Have you ever left crumbs of food on the floor and accidentally alerted a hoard of ants? While they are mostly harmless, unlike other insects such as ticks and mosquitoes that can cause disease outbreaks, ants can pose a problem if they invade your home. Here's everything you need to know about ants, and how you can keep them from wreaking havoc around your house.
Basic Facts About Ants
Ants are usually present when there are sources of food near their colonies, and usually transport and navigate through places in a straight line. These straight lines are marked by pheromones to help each ant navigate to wherever they are going. This is because ants have poor eyesight, and sometimes only depend on their sense of smell and touch.1 There are also studies that suggest that ants use their legs to sense vibrations in the ground.2
Ants are eusocial insects, which means that they thrive in large groups or populations and have specific divisions in their labor.3 Their colonies comprise of the harvesters, soldiers and the queen.
The majority of the harvesters are female but are sterile because only the queen has the ability to reproduce. Male ants in the colony are only needed for mating and are thus a minority in the ant colony.4 Some ant species are also asexual and depend on cloning to reproduce, which renders the existence of males futile.5
Common Types of Ants
There are various types of ants. Some bite you when they sense that they're going to get crushed, while some just scurry away. It's said that there are hundreds of ant breeds that have not yet been identified, however, the four most common types of ants are the odorous house ant, pavement ant, carpenter ant and fire ant.
• Odorous House Ants — The types of ants that are typically found in a home are the odorous house ants. These are called odorous house ants because they emit a rotten coconut smell when they are crushed. Their nests are usually found in houses, and they often emerge through cracks or holes in the walls. Their diet mostly consists of dead insects and sweets.6
• Pavement Ants — Pavement ants usually live and breed under pavement and inside crack, hence their name. While it is said that the pavement ants' diet is not precise, it means that these ants will eat anything. Their diet consists of insects, grease, seeds, meat, bread, nuts and other food items. Usually, pavement ants don't entirely pose a health threat, but if left alone, they may spread bacteria because of the dirt they leave behind in the food they've crawled on.7
• Fire Ants — Fire ants are known for their distinct red color and extremely painful sting. These ants nest in big mounds of dirt, so destroying these nests is the most effective way to stop them from breeding and getting into your home. They usually enter homes through cracks and holes and are usually seen to feed on leaves and other vegetation.8
Unlike other ants, fire ants are able to adapt to the weather and the environment. The presence of water in their surroundings does not necessarily kill these ants because they can form rafts with their bodies in order to float.9
• Carpenter Ants — These ants build their homes in damp or moldy wood. The presence of carpenter ants usually hints on damage to your homes because they usually build their nests in house supports and beams. But just because they seemingly destroy wood doesn't mean that their diet consists solely of this material — they can thrive on other foods, too. These ants make holes in the wood and deposit the powder they've produced outside of the wall or the tree.10
5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants
If you're trying to get rid of ants in your living space, please note that pesticides are NOT the most ideal solution. These can put your health at risk because of the countless contaminants or toxic substances that you could accidentally ingest or inhale while applying. Instead, try these natural ways to get rid of pesky ants:
1. Sprinkle Pepper — Cayenne pepper will allow you to get rid of ants because they can't stand the scent. Sprinkle it in places where you think the ants enter or where the ants live, and they'll leave because of the scent.11
2. Spray Them With Lemon Water — Mix lemon juice with water and spray where the ants are found. Spray a few times a day and this will typically solve the ant infestation problem in your home.12
3. Use Mint Tea/Leaves — Ants can't stand mint because they loathe strong smells. The next time you drink mint tea, keep the tea bags and put them in areas where there is an ant infestation. If you don't drink mint tea, on the other hand, you can also use mint leaves. Dry the leaves, crush them and sprinkle them where the ants are.13
4. Try Cinnamon — Ants not only hate the strong smell of cinnamon, but this spice also meddles with their senses and stops them from following the pheromone trails. When using cinnamon powder, simply sprinkle it in openings where you suspect the ants are entering your home. You can also use the powder to draw barriers on walls.14
5. Leave Cucumber Pieces in Affected Areas — Ants don't like cucumber's taste, so they will typically go out of their way to avoid this vegetable. Cut up a cucumber and put small pieces in holes or openings where you suspect the ants are entering your home.15
How Do You Prevent an Ant Infestation?
As many of you know, ants love sugary sweets. They are attracted to sugar because it's a high source of energy. Ants are also attracted to food that is left unattended, crumbs that fell when you are eating or any other food source that is accessible to them. If you want to avoid the presence of ants in your homes, here are some tips to keep them out.
• Remove Moisture or Water Sources — Like any living thing, ants need water to live. Eliminating stray water sources or moisture from your homes will prevent these insects from establishing a colony in or near your house.16
• Keep Your House Clean — Ants' food source primarily depends on dead insects or unattended pieces of food. Keeping your house clean and free of leftover food will prevent ants from gravitating towards your home.17
• Remove Materials Where Ants Can Establish Their Nests — Ants establish their colonies in materials that are near a source of food. They also choose debris that will allow them to build their nests. Remove tree stumps, wood, branches and other debris from near your homes.18
• Seal Points of Entry for Ants — This is applicable to houses where ants are just entering the house and have not yet established a colony inside the house itself. Ants find cracks or holes in your homes where they may crawl through. Patching these will help you stop these ants from even getting into your homes.19
Ant invasions aren't rare in households, but the good news is that there are countless ways to deal with these infestations. These simple yet effective natural tips will help you deal with the problem without compromising your health and your family's safety.