When you wake in the morning and stumble into the kitchen, the only thing you want to see is your morning coffee. Instead, you see a trail of ants going across your kitchen counter.
Ants — almost every homeowner has had to deal with these tiny, numerous pests at some point. Personally, you may have set out commercial ant traps or sprayed these relentless invaders. But have you ever stopped to wonder which species of tiny ant you're combating, why they show up in your kitchen and — most importantly — how to permanently rid your home of them?
Why are ants in your kitchen?
Why do some ants favor the kitchen over other areas of your home? Ants are equipped with odor detectors, allowing them to quickly and efficiently sniff out potential sources of food. If ants detect the trace foods that can accumulate on your kitchen counter and floors — a spot of spilled apple juice, a few cake crumbs, the orange peel in that under-the-sink garbage can you infrequently empty, etc. — this can become an invitation to raid your kitchen.
Some ants need water, as well. Since the kitchen is one of the rooms where water regularly enters and leaves, it can become an ant hangout spot. Even just a minor leak around a faucet or an automatic dishwasher that doesn't always drain completely may leave your kitchen vulnerable to tiny ants.
To help get rid of tiny ants in your kitchen, you need to first identify the species of ant you're dealing with. This will help you determine what is attracting ants into your kitchen.
Make sure you remove any garbaged food daily , and clean your sink and garbage disposal often. If applicable, run your garbage disposal long enough to ensure that all food waste has been ground up and flushed from the system.
Of course, keeping your home spotless and 100 percent watertight can be challenging. What is barely noticeable to the human eye can seem like a feast to a group of hungry ants. You can help remove these little morsels by practicing basic cleanliness in your home, especially in your kitchen.
Are ants in the kitchen dangerous?
While ants in the kitchen aren't usually dangerous, they can be unpleasant. Most often, ants are seeking food, and these tiny creatures can find their way into unsealed packages and infest the food you plan to eat if they are open or not properly sealed. Besides the fact that you're likely not eager to add ants to your diet, these unwelcome guests can leave behind bacteria.
However, some ants can be dangerous in different ways. Carpenter ants hollow out wood for nesting, which can damage the structure of your home over time. And fire ants, who typically nest outdoors, can find their way in your home foraging for food and can inflict painful bites and stings. Understanding the type of ants in your home is the first step to learning whether they're a nuisance or a threat.
The most common types of kitchen ants
The tiny ants often discovered foraging in your kitchen are often lumped together under the name "sugar ant." And while it's true that sweet, carbohydrate-rich foods can be irresistible to virtually any ant, sugar ants are a very specific type of ant. In fact, their true name is the "banded sugar ant", and the species is native to Australia. Therefore, the ants you're seeing in your kitchen are likely not actual sugar ants.
The common household ants infesting in your kitchen likely belong to one of five species of tiny ant: the little black ant, the pharaoh ant, the odorous house ant, the pavement ant or the Argentine ant. All five ants are truly tiny, with workers averaging around one-eighth of an inch in length. Each of these species of ant are also extremely opportunistic and may establish colonies indoors.
How to help prevent an ant infestation in your kitchen
As with many situations, when it comes to ant infestations, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing an ant invasion is much easier than trying to figure out how to get rid of ants in the kitchen. Use any or all of these tips to help prevent ants from taking over your kitchen.
Eliminate the point of entry
Ants usually get into your home through gaps around windows, doors or your home's foundation. Sealing cracks or gaps before ants get in can help to keep your kitchen free of ants.
Make a habit of prompt cleanup
Immediately clear plates from the table after eating, sweep away dropped crumbs and thoroughly clean away spills. Even dirty dishes in the sink can attract hungry ants.
Store food in airtight containers
Ripe fruits and vegetables or other foods you leave exposed can attract ants to your kitchen. Store your fruits and veggies in airtight containers or in the fridge.
Clean pet food bowls
Ants aren't picky. They can just as easily be attracted to your furry friend's food as your own. Make sure your pet bowls are empty between meal times, and clean the space around the bowls to avoid crumbs and standing water that can attract unwanted pests.
Maintain the outside of your home
Make sure trees and bushes outside do not touch your house, seal gaps and openings around windows and doors, and have cracks in your foundation fixed.
What to do when you have ants in your kitchen
When you already have an ant problem in the kitchen, you want to get rid of them as soon as possible. Eliminating a few ants on the kitchen counter is possible to do on your own. Begin by removing what's attracting the ants.
There are two ways ants are attracted to your kitchen: Food and pheromones. If the ants on your counter don't have a noticeable food source, use your regular kitchen cleaner to eliminate any trace amounts of food particles, including fruits and vegetables, and the scent ants release to attract other ants. Follow up by keeping the area especially clean.
Why you should avoid DIY ant control
Unfortunately, even after having thoroughly cleaned and removed all of these temptations, tiny ants can still reappear in your kitchen if you already have a large infestation. And when attempting DIY ant control measures, unless you are able to target the actual colony itself, you'll likely only be wiping out foraging ants and there are more in the colony.
Besides being mostly ineffective, there are other reasons DIY ant control can be an issue. Over-the-counter products have a label that needs to be strictly followed. Pest control professionals are trained on how to identify the ant species and know their biology. All of this helps professionals determine the proper placement of pesticides and which ones to select, since different species respond differently to products used.
And since most ant species are very similar in appearance, it's possible to mistake a carpenter ant infestation throughout your home for a different kind of ant infestation in the kitchen. Pest control specialists can identify where the ant infestation is coming from and which species of ant you're dealing with to help you to remove these pests from your home.
To help ensure that ants are fully removed from your home, it's recommended that you contact a pest control specialist. The professionals at Terminix® can help you get rid of these ants. Contact us today to get started.