Ants come and go throughout the year, but no one wants to see ants in the house in the spring. Or at any other time of the year, for that matter! We see them invading homes and making a nuisance of themselves the most during the spring and fall. That’s what makes late winter/early spring such a great time to get ready for them!
Checkout Our Ant Control Guide
In the spring, hungry ants show up and search for somewhere warm with food. Sound familiar? That may sound a lot like your home! If you’re not a pest control expert, it’s difficult even to know where those ants are coming from, which makes controlling them difficult.
The rule of thumb, to manage any pest, is to start by eliminating sites where they can harbor, hide, and breed, and to cut off their food and water sources. By getting that done, you will have done most of the heavy lifting.
Brace and prepare yourself!
Ants feed themselves heartily during the fall to store up body fat for the winter months. Then they close off their nests, and hunker down for the cold weather. They often nest underground, below the frost line. Cold weather makes ants lethargic and slow, so once it warms up, they get active. They begin spring with an appetite, and will head toward food, moisture, and shelter as soon as possible! That means they could head your way before long!
The most common species of ant you’ll encounter are Odorous House ants (also known as sugar ants) and Pavement ants.
Odorous house ants: These ants are usually the first pests you’ll see every spring, measuring up to about one-eighth of an inch. They are smaller and darker than fire ants (usually dark brown to black), and they have a unique odor that smells like rotted coconuts when squished. Odorous house ants prefer sugars and dead insects to eat.
Pavement ants: Pavement ants are a bit smaller than Odorous House ants (about one-tenth of an inch), and are brownish-black in color. They typically build their nests near driveways and patios, and love a wide variety of foods, including sweets, meat, grease, and other insects. Pavement ants bite and even sting if provoked, so watch out!
Ghost Ants: Ghost ants are also known as sugar ants, due to their love for sweets. They are tiny, even for ants, and are known for their signature dark head and pale, see-through abdomen and legs (about one-half to three-quarters of an inch at most). These ants are a tropical species, typically found in warm climates in greenhouses and structures able to provide enough warmth.
Pharaoh Ants: At some point, someone mistakenly named these ants “Pharaoh,” thinking they were the very ant species that plagued Egypt. Another very tiny ant, measuring about 1/16”, they are native to Africa, and currently found throughout the United States. These ants are usually of a pale color (varying from yellowish to reddish), with a dark to black abdomen.
All ant species have their own unique characteristics, but when it comes to food, all ants are the same. They’re hungry and determined to find it! Hence, one of their favorite places to spend time in indoors is the kitchen.
See a fuller list of common household ants here.
What can I do to get ready for the spring ants?
Here are the main things you can do to prepare:
- Turn Over Your Mulch. Hopefully, before it snowed last fall, you thoroughly turned over any mulch in your yard with a rake. If not, put that on your list for this coming fall. Repeat in the spring. This is probably the most important thing you can do, as ants love to burrow and build in rotting mulch piles. The worst thing you can do is to just keep piling fresh, new mulch on top of the previous years.
Keep your yard clean. Thoroughly clean up your yard, in the fall and in the spring. Again, the idea is to get rid of all potential harboring sites where ants might build their colony.
Be sure to get rid of all:
- Man-made clutter
- Piles of grass/leaves
- Trim your lawn, trim the foliage. Keep your grass cut short for as long as weather permits and keep trees/hedges/bushes/plants well-trimmed so they don’t come in contact with your home or business. Keep foliage off of the side of your house or business throughout the season as best you can. This will help keep ants at bay so they can’t enter your by means of overgrown foliage, and they won’t be able to bypass the bait you’ll soon be placing.
- Remove or spray landscape timbers. Wood piles are another ideal spot for ants to make themselves at home. Remove all timbers and woodpiles, or at least spray them down well with insecticide.
- Seal up cracks in the structure. While you’re at it, caulk all cracks and crevices in the foundation, especially around windows and doors. Do the same for gaps where cables, utility lines, and pipes enter the structure.
- Eliminate damp spots and rotted wood. Sometime, late in the winter, you can start the prep work by ensuring there’s a dry barrier around the structure’s foundation and outside walls. Ensure all faucets around the foundation are tightly closed, repair or replace any dripping rain gutters, and move any damp mulch, rotting wood, etc. away from touching the foundation. Don’t let sprinklers spray at the side of your house. Foraging worker ants will be more inclined to avoid areas with no water as they scout around in early spring.
7. Set ant baits. For baiting, bait stations like Maggie’s Farm No Spill Ant Kill work well any time of year. Bait stations don’t immediately kill ants, but worker ants find and consume the bait, then take it back to their colonies to share. Gradually, the bait will kill off all the ants in the colony.
Strategically place your stations under and near sinks and tubs, underneath appliances, in corners, along floorboards, and near areas where ants might access the structure.
When spring ants appear, they will find the bait stations you’ve placed, and not only consume the bait but also take it back to their colonies to share, and subsequently kill off the rest of the ants.
Remember not to place bait stations near areas sprayed with repellent insecticide, and not to spray near the stations once placed.
- Save the aphids! Aphids are tiny insects that live on plants, and excrete sweet honeydew. And if there’s one thing that ants love, it’s honeydew. Keep in mind that if you spray your plants outdoors for aphids, that you’re also eliminating an outdoor food source for the ants. Then there’s a good chance that they’ll head for your kitchen again in search of food.
- Keep the leaves of your indoor houseplants wiped clean, as aphids also excrete honeydew on them, which will, of course, attract ants.
- Never leave food out on the counter or pet food on the kitchen floor; clean up and put away immediately.
- Keep food closed or sealed in packaging store leftovers in air-tight containers.
- Wipe up spills and crumbs immediately.
- Keep garbage stored in sealed trash bags; take trash out frequently.
- Repair any water leaks inside and outside your home, as moisture/water is a huge draw for ants.
Want to know more about ideal gel ant bait placement? It’s all here! (link to Maggie’s Farm No Spill bait station placement blog)
More questions? Hit us up… we’d love to help!