What Do Ants Eat And How To Avoid Attracting Ants Into Your Home

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At one point or another, most people have ants in their homes. These tiny insects are hard workers, but it doesn’t mean you want them in your house. An ant invasion isn’t a random occurrence, though. One way to manage or prevent this problem is to learn more about ants, what they eat, and what attracts them. That’s exactly the main objective of this post. Read on to learn more about foods that ants eat and how to prevent these little guys from invading your home.

Why do ants invade homes?

From time to time, insects such as ants can sneak into a house through open windows and doors. They do so accidentally. Ant invasions are different, though. They're not an accident. 

Ants come in homes and other indoor areas in the search for nesting habitat or food. The quantity of food doesn’t have to be enormous to attract ants. Even small amounts of food such as bread crumbs or pet food crumbs can attract these insects.

Like many other insects, ants are particularly active in warmer months. That’s why you’ve probably noticed they are more commonly present in your home during summer rather than winter. In hot summer weather, ants may invade your home in search of water. They target bathrooms and other humid areas.

Ants also invade homes during heavy rains. When it rains, ants are forced to relocate from their flooded nests to dry areas, including houses and other buildings.

Evidence confirms that weather conditions determine ant household invasions. The time of the year when they're most active depends on the location, too. That's why in some areas, ant invasions are particularly common in cold and wet conditions.

While ant invasions can affect any home or building, some factors increase the risk. Common risk factors include:

  • Leaving out food across different surfaces in your home
  • Presence of left-behind grease or food residue
  • Sticky garbage
  • Leaky pipes and faucets
  • Having decaying wood around the home

What do ants eat?

Generally speaking, ants are omnivores, i.e., they eat everything. Specific diets may vary from one species to another. In nature, ants eat:

  • Leaves
  • Seeds
  • Milk (honeydew) of aphids
  • Small dead or alive invertebrates 
  • Nectar (sap of plants and fruits)

Ants are known for their strength and dedication to carry food 10 times their weight back to the nest. 

In homes, ants add new foods to their diet. Since there are many species of ants, pest control experts classify them into those preferring sugary and greasy foods. The first group devours sugar or anything sweet, while the second group loves fatty foods and ingredients.

Below, you can learn more about foods in your home that ants find particularly attractive.

Sugar 

Ants love sugar. A lot! Sugar can boost energy levels, and ants understand that. For that reason, ants strive to take advantage of any source of sugar they find. That's why they love nectar and fruits in nature. It's also an explanation for their “obsession” with anything sweet in your home. Sugar gives ants enough energy for the day. 

Yet another reason ants love sugar is that it’s not difficult to carry. Sugar particles are lightweight and a much more practical option than heavier particles for carrying long distances. 

In addition to sugar itself, ants love candies and basically everything else that’s sweet.

Honey

High sugar content is the reason ants love honey. The more diluted the honey, the more the ants are attracted to it. Most people think that pure honey doesn't attract ants, but the truth is it does. Anything nutritious can attract ants, and honey is a good source of sugar, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Ants love honey because it can give them energy, and it's easy to digest.

Bread

Although not as delicious as sugar and honey, bread is a target for many ant species. Bread is a good source of fast-acting carbohydrates that boost ants’ energy levels. Additionally, breadcrumbs are easy to handle and give ants a great deal of abundance. 

Meat

Inside our homes, ants are also attracted to meat. Remember, they’re omnivores. Like humans, ants need protein for growth. Meat is among the best source of protein. Plus, meat is a good source of healthy fats they need.

Grease

Some ants are attracted to grease as well as meat. They can eat anything oily or fatty. For that reason, some people may notice ants on kitchen surfaces with greasy residues and food spills. Grease ants are particularly attracted to these foods. Interestingly, they’re among the most stubborn and persistent pests.

Seeds and grains

Some ants are vegan. For that reason, they may be attracted to plant-based foods, including plants themselves, grains, and seeds. Leaf-cutter ants are attracted to plants mainly. But they don’t eat them. Instead, they cut sections of leaves and take them to their nests. Leaves serve as fertilizers to grow fungus. Then, ants eat the fungus.

Ants aren't picky. They can eat different kinds of seeds and grains, including barley, wheat, rice, flower seeds, sunflower seeds, and corn, among others. 

They like seeds and grains because they can store them in their nests. 

Water

While not food per se, water is necessary for the survival of all living beings on the planet. Ants aren’t excluded from that rule. They need water to live, which is why they may appear in humid parts of the house, as previously stated.

Fruits and vegetables

First, it's important to clarify ants aren't vegetable garden pests. But, they can be frustrating to deal with, and they may also target fruits and vegetables in your home. They target fruits due to their sugar content, especially juicy varieties. Ants can eat peaches, oranges, berries, strawberries, pumpkins, melons, cucumber, lettuce, and other types of produce.

Peanut butter

Although this may seem like a surprise, ants love peanut butter. Why? Peanut butter is a good source of both protein and fat. Ants need both to grow and survive, thus keeping their colonies alive. Plus, peanut butter has decent sugar content.

How do ants get into the house?

Since ants are small, they can get into the house easily. In most cases, they get inside through open doors and windows, wall cracks, floor, gaps in the foundation, and plants. Cracks and gaps don't have to be big. Even tiny cracks can serve as entry points for ants. 

Ants are explorers. They can go to different places in search of food or water. So, a sudden ant invasion in your home could indicate there’s food inside that attracts them.

How to avoid having ants in your home

Ant invasions aren’t uncommon, but there’s a lot you can do to avoid them. Things you can do to prevent or reduce the risk of having ants in your house are listed below.

Store food properly

Considering that food is a major target for ants, it’s important to store it properly. All food should be stored in air-tight, sealed containers. Ants can’t sneak into these containers, which is why they’re a perfect choice. By storing food properly, you’ll reduce the risk of ant invasion. Since they can’t reach the food, they are generally not attracted to it.

Keep the surfaces clean

As seen above, ants also target areas with food residues, grease, sticky garbage, and other things. Keeping your home clean is essential. In addition to storing food adequately, having clean surfaces at home is the best thing you can do to prevent the invasion of ants. 

To avoid these tiny invaders, you need to clean up dirty dishes and avoid piling them. It's useful to wash the dishes after every meal, so that dirty pots, plates, and utensils don't attract pests. 

Yet another important thing to do is to vacuum and sweet regularly. Doing so helps get rid of crumbs to which ants are attracted too. This is particularly important in areas where food is consumed, e.g., kitchen and dining room.

Sticky substances attract ants. So, to avoid this scenario, it's useful to wipe down all common surfaces such as counters, tables, workbenches, and others. Use apple cider vinegar or cleaning products with a powerful yet gentle formula without harsh ingredients.

Take care of cracks and gaps

Ants can pass through even the tiniest cracks and gaps. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t ignore them. Taking care of cracks on walls or gaps around the house, you get to prevent ants from entering your home. It’s particularly important to seal cracks around doors and windows or home foundations. Since sealants degrade over time, you may want to inspect them occasionally to see whether some areas need to be fixed. When you detect signs of degradation, don't wait; act immediately.

Eliminate ant trails

If you have already had ants in your home, there’s a good chance to prevent this scenario from repeating. Do you remember how or where they got in? If you know their trails, it’s easy to eliminate them. One thing you can do is apply a mixture of water and vinegar along the trail.

Remove water sources

Removing a water source gives you an advantage in the fight against ant invasion or preventing it. You should always bear in mind that ants look for water. So, after cleaning and washing in your kitchen or bathroom, you should always dry off the surfaces. Also, take care of plumbing, especially if there are leaks. All pipes, faucets, and everything regarding plumbing should function properly, without leakages.

Repel ants

It’s not uncommon for people to try to repel ants in a natural manner. They do so by sprinkling black pepper, cinnamon, or cayenne pepper on windows and other entry points. While more research on this subject is necessary, current evidence shows natural compounds have great potential.

Control colonies on your property 

Invasion of ants in your home happens when they move from the outside, i.e., your property. Inspect your backyard, lawn, and other areas to see whether ants have nests somewhere close. The best thing to do is to call pest control experts, i.e., professionals, to handle their nests. If you can't find the nest, you can also have them find the nest for you. Professionals handle this problem in an effective but environmentally-friendly manner. 

How to get rid of ants in your home?

Ants have managed to invade your home, and now what? The following tips could help you out:

  • Avoid using harsh pesticides
  • Contact pest control experts to help you get rid of ants successfully
  • Identify their favorite food and use it as bait to get as many ants as possible before you spray them with an ant remover product.
  • Combine glass cleaning spray and dish soap into a clean spray bottle and spray it on the entry points where you see ants. Once you spray, wipe down the area.
  • Make a mixture of 10 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil and two cups of water. Use the mixture to spray baseboards and windows.
  • Instead of peppermint essential oils, you can use tea tree oil, lemon eucalyptus oil, and other essential oils. 
  • Check houseplants to see whether they’re housing ants
  • Rinse pet food bowls after a pet is done eating

Conclusion

Ants often invade houses in the search for food and water. These omnivores are attracted to different types of food, although specifics may vary from one species to another. However, they are major fans of sugar since it boosts their energy levels and it's easy to carry. Although most ants are harmless, they can carry bacteria and thereby participate in the transmission of some diseases. Invasion of ants isn’t something to ignore. Keep your home clean, surfaces dry, and store food properly. Wash dishes immediately after using them. You can help manage ant invasion or prevent it by regularly cleaning and vacuuming your home. Since ants can be persistent, it's also useful to contact professionals. 

References 

https://news.stanford.edu/pr/01/ants45.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7694179/

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