As warmer weather approaches, that’s when the ants go marching, and once an infestation starts, it can be hard to control. Common “household” ants like odorous ants and pavement ants can live in a colony with 10,000 fellow workers. To nourish colonies of that size, ant scouts are constantly on the search for food and water.
So how do you prevent your home from becoming a likely target for an ant invasion? Make sure to avoid these common mistakes!
Forgetting to seal food in airtight containers
Did you know that ants have over 400 odor receptors? This gives them a sense of smell that’s four to five times keener than other insects. This also allows them to pick up the scent of food in unsealed bags and containers fairly easily.
As soon as you get home with your groceries, store your pantry items in airtight containers made of glass or BPA-free plastic. If possible, store fruits in your refrigerator, and if you leave them out to ripen, keep a close eye on them.
Not rinsing recyclable food containers
More and more, families are practicing better recycling habits by keeping a container for recyclables in the kitchen. While this is a wonderful way to minimize what ends up in landfills, it’s just as important to make sure you wash plastic bags and metal, glass, and plastic containers you intend to recycle.
Rinsing your recyclables is important for two reasons:
- It eliminates the risk that ants will be attracted by the smell of sugar or food residue.
- Your recyclables won’t contaminate paper and cardboard and make those materials un-recyclable.
Letting dishes soak in the sink for too long
We’ve all pulled a “Jim Halpert” from The Office and left dishes in the kitchen sink “to soak” overnight… or perhaps longer. The smell of the food remnants on those dishes can be enticing for ant scouts, who will then make a trail for the rest of the colony to follow.
While sometimes actual soaking in hot water is necessary for cookware and casserole dishes with caked-on food, the effect of soaking typically doesn’t improve after 30 minutes. Bottom line: wash dishes immediately, and soak cookware for 30 minutes tops before scrubbing or putting it in the dishwasher.
Forgetting to wipe down your kitchen and eating areas
Ants are happy to make any crumbs and spills they find their next meal, and the average kitchen has no shortage of these to offer. Along with washing your dishes after your meals, enlist the help of your household to wipe down the stove, countertops, and dining table. Don’t forget to wipe or sweep underneath appliances as well!
Postponing plumbing repairs
Have you ever wondered why ants sometimes choose to raid your bathroom before your kitchen? This is because ants are drawn to the moisture typically found in this room.
Just like any other creature, ants need water to survive. However, they don’t need it in large amounts, so the dampness in a drippy bathroom sink or tub can suffice. Hidden plumbing leaks can also cause moisture problems that attract ants. For instance, carpenter ants may build their nests in wet, rotting wood that resulted from water damage.
Just remember: when you see a plumbing leak, postponing the repair could end up costing a lot more money than simply fixing it.
Leaving out pet food all day
Allowing your pet to “graze” throughout the day can have its advantages, particularly if your pet is highly active or nursing and, therefore, burns a lot of calories. However, leaving out a bowl of pet food is like leaving out a free buffet for ants and other pests to enjoy as well.
As an alternative, you can switch your pet to two to three meal times a day, depending on their dietary needs. You can also buy an automatic pet feeder that limits the amount of food that’s exposed to the air. Another option is a raised bowl that prevents ants from climbing inside.