Ants sure know how to ruin a good time, and picnics don't have the market cornered. There are more than 12,000 species of ants worldwide, so no matter where you live, there's a good chance you've encountered an infestation or two.
If they're in your house then you have a problem, but outdoor ant colonies are an important part of your local ecosystem and can help rid your garden of other pests. Over the next 10 pages, we'll look at some of the places you may find ants on your property.
One of the most disconcerting places to find ants in your home is inside of your refrigerator. If you find ants in your fridge, they're most likely common carpenter ants and they're probably seeking out some meats or sweet stuff.
While you may think you have a clean refrigerator, most of the bottles and jars and cartons all have some kind of residual foodstuffs on them that will entice an ant visit. Jellies and jams are definitely ant favorites, so you may find a trail of them leading to the mess around the sides of the lid. Meats are also on the menu, so anything not completely sealed will get some ant attention.
You may not know it from the number you see in your home, but ants generally reside outdoors. That means that when you see a trail of ants leading to your kitchen garbage can, they came in from some kind of crack or crevice, and the likely culprits are your windows. Ants are tiny creatures and it doesn't take much space to get through when you're marching single file. Especially in older homes, whose windows tend to have more tiny cracks and openings. If you see a trail of ants in your home, follow the path backwards and there's a good chance that it leads to a window.
When you find ants in your home, they generally aren't there to watch TV. Ants kind of have a one-track mind, so you can be pretty sure they're looking for something to eat. The kitchen will get most of the action because of all of the goodies to sample, but don't underestimate your bathroom. There are plenty of things to chow down on in there, especially if you use bath products made of food ingredients. Soaps, lotions and the all-time ant attractor, the decadent sugar scrub, are all great sources of food for adventurous ants. The same goes for toothpaste and mouthwash and pretty much anything else in your bathroom that has a foodlike taste or smell.
You hit the pantry for some cereal, open the brand new box and somehow find ants inside. Breakfast ruined. Has this ever happened to you? Even though that brand new box of cereal is sealed tight and on the top shelf of your pantry, it could very well be full of ants, thanks to their strong and sharp front mandibles. These little claws, which you may call "pinchers," is the key to ants getting into new food. The fact that your pantry doesn't have the inhospitable climate of your fridge, means it's prime ground for an infestation.
Stinky, smelly, warm discarded food may sound disgusting to you, but it's heaven on Earth for a trail of ants. Nowhere else in your house, not even your fridge or pantry, will be more susceptible to an ant invasion than in and around your trash. Tiny hairs on the ants' antennae have thousands of cells that allow them to seek out the really smelly stuff. That makes your trash the top target in your home. Trashcans are also on the floor, giving ants easy access to the good stuff. You can help the situation by putting actual food waste into a bag and in the bin outside.
If your house has a basement, then it's probably been home to some ants at some point. Subterranean, unfinished basements and cellars are particularly susceptible, but even if you have a finished daylight basement, it's still closer to the earth than the upstairs so it's going to be more prone to ant action. If you have ants in the basement, they're doing the same thing they're doing in your kitchen -- foraging for food. Unless you keep food in your basement, the ants will be stuck with whatever living or dead insects they can find. It's tough to keep ants out of your basement, but keeping it clean will help.
Ants are in their natural habitat outdoors, which includes the garden you've worked so hard on. Ants in the garden can be a good and bad thing; it kind of depends on the species. Regular old yard ants can be beneficial in reasonable numbers, helping to spread pollen and killing other more destructive pests like caterpillars. Ant infestations are another thing. If you find yourself looking at a garden full of ants, you should take some measures to control them. If you have fire ants in your garden -- even a small amount -- you'll want to get rid of them or suffer the consequences when you're gardening.
Lawn ants can be troublesome, especially if you have a distressed yard. A healthy lawn will help fight ant infestations, but a dying lawn in the summertime is far more likely to have problematic anthills. If you have random groups of ants doing their thing in the yard it's fine. They can even help get rid of aphids that harm your grass. The main problem with lawn ants is the hills, which can choke out grassy areas and cause unsightly bare spots. If you spend a lot of time in your yard, or you have kids and pets that do, anthills are also an issue because of the thousands of ants that can be disturbed and erupt from the hill at once.
The garage of your home is more protected than a carport or driveway, but it's still far more exposed to the outside world than the interior of your home is, making it easier for ants to get in. Many garages also house extra food and beverages for the house. Some even have refrigerators and freezers with surplus food items like meat that takes up a lot of room. If you have food and drinks sitting out in the warm darkness of your garage for many hours at a time, you'll have ants at some point. Garage ants are particularly troublesome because there's a decent chance that the garage is a way into the home. And since many garages enter into the kitchen, it's important to keep ants at bay.
So, you've sealed cracks around your windows, you keep the trash nice and tidy and you never leave food or dirty dishes sitting on the kitchen counter. That means you've licked your ant problem right? Not so fast.
Your recycling bin is a tremendous playground for ants. Almost your entire kitchen recycling is going to have some kind of food or beverage residue on it. And even if you wash out your bottles and cans, all the little drips from those sweet sodas, beers, wine bottles and juice cartons are going to end up at the bottom of your bin. That means even an empty bin can attract ants. To keep ants at bay, do your best to thoroughly rinse containers, and wash out the bin between emptying.
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