Now that weather has warmed up, folks are starting to see ants indoors and calling the extension office for help. Most of the time, these ants are living in outdoor colonies and find their way inside the house through tiny cracks around the foundation or under doors or windows. They don’t need much of a space to come indoors.
The most common ants people are seeing right now are odorous house ants. If you smash these odorous house ants (ick!), you’ll notice they smell like coconut, which is how they get their name. Odorous house ants are one of the ant species sometimes called “sugar ants” because they are attracted to sweets. When it gets warmer, they feed on honeydew produced by aphids, mealy bugs and scale insects living outdoors. So, once it warms up and these honeydew producing insects become established in the landscape, the ants will stay outdoors to feed.
It’s helpful to make sure there’s nothing sweet on the counter that will attract more ants. The first “scout” ant will deposit a trail pheromone that tells other ants to “follow this trail” because there’s food on on your counter.
Controlling ants is hard because to really get rid of them, you have to eliminate the ant colony. Insecticides used to treat foraging ants will kill a few ants, but won’t eliminate the colony.
You have four options when dealing with ants coming in from outdoors:
1. Ignore the ants, realizing in a couple weeks they are likely to disappear on their own. (During this time, keep countertops clean to discourage them!)
2. Find the colony and treat it yourself. With a registered product, of course.
3. Use a bait product. This might work for odorous house ants because they are attracted to sweet baits. Not all ant species will be attracted to baits…if your ants don’t eat the bait, check out what kind of ants you have by taking them to an expert.
4. Hire a pest control professional to treat ants for you. Pest control companies use professional-use products unavailable to consumers.
For more information, check out our webpages about ants. http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/ants.shtml
Barb Ogg, Extension Educator
The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit with your local extension office.