Controlling ants in the home

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By Kay Kennedy

No one wants to wake up in the morning, go into a kitchen to grab some breakfast and find ants invading your home.  Ants are one of the most common pests found in homes, but many misconceptions exist about their control.

While ants may all look the same to humans, many different species exist. The most common ants found in Kentucky homes include pavement ants, carpenter ants, acrobat ants, pharaoh ants and odorous house ants. It is important to determine which species you have because each has unique characteristics and may require a different method of control.  An entomologist or knowledgeable pest control firm can help you determine which species you have.

In addition to being irritating, ants may contaminate food, build unsightly mounds on your property or cause structural damage to your home by hollowing out wood for nesting.

The most common mistake people make is spraying only the ants they see.  Colonies house anywhere from several hundreds to millions of ants and can be located inside or outside the home. By only spraying the ants you see, you may not be getting the entire colony. It is a more effective form of control to find and destroy the colony.

One way to do this is to set insecticide bait. The ants will take the bait to the colony and feed it to the queen ant(s) and other members. Many times the bait will destroy the entire colony. Baits usually are user-friendly and can be purchased at most stores. Many of them come in child-proof containers, while others are applied as granules or via syringe.

Various species prefer different types of bait at different times throughout the year. If ants are not eliminated on the first try, you may want to try a different kind. If the bait works, you should see more ants feeding around it.  While it may be tempting, you should not spray the ants while they are feeding on bait. They will likely take the bait back to their queen and others in their colony. Do not spray household cleaners and insecticides near baits because they could make them less appealing to the ants.

If the ants are not gone after several attempts to control them, you may want to consult a professional pest control firm.

You can prevent or lessen the number of ants invading your home in the future by caulking or sealing around openings in your home that are easy entryways for ants. This includes door thresholds, windows and openings where wires enter the building.

For more information on eliminating common household pests, contact the Washington County Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.