Ants usually live in wood or soil outside the house, and only march into your house to gather food, particularly during the spring and summer. On the other hand, ants may live inside the house. It’s important to track down the ant colonies to identify the species and choose the right control. If you can find the ant colony early, you can typically prevent ants from causing serious damage to the home.
To find an ant colony, place food such as jelly, honey, sugar or bacon where you have seen ants, and watch the ants that show up for dinner. They will typically create and follow the same route to and from their nest.
University of Kentucky extension entomologist Michael Potter recommends bait for most ants. The feeding ants take the bait back to the nest and feed the queen and the rest of the colony. Just don’t spray ants with insecticides while bait is in use, even if ants appear to increase in number shortly after you set the bait. Spraying kills the ants that are bringing the poisoned bait back to their colony, and therefore defeats the purpose of the bait.
If you choose to use insecticides for ant control instead, focus on cracks, holes and gaps as close to the nest as possible. Here are some of the odd spots ants where you might find ant nests, and how to identify the ant colonies and control them.
In foundation walls
Several types of ants may build nests in or around foundation walls. The most common are known as larger yellow ants, which rarely cause damage or eat human food. Pyrethrins and other spray insecticides are effective for getting rid of most foundation infestations.
Under the concrete slab
If small ants are eating your meat, pet food, nuts and dead insects, you may be able to trace them to flooring cracks. If so, they may be living under the concrete slab. University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension experts recommend baiting for ant colonies under concrete slabs.
Various ants live in wall cavities and under floorboards. Many ant colonies can be controlled with syrupy baits.
Carpenter ants are among the ants that live in wall cavities, chewing lumber into sawdust and using the sawdust to help build their nests. However, they are also foam “carpenters,” chewing up and reusing foam insulation. They can degrade both wood and insulation over time, so the University of Minnesota experts recommend finding carpenter ant nests and spraying insecticides directly into the nests.
In rotted window frames
Rotted wood in window frames and similar spots provides an ideal home for acrobat ants and other ant species. If infestations are discovered in wood cavities, inject with powdered insecticides. It’s also important to replace any rotted wood and get rid of the sources of rot and moisture.
Behind kitchen cabinets
Tiny grease ants may seem to appear out of nowhere and sneak into food containers. Rather, they are appearing out of tiny gaps and cavities in the kitchen, including spaces behind kitchen cabinets. Such nests can be difficult to find, but baits may work. Also, wipe up all greasy stains and try to eliminate or seal all attractive food sources, including oils, meats and cheeses.
Ants find a variety of unusual homes inside your home. Take care to identify the species and find its hiding places and use the right controls to get rid of them. Of course, it’s best to keep ants from getting into the house in the first place. Melanie Barkley of Penn State Cooperative Extension suggests two important prevention measures: Sealing all holes and gaps around the house, including the spaces where wires and pipes go in; and repairing all leaks to avoid any moisture buildup or rotting wood.
Experts at Ohio State University Cooperative Extension also recommend applying an insecticidal spray around the house perimeter, two feet up from the foundation and three feet out into the surrounding soil. Take care when applying insecticides, as they may also attack plants and beneficial insects.
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