The Ants Come Marching In

It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the snow has melted. You throw open the curtains and let that beautiful sunshine brighten into your house. In the glow of the light you notice something on your floor. It looks like it is moving. Closer inspection reveals that with all of the light and fresh air coming into your house, it appears that the ants have come marching in as well.

It’s just a few, so you grab a damp paper towel and squish them. Their nasty smell lingers in the air as you glance around – looks like you got them all. Phew! Wouldn’t want an infestation, would you? The problem is that there are never “just a few”. The next morning, you see an exponentially larger number of them. They followed the scent trails their deceased brethren left when they entered your house the day before. Towel, water, squish, repeat. All is well. Until later that afternoon. It’s becoming something like a bad 1950’s B movie about ants taking over the world. And it’s not even picnic season yet!

The thing is that they are hungry. Really hungry. And these ants – most likely Odorous House Ants – will eat just about anything that smells like food. You house is clean, right? You wipe down your counters several times during the day. Except sometimes the kids take a short cut and brush the crumbs on the table onto the floor. You don’t notice the tiny bits and pieces of cooking debris nestled along the base of your counters. The kids eat snacks around the house, leaving the invitation of their crumbs. Ants love a buffet, and they forage night and day.

So where did these ants come from? Ants are not fussy where they live. Then can, and will, build their nests both outside and inside. Outside they live in debris piles – remember that pile of leaves you raked up last fall? And the stacks of firewood you have against your house for easy winter access? They will go into landscape mulch, piles of lumber and stones, under loose bark on trees and landscape plants, even in the potted plants you brought in to keep warm over the winter.

They will make their home inside your home too – stinking freeloaders. Really stinking (more about that later). Ants will camp out under your window frames, in cabinets and in small cracks. They will take up residence in your walls, beneath your carpeting…any place that is dark and warm. Each colony may have as many as 100,000 workers and upwards of three queens. Most of the time it is a mere several thousand workers and only a couple of queens in residency. Those queens, however, can lay up to several hundred eggs a day!

Just as it is never only one ant, it is rarely just one colony. As colonies expand, they need more space. They will break of into sub-colonies and those sub-colonies will find places in the neighborhood of your house to establish themselves. The colonies are mobile too – they will pick up and move from place to place frequently. What can you do to help stem the tide of the ant brigade?

Outside you want to maintain the targeted living spaces to a minimum:

  • Keep your landscape planting trimmed and away from the house
  • Landscape mulch should be less than 2” deep & 12” from your foundation
  • Seal any cracks in your foundation
  • Move that lumber pile away from the house – eliminate it (and any piles of rocks/bricks and lumber) if you can
  • Make sure your sprinkler isn’t spraying directly onto your foundation

Inside your home:

  • Make sure your cupboards aren’t hiding spilled liquids or crumbs – keep those crackers, chips and cereals in storage containers with locking lids
  • If ants have been in the house, they have left trails. Cleaning those areas with white vinegar can remove the scent of the trails.
  • And the best thing? Call a professional.

    Because of the expansion rate of colonies, coupled with their mobility, it can be hard to determine the targeting of treatment. A professional pest control specialist has the knowledge and experience to determine the best course action. The specialist knows the habits of these tiny freeloaders and appropriate techniques for treating multiple target areas. Regular inspection and repeated services are necessary to keep the population from calling your address their home.

Fun Facts

  • About that stinky smell – when you squish an Odorous House Ant they will exude a chemical that smells like rotten coconuts. That chemical has caustic qualities that can actually burn through the top layers of skin. Don’t squish them with your fingers!
  • Even we had ants this spring.
  • Some species of ants will eat cockroaches; for real.