If you’ve found this page, you’ve most likely woken up to ants swarming an unattended sandwich. You might even have been looking forward to finishing it up, only to find it covered in the little pests. In this case, you have our condolences.
Did you know that there are an estimated 20 quadrillion ants worldwide? That’s 2.5 million for every human. With numbers like these, there’s no wonder a few manage to find their way to our kitchens and pantries.
They might have us beat in number, but that doesn’t mean we have to go down without a fight. If you’re sick of tiny ants in your kitchen, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out more!
What Are Ants, Anyway?
Before getting stuck into how best to deal with these little pests, it’s a good idea to get a better idea of what they are. “Know thy enemy”, as they say.
Since we can argue that, as humans, we have the upper hand against ants, anything less than absolute victory isn’t acceptable. So let’s brush up on our ant knowledge.
Ants are known as eusocial insects. This means they’re incredibly organized, and share a level of social structure you might be surprised by. They each have a job and cooperate as a whole for the benefit of the many.
There’s No Such Thing as One Ant
The adage of there being no smoke without fire is a time-worn saying understood by everyone. In ant terms, it’s as accurate to say that where there’s one ant, there are sure to be more. Next time you spot an ant, take a moment to look closer and you’ll spot a few more on the prowl.
Ants are insects of the Formicidae family and are related to bees and wasps. They form colonies and seek to expand over an area of tightly controlled territory. Their methods of expansion rely on scouting parties to find food to feed the colony.
Once an ant tasked with the job of finding food succeeds in its duty, it returns to the colony trailing a chemical path behind it. This path is invisible to us but easily followed by its fellows. The path is weak to start with, becoming stronger with each ant who finds the food as directed by the first.
Follow the Invisible Chemical Road
As each ant confirms the findings of the first scouts, they contribute to the chemical path. This strengthens the signaling and before long, the path has become a highway to your bologna sandwich. It’s around this time, while things are getting into full swing, that you notice the sanctity of your sandwich has become badly compromised.
A line of marching ants hauling crumbs along with them is a sight to behold. That is, it would be if it weren’t for the fact it’s running along your kitchen countertop. In this case, feelings of frustration and grief are much more common.
Once you’ve come to terms with the loss of your sandwich, it’s time to think about how best to tackle the invasion. There are a few points of attack and defense to cover to best the ants completely, including initial preventative measures. Fortunately, the most common ants are harmless and you needn’t worry about your safety.
Just that of your sandwiches.
Types of Ants
For this article, we’ll focus on the three most common species of ant. These are most likely the type you’ll find pilfering from unattended sugar cubes and picnic hams indoors. You’ll be happy to learn that two of the three aren’t biting or stinging or are in any way dangerous other than potentially contaminating your food.
The first, which is capable of stinging (although this is unlikely) is the pavement ant. Tetramorium immigrans, the immigrant pavement ant, are most likely the type you see in your imagination when you think of an ant. Native to Europe, this ant is dark brown or blackish and between 2.5-4mm long.
The second, known as the odorous house ant or Tapinoma sessile is so named because of the scent they make when crushed. The smell is commonly likened to rotting coconuts or the smell of penicillin mold. These ants vary from brown to black and are 1.5-3.2mm in length.
The third, the pharaoh ant or Monomorium pharaonis, is smaller than the other two at around 2mm and their workers are yellow or light brown. These ants are notorious for being an indoor nuisance and have taken up residence practically everywhere we have.
Preventive Measures for Tiny Ants in Your Kitchen
Ants are an issue that is best headed off at the pass, so to speak. Understanding why ants would choose to venture into your home in the first place is a good start. When you have a better handle on what ants are looking for, you can dissuade them from bothering you.
Ants are looking for sustenance to bring back to their colony. Like all living things, they’ve developed surefire strategies that have held strong for thousands of years. Despite being a part of a complex system, the individuals are quite basic.
Ants are reactionary and interact with the world through a series of simple influences. Ensuring ants don’t bother you is as easy as taking care not to unintentionally bait their attention.
In short, if you don’t leave anything laying around that ants might want, they won’t bother you. It’s not in their nature to bother with anything that doesn’t contribute to their natural needs.
Benefits of Preventing Ants
Rather than having to deal with an infestation, it’s much easier to prevent it from ever occurring. This can be achieved quite simply, by understanding what attracts ants in the first place. Once you have a clear understanding of this, it’s as simple as avoiding doing anything that might do so.
For example, roving bands of ants are only interested in finding and returning food for the colony. If you never leave any food laying around, you’ll never give ants a cause to be a pest. This means never leaving food out for longer than necessary.
Keep foods stored in airtight containers that don’t allow for smells that might signal a free meal. The fridge is a great option and is completely impermeable even to the most entrepreneurial ant. The key to dissuading an invasion is to give them no reason to invade.
A Crumb Is a Meal
It’s all too easy to be somewhat messy when it comes to food preparation. Showering the floor with bread crumbs while you make a sandwich is more or less par for the course. It’s regular activities like this which mark your kitchen as an ant smorgasbord.
Every ignored crumb and grain of sugar is a beacon of opportunity to an ant. In much the same way as we know where there’s one ant there’s bound to be more, ants understand the same of food.
If you’ve had ant trouble in the past, you’ll know how quickly they can appear. Houses with previous ant problems need to be doubly vigilant of leaving any kind of morsels laying around. Each time an ant finds a treasure to alert the colony to, the less likely they’ll be to leave for greener pastures.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
Cleaning all your surfaces is a great place to start. Countertops, inside cupboards, and drawers to begin with.
Areas that see less attention to regular cleaning efforts are also worth attending to properly. This means down the side of the stove and under the fridge. The thought of tackling these areas might make you balk, but it’s better to ensure there’s nothing down there to entice the colony.
All it takes is a droplet of ketchup or a forgotten gummy bear for a single ant scout to alert the presses. Before you know it, the march has begun and you have actual insects to deal with, rather than a bit of simple cleaning. Prevention is always an easier route than dealing with an active invasion.
What to Do if It’s Too Late
If you’re in the midst of a full-scale infestation and the ants have already established a strong supply line, don’t fret. This is something of a regular occurrence and is nothing more than an annoyance. It ought to be pretty obvious where you went wrong at a glance, and what attracted the ants in the first place.
If you want a hint, it’s whatever’s covered in ants. Remove the offending delicacy and observe as the ants panic. If you’re curious to wait for a minute or so, you can watch as they gradually lose interest if there aren’t any crumbs around.
It’s not necessary to, but if you want to get rid of the ants faster you can simply wipe them up with a sponge. Rinse the sponge out under the tap and go back to wipe up all traces of their chemical path. This will effectively destroy their ability to find their way back to where the signaled food was.
Follow the Line
Ants have to get in somewhere. As they’re not the most courteous of house guests, they commonly won’t make use of the front door. Figuring out their alternate route of entry is a tricky matter, however.
Simply follow their line to find where they’ve managed to get inside. You’ll most likely find a crack in a wall or other such small openings. Depending on where the hole is situated, block it accordingly.
This can be done with a piece of blue-tack or a square of tape until repairs can be done properly. As funny as it sounds, a line of cinnamon can act as a fairly effective barrier for a bit as they won't cross it. Eventually they will realize this isn't a threat so be sure to do more about the problem. Once the food has been removed and its invisible path wiped away, you can relax. So long as you don’t leave any more food out, your job is mostly done.
A More Permanent Solution
If simply letting the ants scurry into your wall doesn’t sit well with you, a more permanent solution might be in order. Fortunately, professional services exist which can put an end to the worry of future ant visitation. Utilizing a licenced pest control company is an easy way to take care of your infestation. This means no more unwanted lines of ants in your kitchen when you least expect them.
If you are the DIY-type, this is something you can do on your own as well. Using our DIY pest control kits, your home can be pest-free in no time. Provide us some information on your home and the pests you are seeing and we'll send you everything you need to do a professional-grade treatment all on your own. All of the same effectiveness at a fraction of the cost.
Peace of Mind
Nothing can be more frustrating than having to deal with invaders in your kitchen. With an ongoing, preventative pest control treatment, you can be sure that a stray piece of cookie that slid under the microwave doesn't create a new headache.
If you’re curious to learn more or have any questions, feel free to contact us! We’d love to hear from you.