Ants. They come out in swarms during late spring and summer – when love is in the air.
Large winged female ants, destined to become queens, mate with large winged males and then establish new colonies – preferably close to a food source. Like your house or apartment.
Ants are “amazing and beneficial insects” says Rob Hamrick, integrated pest manager for Metro. In nature, their activities aerate the soil, help fertilize and pollinate plants, and spread seeds.
But in your home, it’s another story. No one wants to see them marching across the kitchen counter. Here are a few tips to keep ants out of your lunch.
Learn more about safe ways to get rid of all kinds of pests found at home.
Prevention is the best line of defense
There are different types of ants—tiny dark brown nuisance ants and big black or black and red carpenter ants—and both are attracted to water, grease, sweets and food crumbs. Make your place as unappealing as possible to both kinds.
Inside: Keep counters clean and food sealed
- Regularly wipe down all food prep areas. Sweep or vacuum the floors.
- Thoroughly rinse recyclable food containers before tossing them. Empty trash, compost and recycling containers daily.
- Store food – for both people and pets – in tightly sealed containers. Plastic wrap, paper and cardboard won’t deter ants.
- Keep an eye out for plumbing leaks that may need repair. Fix leaks promptly—before foraging scout ants find them.
- If you do see single, wandering scouts, wipe them up with a soapy cloth or sponge.
Outside: Seal cracks and keep a clear path around the foundation
- Deter ants from entering your home by sealing cracks and holes around windows, doors and foundations.
- Keep plants and trees from touching the exterior of the building so that ants can’t use them to climb inside. And clear debris, wood, and bark chips from the foundation.
- Repair rotten or weather-damaged wood siding. Wooded parts of the home should not contact the soil. Carpenter ants love to burrow into rotting wood in search for a good nesting spot.
- Sprinkle Diatomaceous earth around foundations, door frames, window sills or on visible ant trails. It’s non-toxic to humans and pets but will kill ants.
Invasion in progress: Use a borax-based bait
Once you see a trail of ants snaking through your home, Hamrick says that soap and water often aren’t enough to get rid of the problem.
Infinite numbers of workers are in the nest ready to replace what you wash away.
“You have to feed the colony to wipe it out,” he says. Use bait stations – like Terro–with borax as their active ingredient. Borax is a non-carcinogenic mineral. But the small doses of it used in bait stations are lethal to ants.
Be sure to always read the label before using any product.
For carpenter ants: Call a professional
Carpenter ants are larger than most other ants in Oregon. They can range from a quarter to a half-inch long. If you’ve got them or suspect you do, it might be time for a consult with a professional. A good pest controller should be able to locate and remove the colony—which is more effective and safer than spraying the building perimeter.
Be sure to ask lots of questions including what less-toxic options they have if chemicals are needed. Don’t forget to get a written proposal describing what pests they found, what products they use and what guarantee they offer.