What’s Causing Ants In Your Home & How To Get Rid Of Them

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You’re sitting down on a Sunday morning, ready to pour maple syrup over your hot, tantalising pancakes. But as the syrup flows over your breakfast treat, you notice some small dark flecks which, to your horror, are moving. You push your plate away in disgust; ant pancakes were not on the menu.

Small, pervasive and sometimes biting, ants have irritated humans throughout the centuries, spoiling food, infesting houses, and ruining gardens. Which begs the question, why do they sneak their way into our homes? Followed by the equally important question, how do we get rid of them?

Below, we’ll look at the causes of ant infestations and some of the problems they create, followed by the ant treatments available – to give them a not-so-fond farewell.

Why do ants invade?

Ants are important little creatures, in an ecological sense. They scavenge, prey on garden pests, and spread seeds and pollen. Like most other common household pests, ants need food, water and a safe place to live. By limiting their access to these essentials, ants are unlikely to hang around.

Ants are attracted to moisture in and around the house. If you have pooling water, perhaps a small puddle from a leaky garden tap or a pet’s water bowl sitting in the laundry, you may find ants setting up camp nearby.

Due to their teeny tiny size, the smallest of crumbs can feed a colony for days. Any unsealed food, including maple syrup in the pantry, acts as a beacon to hungry ants. You can be sure that leaving dirty dishes or bowls of pet food lying around is highly attractive too.

Setting up a safe nest that will fit a large colony and is close to all the amenities isn’t too much of a problem for our industrious friends. Ants love overgrown vegetation, mulch and outdoor pots that are close to the house, as they provide a great base from which to forage indoors.

Why are ants a problem?

Of the 4,000+ species in Australia, very few ants are considered pests – and most of those are introduced species. Ants become pests when they cause damage, namely to food, gardens, and structures.

Ants invading food stores is a significant problem. They can very quickly turn pantry items into dust and easily crawl into spread jars, especially jams and honey. As the ants move from their nests and inside into the kitchen, they spread disease along the way. Whilst they don’t cause harm directly to humans, they do spread food-borne diseases because of their scavenging nature.

Depending on the species of ant, a small colony is capable of inflicting big damage to electrical wiring, structural wood and gardens. Singapore ants enjoy nesting near power sockets and irrigation. They nibble on irrigation pipes and electric wire, causing short circuits and even house fires. Argentine ants, on the other hand, ward off the natural predators of farm aphids, allowing them to suck the goodness out of vegetable and flower plants, therefore destroying the crop. 

Preventing the ant invasion

Prevention is better than waging a war against ants. You’ll save time, frustration and money by taking some simple steps to guard your home. 

Remove overgrown vegetation close to the house, put pet food and water bowls away at night, and tidy crumbs and dirty dishes straight away. Sealing cracks and gaps around windows and doors, and fixing damaged pipes and taps will also make your place less inviting.

Getting rid of the ants

Now we come to the million-dollar question: how can I get rid of an ant infestation? If you see a few ants here and there that aren’t causing any damage then you might choose to leave them be, or use a DIY solution. For larger colonies, bringing in a professional pest controller is the best way to go.

DIY

DIY short-term solutions are cheaper than calling in a pest inspector but are often less effective, particularly against large colonies. Natural deterrents include diatomaceous earth, vinegar, pepper, and essential oils including lavender and citrus. Chemical solutions come in powders, gels and granules, and are available from most supermarkets and hardware stores. 

Pest controllers

To get on top of an intrusive ant colony, a professional pest controller is a necessity. To minimise damage to the surrounding environment, choose a company that uses ant treatments which are pet, child and plant-friendly.

 

A pest controller will look for ant trails and nests, determine the invading species and decide on the treatment that best suits the problem. The treatment might be natural or chemical depending on the species, existing damage and the colony size, but they’ll be able to talk you through the best options. 

Ants may be essential members of our natural world, but when they start ransacking our cupboards, or start fires behind the power socket, they turn into a pest that needs to go. For big colonies, seek professional help from pest controllers. 

When the problem has been dealt with, follow the tips above… to keep them from making an unwanted reappearance in your pancakes.

 

Mick Pacholli

Mick created TAGG - The Alternative Gig Guide in 1979 with Helmut Katterl, the world's first real Street Magazine. He had been involved with his fathers publishing business, Toorak Times and associated publications since 1972.  Mick was also involved in Melbourne's music scene for a number of years opening venues, discovering and managing bands and providing information and support for the industry. Mick has also created a number of local festivals and is involved in not for profit and supporting local charities.        

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