Ticks – eww. Is the first thing that comes to mind Lyme Disease? Or, maybe you think of a parasite meant for animals rather than humans. Or, perhaps you haven’t...
How can you tell when it’s summer? For some, it’s the longer days filled with sunshine or the sound of children on break from school, but for others, it’s the ants. As soon as the weather warms in spring and the moisture increases, so does the ant activity.
You notice them in parking lots, sidewalks, and worst of all, sometimes inside your house. While most of them are harmless, they still aren’t an insect you want to share your home with.
Where Do Ants Live?
Broadly speaking, ants can be found on every continent around the world except Antarctica (talk about irony!). Considering there are more than 12,000 different species of ants in the world, their habitat varies greatly. They live in large groups called colonies. Outdoors, they typically nest underground in anthills or inside trees. If they make their way inside, nests can be found inside the walls and voids of a house or building, behind baseboards, moldings, and countertops.
Like any other living creature, they have basic needs. When thinking about where ants live, you should think about why they are there and what they are attracted to. They will seek places with food, water, and shelter. Many ant colonies exist outside, but the worker ants will forage for food in the surrounding areas. Most of them leave pheromone trails that may be followed by others to help locate food sources from nest sites. This may be why you see a trail of them wandering across the kitchen counter, or near the bathroom sink – they will come into your home and take what they need, bringing it back to the nest for the rest of the colony.
Although they can survive almost anywhere, it’s where ants live in a house that causes people the most concern. There are a few types that are common household pests in the United States. Two, in particular, can cause problems for people.
- Carpenter ants – Like termites, they can cause structural damage to trees, homes, buildings, furniture, and decorative wood.
- Fire ants – These insects can be aggressive and will sting anyone or anything that gets in their way. While one or two stings are an itchy nuisance, multiple stings can cause a severe reaction.
How Do They Make Their Way Inside?
Ant Farms aside, there are many ways these critters can enter a home. But, the most alarming fact about finding an ant in the house is that there is never just one. They are social insects so they live, work, and travel in large numbers.
Like other household pests, they enter your home wherever they find a way. Here are a few examples:
- Using gaps around doors
- Holes in window screens
- Cracks in a building’s foundation
- Openings around plumbing or electrical outlets.
They can also hitchhike into your home when you bring something inside from the outdoors. Things like a potted plant, fresh-cut flowers, produce from the garden, boxes from the garage, or new items you’ve recently purchased all offer opportunities for uninvited insects to get inside your home.
They can be identified by their large heads, elbow antennas, and node-like bodies.
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More About Ant Habitats
Each ant colony is made up of different types of ants called castes. A single colony can exist for many years with the same queen ant, but the male ants and female workers have shorter life cycles. When the queen stops producing a certain pheromone, workers begin to raise new queens in the colony.
Ants eat many different kinds of food, and their preferences change depending on the time of the year. In the spring, when they are preparing to mate and lay eggs, they prefer a high protein diet. They may eat meat scraps left in the trash, roadkill, other insects, or fats like grease, oil, and butter. Later in the summer, when a new generation of larvae requires lots of food to grow, and workers are busy expanding the nest and maintaining the colony’s tunnels, they will seek carbohydrates to eat for energy. At this time, they will be attracted to sweets such as crumbs and leftovers, spilled drinks, honeydew, and garden produce.
No matter how or why these pests have made it into your home, most people agree that getting them out is necessary.
Preventing Infestations Inside Your Home
Many ants will survive and thrive both indoors and out, as long as there is food for them to consume. They do have a role to play in any ecosystem, so trying to eradicate them may not be the best choice, especially since they are relatively harmless. They play an important role in the decomposition of organic matter, and their underground tunneling helps aerate the soil, promoting the healthy growth of lawns, gardens, and farm crops.
All of that aside, wanting to get rid of the ones inside your home is perfectly understandable. Learn how to get rid of ants naturally and how to prevent them from creating new nests in your home.