Ants are a lot like people – they tend to gravitate toward the kitchen, in search of food. These common pests are ubiquitous in the spring and summer months, spoiling your picnics and dotting your linoleum like coffee grounds. But you don’t have to tolerate ants in your home; armed with some basic knowledge and common sense precautions, you should be able to keep them outside where they belong. Read on to find out how to make your ant armies retreat. But first, an ode.
An Ode to Ants
Although they might be on your bad list at the moment, ants are diverse and spectacular insects with admirable qualities such as resilience, teamwork, and enviably tiny waists! As anyone who’s ever had an ant farm knows, when you zoom in on these tiny insects, there’s a lot you can learn.
Take, for example, their colonies. Ants are social insects with narrowly defined roles that support the colony as a whole. They work so well together, in fact, that they are often referred to as a superorganism. The fertile queen ant establishes the colony and lays eggs, the male ants (drones) mate with the queen, and the sterile female ants serve as the workers – building the anthill, finding food, and protecting the colony.
The ants in a colony are extremely loyal to their queen – who, by being the only fertile female, single-handedly sustains the colony – and will go to great lengths to protect her. When the queen ant dies, the rest of the colony will die in short order.
When it comes to being tough, ants are hard to beat. Not only are they tireless workers (see above), but they can also power through pain: the odorous house ant, a common pest in our area, can keep working even after sustaining serious injury. Some queens can still lay eggs with a crushed abdomen! These ants are able to survive without food or water for over two months and can withstand extreme temperatures – talk about resilience!
If you have budding entomologists at home, they can learn more about ants here.
Natural Ant Control
Now that we’ve marveled at ants for a minute, let’s review ways to keep them out of your home. Your first line of defense can be natural ant control – common sense preventative measures such as keeping your kitchen and dining areas clean and crumb-free help keep ants at bay. You can also try natural ant repellents such as cream of tartar (finally, a use for that old jar in your pantry!), cloves, and cinnamon sticks – simply place them at the entry point to deter ants. The skillful application of repellent scents coupled with a food-free environment will often do the trick.
Calling in the Pros
Natural do-it-yourself remedies are sometimes only partially effective: they might kill the ants you see while doing nothing to locate and destroy the underlying colony. You’ll know you have an ant problem if you see more than 20 ants in the same area of your home. If natural ant control does not work for you, you should call an experienced professional who knows how to effectively clear your home of these tiny, impressive and incredibly pesky insects.
Ants are intelligent – when a queen ant senses that her colony is in danger, she may try to establish others in the hopes of perpetuating her clan. A qualified professional will understand the complexity of the situation and attack the problem with a full toolbox of techniques. At Connor’s, we favor environmentally responsible integrated pest management (IPM) programs. We use organic products (when possible) and mechanical devices to rid your home of unwanted guests in a safe and comprehensive manner.
Here’s wishing you a happy, pest-free summer! Enjoy that watermelon.
Getting Antsy? How to Get Rid of Ants in Virginia
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