Ant season is starting--here's how to beat them

Ands are attracted to sweet things and liquids. Adult ants can't digest solids and are dependent on liquid food, whereas larvae only eat solid food.

It's mid-April. The days are getting longer. The sun is out more than it's been in months. And the ants are marching two-by-two, right into your house.

"Generally, the ants start from the exterior and work their way into your house," says David Taylor, a service manager for Halt Pest Control in Hillsboro. "Usually, by the time you're seeing them inside your house, that means they have established a colony close to your house."

Ants respond to warmer weather. For them, it's a direct message: start growing the colony. For them, that means sending worker ants out to gather food and water, to support the queen, her brood, and the rest of the colony.

Ants need a variety of food sources. Adult ants can't digest solid food, they need liquid. Only the larvae can digest solid food. And your kitchen is a great place to find both.

"Like bags that you think are sealed, they'll work their way in," says Taylor, "Your Froot Loops... nobody wants ants in their Froot Loops."

Ants spend the winter outside your house, under woodpiles and yard debris, or inside your walls. Shen you find them in your kitchen or bathroom, it's a sign they're moving and growing.

To prevent an in-house infestation, start outside.

"It starts with the outside, because ultimately that's where they're starting," says Taylor.

Here are some tips from Halt Pest Control to stop ants that are outside your house, from getting inside in the first place.

  • Seal cracks and crevices around your home using a silicone-based caulk
  • Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows
  • Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed away from the house

Even the smallest holes can become a superhighway for ants. And shrubs and trees touching your house create a perfect pathway for ants to access your home.

"If you make it easy enough for them then they can start forming a colony inside the structure and that's what we want to prevent," says Taylor.

But once they're inside, it's time to get serious, or get used to having creepy-crawlies as your new roommates.

"You want to deny them harborage areas, deny them their food supply, and keep them out of your house first of all," says Taylor.

You can do several things to make your home less welcoming.

  • Wipe down counter tops and sweep floors to remove crumbs and residue from spills
  • Store food in sealed containers and keep ripe fruit in the refrigerator
  • Routinely check sinks for areas of moisture and repair any leaky pipes
  • Dispose of garbage on a regular basis
  • Keep pet bowls clean and wipe up and spilled food or water around them promptly
  • Store dry pet food in a sealed plastic container rather than the paper bags they often come in

And if you find them inside, especially those little sugar ants that seem to come out of nowhere, here's a tough tip to follow:

"As tempting as it is, do not smash them," says Taylor. "If you smash them, it actually sends out a danger signal to the colony. It sends out a pheromone signal. That's when the colony goes into defense mode."

And that defense mode can mean a colony splits, doubling your misery. So Taylor says, once you find ants in your home, it's time to call a pro.

"Otherwise you're just pushing them around, chasing them around with your sprays."

And Taylor advises you to look for a pest control company with QualityPro certification. That shows a pest control company has been through extra training, like an ASE-certified mechanic, except through the National Pest Management Association.

"It goes a long way, because you don't want somebody being irresponsible with their application," says Taylor.

Only about 3% of pest control companies have that certification.

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