What Are Ants Looking For In My House?
You may think of your home as your castle, but ants see it as a 24-hour feed and forage station filled with a buffet of tasty morsels. And like people, ants are omnivores. This means they can—and will—eat just about anything. This is a prime survival trait for the 12,000 species of ants living in the wild. They eat animals, insects, fungi, seeds, vegetables, grasses, and fruit. Some ants even practice cannibalism, preying on eggs, larvae, and young ants of other species.
Fortunately, ants don’t eat people, at least those who can defend themselves. But they will eat almost anything people eat. And the little critters are voracious. Ants eat about 30 percent of their body weight every day. In addition, an average ant makes about 30 foraging trips every day to carry food back to the colony. The total trips may add up to 50 times the ant’s body weight. This means a typical colony with a million ants will consume around 4.5 pounds of food per day!
All that food has to come from somewhere, most likely your kitchen. Among the most common ants, the little yellowish-brown grease ant (technically known as thief ants) will travel furthest from its colony to eat your meats, nuts, cheeses, peanut butter, and sweets. These tiny thieves are only 1/16th of an inch long and can easily slip through screens and cracks around doors and windows.
Sugar ants are not much bigger than the greasers but can be just as
pesky. In the wild, these critters prefer nectar and protect aphids
from other predators in order to harvest their sweet, sweet plant
juice. In your house, sugar ants will seize on drops of spilled soda
and fruit juice along with donuts, cookies,
cakes, cake mixes, cereal, sugar, and so on.
Fortunately ants don’t want to live in your house, they only want to visit to obtain food (and water). If you want to put a crimp in their party plans, eliminate obvious sources of food such as items left on countertops and in open containers in your pantry. Put all open food packages in airtight containers. Clean up spilled food in cupboards, splatters on and around the stove, and juice and soda sloshes. Take out the trash and use an all-purpose cleaner to sanitize the area around trash baskets. Finally, place some ant bait stations around the house to eliminate the ants you see and those living in the colonies plotting the next home invasion.