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What Causes Occasional Indoor Ant Problems?

By Chris Williams on August 29, 2013.
Ants on floor in home

Question

Why do ants come inside? About twice a year we find little ants inside, mostly in the kitchen. They last for about a week, then they’re gone—usually before we even do anything to control them.

Answer

Of all the pests that we control, ants are probably the most fickle. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment and many of them will change their habits and even move their colonies at the drop of a hat. They also change their habits seasonally and in response to weather conditions.

The main reason that ants move indoors is FOOD. No doubt that’s why you mostly see them in the kitchen. They are feeding on food crumbs, spills, and whatever they can find. Worker ants are always randomly foraging, looking for food sources. If an ant finds something desirable, it will leave a scent trail to the food that will soon be followed by more ants. If their outside food sources (often seeds, insects, or aphid honeydew) disappear, they will start randomly foraging in new directions looking for new food sources. Their food tastes tend to change seasonally. So, although they may have been feeding on protein foods all summer, they could start looking for sugary foods instead, in the fall.

Ants will also move inside if their outside conditions become less than desirable. If it gets too wet outside and their colonies flood, ants may move inside looking for higher, drier ground. If it gets too dry outside, ants can move indoors looking for damp areas. Carpenter ants, especially, are attracted to areas of damp wood. When the weather gets cooler in the fall, ants may be attracted to the heat from a house.

So why do indoor ants disappear again? Either the indoor food becomes scarce, or they just randomly return to foraging outside. Most of the time when ants are foraging in a home, it’s just random workers that are returning with food to the outside colony. Sometimes, though, ants will pick up and move an entire colony into a home. The fact that your ants don’t last long inside is a good thing which likely means that the nest is outside rather than in your home. For some unlucky households, the ants don’t leave and that can mean that they have moved into the home permanently. In that case, a pest control company should be contacted for an inspection to locate the source of the ants. Whether the colony is inside or outside, a baiting program can usually eliminate the colony.

You can probably eliminate your occasional indoor ant visits by having a pest control company treat around the outside foundation of your home. The treatment will stop ants that are looking to get inside. Pest-proofing your home to seal up cracks and crevices that ants are using to enter can help, too. Annoying ant problems?—give Colonial a call.

photo credit: Eilam Gil via photopin cc

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