Keeping the Ants Out

Three ants perch on the petals of a flower in the front yard.

While the ant may have been an excellent muse for everything from fiction to scientific research, these little insects can be downright exasperating when they invade your home. Learning what attracts ants is the best way to prevent an infestation from starting, but your house is not beyond hope if they’re already there.

How It Starts

Have you ever seen a lone ant wandering aimlessly across your countertop? You may not be dealing with a true infestation yet, so this little ant may not worry you too much. However, this is where many people go wrong. Those lone ants are actually scouts sent to evaluate a territory for resources. They use their sense of smell to locate what the colony needs, and when they find a good source of food or water, the entire ant colony is just days away from setting up camp and living the good life. Ants simply go wherever they find consistent sources of food and water. Fortunately, this means that ridding your home of ants in the long term is fairly simple. All you have to do is eliminate the sources in your home that attract ants. And if you see those scouts wandering along your countertops, get rid of them and clean the surface immediately to prevent more from following.

Clean Your Kitchen

One of the most common places to find an ant infestation is in the kitchen. The apple juice spill that wandered under the fridge, the bacon grease that spattered on the stove, your child’s sticky hand prints all over the table; all of it is calling ants from miles away. Ants are especially attracted to greasy and sugary substances. Cleaning up after food preparation, meals, and spills will do wonders for solving your pest problem before it starts. Be sure to use vinegar water or soapy water to clean up since plain water won’t completely eliminate the scents that are attracting the ants. Sweep up crumbs and wipe away standing water left on counters and sinks. Regularly cleaning cabinets, counters, and floors in your kitchen will prevent food buildup that attracts ants as well. Storing your food properly is also an important part of ant control. Unless food is stored in the refrigerator or in airtight containers, ants will still be able to hunt it down.

Your trash is an ant colony’s treasure. Food items should never be left in the garbage pail to sit for days, so trash should be taken out frequently. Make sure all perishables are bagged well before throwing them away. As garbage breaks down, it takes on an even stronger odor, so keep your outdoor garbage bins as far from your home as possible.

Pet Food

Your pets may not be the only ones eating from their dishes. Ants are often found swarming food and water bowls. Try only having pet food out at certain times during the day or using a pet dish that sits several inches above the floor. Keep an absorbent rug or towel underneath the water bowl to prevent the build-up of standing water. If you have a cat, keep the litter box area clean and change the litter frequently.

Seal Entry Ways

After making sure you aren’t attracting the ants anymore, make sure your home doesn’t provide ants with an easy way to get inside. Cracks along walls and floors can be sealed with silicone caulking, and doors and windows should be properly sealed with weather stripping. Several items you probably have on hand at home will deter ants from entering from their usual passages. Chili pepper, cinnamon, peppermint, borax, salt, and pepper sprinkled around any possible entrances can discourage ants from coming in altogether.

Getting Rid of Infestation

If you already have a strong ant infestation, you may need to use a bait to kill the ants. A popular homemade method that works very well is a mixture of borax and sugar, honey, or syrup. Store-bought methods are also effective. Since baits attract ants, they should only be used if you already have an ant problem, or it could obviously just create one. Once the ants are gone, remove the bait from your home.

Outdoors, other insects like aphids can attract ants, so keep other pests down to a minimum to help prevent an ant infestation as well. If you find an ant mound, you can use a chemical poison to get rid of it, or simply pour a generous amount of boiling water on the mound.

In some cases, a professional pest removal service may be necessary. Certain species of ants, such as carpenter ants, are particularly difficult to remove. In any case, taking preventative measures will help to ward off future infestations.