While ants have a place in the environment, they do not have a welcome place inside the home. Different types of ants have different negative effects inside the home; carpenter ants cause damage to woodwork and annoy home occupants, while sugar or pavement ants can infest cupboards, making food unsanitary and costing homeowners hundreds on grocery bills. Understanding how common house ants operate will help prevent an ant colony from invading the home.
Most ants feed on sweet and sugary foods, such as honey, jelly and syrup, though grease and protein-rich foods are attractive to some ants. Upon discovery of a food source, ants form a trail between their nest and the food source, and hundreds to thousands of ants will travel to and from the food. The more plentiful the food source is, the more ants it will attract. Counter tops and the areas under the refrigerator and around the stove are common places for deposits of food residue, and these places easily become congregation areas for ants. To prevent an ant invasion in the home, the best defense is to eliminate their food supply. Keeping the kitchen tidy and quickly cleaning up any spills will keep the ants at bay and force them to forage elsewhere for food. Taking the trash out often will also decrease the likelihood of an ant invasion.
Many types of yard plants attract insects that produce honeydew, such as aphids and mealy bugs. These deposits of honeydew will attract ants and their colonies. In addition, nectar-producing plants or sweet fruit trees can attract foraging ants. While plants and trees add value and beauty to the home, homeowners must take precautions to keep ants nesting in these plants from invading the home. Gardeners should avoid planting trees and shrubs near the house and should keep the perimeter of the home free of grass and mulch. Removing overhanging tree limbs that touch the house will also eliminate the ant's access. Controlling infestation of honeydew-producing insects is another way to prevent ant infestations. Checking indoor plants can also prevent problems inside the home.
Ants often like to make their homes in rotting wood, such as tree stumps and piles of firewood so eliminating these can prevent infestations. Some ants also nest in decaying wood found in the structure of a home. Moist places, such as water-damaged woodwork and areas along water heaters and pipes, attract ants as well. Replacing water-damaged or rotting woodwork will prevent ants from nesting inside the home. Sealing cracks and crevices around areas where pipes and wires enter the house will block ant access to the indoors as well.