With warmer temperatures and a dry stable climate, life forms which tend to be dormant or inactive during the winter months, reappear in great numbers around us. The ant is one of the most numerous and diverse species which, although beneficial to crops and soil, can also be a nefarious pest when found in the home.
Ants are, so to speak, social animals, in that their colonies are made up of specific castes and roles, much like bees. A colony consists of millions of ants, usually divided into one or more fertile females, known as ‘queens’, fertile males called ‘drones’ and infertile females whose role is usually that of foraging, building the nest, or defending it from predators.
These are usually known as ‘workers’ or ‘soldier ants’. Only ants which can reproduce have wings (be they male or female), as in order to mate, ants have to swarm, i.e. fly, and mate in mid-flight. Queens shed their wings after their nuptial flight, leaving visible stubs. While queens can live up to thirty years and workers from one to three years, males survive for only a few weeks after mating.
Ants feed on different types of food, including starches, meats, fats, and sweets. Nests are usually to be found outside underneath boulders, inside hollowed out wood or under the soil. Therefore, it is rare that ants which are entering your home in order to forage for food, may actually have their nest in your house. Ants usually take regular routes to and from their nest and the food source by establishing a chemical (pheromone) trail. The nest may be found by watching where the ants go. If the nest is discovered, it can be treated or removed.
If, on the other hand, you observe a large number of flying ants in your kitchen and / or other parts of your home, it can be an indication that the ant’s nest IS situated inside the building, as not only the workers are present, but also the fertile members of the colony.
A gaffe most people make when attempting to control ants is only spraying the ones they see. This tactic usually fails because the ants seen foraging over exposed surfaces are only a small part of the colony. Usually, there will be thousands of additional ants including one or more egg-laying queens hidden somewhere in a nest. One must eliminate the queens and other colony members within the nest, in order to completely eradicate the problem.
Needless to say, most chemical products which one usually buys at the store, not only have a strong and bad odour, but are also poisonous when they come in contact with food and kitchen surfaces. It might therefore be a good idea to use more natural and easy to find products to insulate and protect your home against ants. Here are some ideas:
- Garlic Cloves – place garlic cloves in the area where you have seen ants enter the house, such as a window. Ants usually keep away from such strong smells.
- Vinegar – put white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray on areas where you have seen ants. Vinegar is a natural insecticide which will help with the prevention of such pests.
- Black Pepper – sprinkle black pepper on any ants you see and these will scatter. Take notice of where the ants run to, as they could just go back to their nest, and therefore you will be able to identify the source of the invasion.