Like many pests, ants swarm indoors once they find a good food source. Word spreads quickly around the ant colony, and soon you could have a tiny army following the scent trail into your home.
However, because the kitchen is a food-preparation area, you’re likely to be reluctant to use pesticides or sprays to get rid of the ants, for fear of contaminating your food. However, by taking practical steps to eliminate the ants and then ensuring you prevent a re-infestation, you can soon take control of the problem.
First, make sure you know what types of ants you’re dealing with. Most likely, they’ll be pavement ants, but carefully observe them and note their characteristics. A quick online search should help you to correctly identify them.
Ants don’t emerge out of thin air. They must be getting in somewhere. So your next step is to find their entry point. By simply observing their movements, you’ll be able to identify where they’re entering your house. They might be coming in through an open door, a window or even small cracks and holes in the building structure. Once you find the entry point, take action to seal it and clean it
As well as finding the entry point, you should try to find the source. Where’s the ant nest? Again, following their movements should lead you to the colony next. The ants leave a scent trail from the nest to the food source, so they’ll follow the same trail back and forth from the colony to your kitchen.
Once you’ve found the source, you can take steps to effectively eliminate the problem.
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Because ants travel back to the colony, you can use their movement to deploy a poison to kill the ants in the colony. First, set up some pre-bait to attract large numbers of ants. Remember, the more ants you have carrying the poison back to the nest, the more ants you can eliminate. So don’t be alarmed if you notice a sudden spike in the number of ants in your kitchen. They are being attracted to the pre-bait and this is all part of your strategy.
Pre-bait can be a plate of sweet, sticky food (such as honey or syrup) or fried food (such as chips or fried meat). Experiment to see which pre-bait attracts the most ants. Remember that different baits are more effective at different times of year.
Once you have found an effective pre-bait, you can set up your poison bait. This can be solid or liquid bait. Again, observe and experiment in order to find the solution that works best for you. Also, make sure that the ants are taking only the bait. Don’t leave other food sources easily accessible to them.
It can take a few days, or even a couple of weeks, for the bait to fully eliminate the nest, including the cocoons, larvae and eggs. If you find that ants are still swarming in after a few weeks, however, it’s time to consider using a different bait. Or call in the pest control specialists.
If you’re reluctant to use toxic baits, you could create a soapy solution to kill the ants. Simply mix a capful of liquid soap (or melted soap shavings) with water in a spray bottle, and spray the solution on the swarming ants. Once the ants die, clear them away.
As well as eliminating the ants, you need to take steps to prevent any future re-infestations. Remember, ants leave scent trails when they find food. You need to erase these trails using cloths soaked in disinfectant or bleach. (Water alone will not remove the trail.) A simple mixture of water and vinegar can also effectively erase the trail. Your aim here is to destroy the trail; you aren’t actually killing any ants.
You can also use some home solutions to repel ants. For example, ants don’t like citrus smells. You can create a repellent by blending lemon juice, orange peels or cucumber rinds with warm water. Then dip a cloth into the solution and use it to wipe down your surfaces. You can use a similar solution to mop the floor.
Spices and herbs are also known to repel ants. Effective options include garlic, mint, basil, cayenne or chilli pepper, cloves or black pepper.
Diatomaceous earth is another effective preventative measure. You can use it to seal up cracks and small holes, or apply it to edges where there has been ant activity. You can also spray wet diatomaceous earth on walls.
Caulk can also be used to seal up entry points. Use it to seal cracks around doors and windows.
Remember that food is what attracts ants into your kitchen. The less food there is lying around, the less likely you are to see ants. Keep your kitchen clean and tidy at all times. Carefully wash all crockery and cutlery, ensuring there’s no food residue left on them. Pay particular attention to your floor too, making sure there are no crumbs and scraps hiding in the corners or edges of the kitchen. If ants have already travelled across your floor, remember to remove the scent trail. If you have mats or carpet on the floor, vacuum them to remove any tiny particles of food.
Pay attention to your rubbish bins too. Empty them regularly, and wash out the bins to remove any leftover liquids that might attract ants. You could also add some baking soda to the rubbish to repel the ants.
If your house has an ant infestation, pest control expert will be able to provide you with further advice on how to prevent ants.