Ants abound in my kitchen. They usually enter homes after heavy rain like we had earlier this summer and seek out any sweet treat that may be on the kitchen counter. After cleaning out the cabinets, securing better food storage, and disrupting their ant trails with a solution of water and apple vinegar multiple times, they are still entering the home but have been disrupted.
The next and most important step is to find their nest. Many ants enter homes from outside nests looking for food. To find their nest, you must trace the ant trail back to the origin. My ant visitors are using the compost bin outside our kitchen window as nesting. If the nest is discovered, it can be treated. If it is not clear where the ants are entering, treat a four-foot-wide area around your house. We have not sprayed but have moved our compost bins away from the house.
For most, the nesting sites will be in soil under objects outside like stones, boards, firewood and blocks. They can also nest in wall spaces and under floors of your home. Repair and caulk cracks that may allow them access to your home. Some homeowners may want to contact a professional or use sweet baits to manage kitchen ants.
These ants you see wandering around the kitchen are the wingless sterile female worker. They come from a colony of winged female queens and winged males. In June on calm sunny days they may swarm and aggregate to mate. The winged females leave to find a nest site and the males are left to die. The queen is larger and loses her wings once she has established a nest and may live for multiple years laying eggs.
Most swarming ants cause concern in homeowners because they believe them to be termites. However, identification between the two is simple. Winged ants have shorter back wings than the front and termites’ wings are of equal length. Ants have antennae that are in an elbowed shape and have thin waists between the thorax and abdomen.
Pest management recommendations from the University of Illinois advise applying sprays or granules of beta-cyflurthrin, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, permethrin, zeta-cypermethriin and watering in afterward directly to individual nests. Always read the labels of pesticides before using them.
Unless they are causing damage, ants are considered beneficial, as they aerate the soil.
Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties. For more information, contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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