That’s the header for a Texas A&M Bulletin that came up when I went searching for an answer to the question “Is the home invasion by ants this season related to our drought?” The answer is “yes”—in North Carolina, too. And because a single colony can be thousands of ants, you may see ants trailing into your kitchen, bathroom, or anywhere in your home they find water or food.
Ants that come inside
When outdoor temperatures get hotter and conditions get drier, humans aren’t the only ones coming indoors for water and food. Ants, particularly tiny (1/8-inch) odorous house ants, are marching inside, too. Odorous house ants, Argentine ants, and acrobat ants are all attracted to sweet substances indoors. Little black ants and pavement ants are also home invaders, and they are attracted to both greasy and sweet foods.
Ants as outdoor pests
All these ant species feed on the sweet honeydew produced by aphids, scale, and whiteflies. Ants can become a serious problem outdoors, too, by protecting these pests from natural enemy predation.
What to do?
Perhaps when “more normal” weather returns these ants will go back outdoors, but don’t count on it. Practice careful sanitation indoors: quickly wipe up any ants that you find and clean the surface they’re on with soapy water. Try to eliminate attractive food sources by storing foods in ant-proof containers. Treatment with household insecticides may be helpful, but baits must be attractive to the particular ant species invading your home.
Caulk or block any access points to the inside of the building, such as around doors, windows, electrical wires/outlets, water pipes, and foundation cracks. Look around outside to eliminate nesting areas and food sources near your home. Keep mulch, plants, and piles of any kind—firewood, stones, and so on—away from your foundation. Trim shrubs and trees that bear fruits, berries, or are susceptible to honeydew-producing pests so they are not touching your house.
And pray for rain!
Article written by Glenn Palmer, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.
Photograph: “Ants Ants Ants” by Faris Algosaibi, https://www.flickr.com/photos/siraf72/with/11500322673
To learn more, visit https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/ants.htm