problems in your house, many natural remedies can cause other issues or aren’t effective. Cinnamon and vinegar can repel certain types of ants, but the amount of cinnamon needed would be incredible. Plus, vinegar attracts fruit flies, and neither deal with ant infestations.
Lemon juice, too, is often named as a solution to stopping ants from entering your home. However, it’s generally hard to tell an ant’s point of entry in order to strategically place the juice. The same issue occurs with cinnamon and vinegar.
Instead of wasting time and money, and potentially causing a bigger problem, always call a licensed pest control professional who can help to get rid of ants inside your home.
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