Fighting an army

Published 8:59 pm Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ants are rarely — if ever — welcome houseguests, but this summer many people are complaining that they’re out and in full force.

According to Brandon Floyd of Suffolk Pest Control, the weather is the cause of the problem.

“This intense heat and lack of rain is driving them indoors,” Floyd said. “Whenever you get extreme weather, it happens. When there’s too much rain, they come indoors. In this case, they’re looking for water and moisture.”

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There are a few things you can do to keep the army of crawling critters at bay.

As in many cases, the best defense is a good offense.

Keep rotting debris or wood out of the yard, keep a barrier between your home and surrounding plants, keep distance between your home and outdoor trashcans and avoid using things in your garden that they love — like pine straw.

“What you have outside has a lot to do with how they get inside,” Floyd said. “Rotting debris or landscape timber is sure to draw them to the yard. They’re also big fans of pine straw, because it holds so much water.”

When items that naturally attract ants — like trees or trashcans — touch the house, they can act as a natural bridge for ants that are crawling on the plants.

A key to the offensive, however, is knowing what ants are after.

While it’s always a good idea to keep pet food and sugar bags in Tupperware containers, “they’ll be able to find food outside, so they’re most likely coming in for water,” Floyd said. “They’ll find it around the sink and window sills that aren’t properly sealed.”

A proactive defense is necessary to keep your home ant-free, because once the ants have breached the perimeter, they’ve already engaged in a full offensive.

“Chances are, by the time you see them in the house, they’ve already been there for quite some time,” Floyd said. “At that point, it’s difficult to get rid of them.”

Besides using the obvious windows and doors, ants will crawl into the walls and often use as entry points electrical outlets, plumbing lines and any gaps between the splash block and the kitchen counter.

“They’ll climb along electrical lines until they reach the outlets, and it’s the same thing with the plumbing lines,” Floyd said. “Make sure you caulk any gaps between the splash block and kitchen counter. That’s another popular entry point.”

Ensuring these areas are treated and properly sealed can help stop the fight before it’s begun.

Once they’re in, however, there are a few ways to beat them back.

Floyd recommends using a chemical inside, where the rain can’t wash it away, and granular bait outside around the perimeter of the house.

“Granular bait is effective, because they’ll carry it back to their colony,” Floyd said. “It’s a good idea to put it in little piles around the perimeter of the house to stop them before they get inside.”

Spraying an aerosol chemical around the baseboards of the inside of the house is recommended as an inside defense.

“You also hear of home remedies like using vinegar,” Floyd said. “That doesn’t necessarily get rid of them. It erases their scent trail, which is what they use to know how to get back to a site.”

The key to winning the war is catching them early, “before you even see them in the house,” Floyd said. “Put bait around the perimeter of the house, wash them off with water, because once they’re inside there is no easy fix, and the longer they’re there, the more difficult it becomes to get rid of them.”