Seeing small red ants in your kitchen may make you want to panic. Do you have an infestation? Are you dealing with fire ants? How do you get the invaders to leave? Follow this guide for answers to these questions.
Identifying the Small Red Ants in Your Kitchen
Many species of ants are easily confused with fire ants. Though you don’t want any ant visitors indoors, correctly identifying the type you’re dealing with will make it easier to pick the best way to get rid of them. For example, some species are attracted to plants you have around the house. These are the small red ants you’re likely to deal with in the United States:
- Argentine ants: These ants have a light brown or reddish body, but you can tell them apart from fire ants by their black heart-shaped abdomen. These ants are roughly 0.13 inches long and build colonies under the shelter of wood, leaves, and stones. They aren’t picky eaters but love sugary substances and protein.
- Caribbean crazy ants: These ants are a golden reddish-brown, making them easy to confuse with fire ants. This species is smaller, though, and doesn’t grow much longer than 0.13 inches. They’re common in Florida and Texas and eat a variety of foods.
- Fire ants: Fire ants are red all over and grow between approximately 0.13 and 0.5 inches long. You can also identify red fire ants by checking their mounds. This species will build colonies without openings in the soil. They use underground tunnels to get access to their nests.
- Odorous house ants: These ants are smaller and darker than fire ants. You can identify them by their smell as well — they emit an odor like rotten coconuts when squished. This species prefers sugars and dead insects.
- Pharaoh ants: Pharaoh ants are small, growing up to approximately 0.063 inches long. This makes them considerably shorter than red fire ants. Pharaoh ants are also more of a reddish brown and have a black abdomen. These ants will eat proteins, sugars, fats, grease, and other insects (dead or alive).
- Pyramid ants: These ants have a red head and thorax but, like Argentine ants, have a black abdomen. They grow about 0.13 inches long and build nests in the sunshine unobstructed by any debris. Pyramid ants have a varied diet that includes fats and oils.
What Draws Ants to Your Kitchen — and How You Can Keep Them Out
Image via Flickr by Charlie Stinchcomb
Ants come into your home to survive. To make your property less appealing to these visitors, consider what ants are looking for and how you can take that away from them:
- Food: Though some ants have dietary preferences, few are picky eaters. The small red ants in your kitchen are likely inside because they’ve found a food source. Prevent this from happening by cleaning up spills and crumbs immediately and performing routine deep cleans.
- Moisture: Ants need food and water to survive. They’ll go wherever they can find both. Some ants also prefer a dark, damp environment where they can build their nests. Many species build colonies in walls or floorboards or use tunnels that other ants or termites have abandoned. Check for leaky pipes that will help sustain an ant population in your home, and look for cracks in the walls or foundation that ants may use to access your property.
- Shelter: Ants are likely to come in your home and hibernate in the winter, where they’ll remain dormant until the weather warms up — meaning you could have an infestation for months and not know it. Some ants may even come inside seeking shelter from the rain. To keep this from happening, use prevention methods like removing debris from your yard and applying a spray of vinegar and water to your doors and windows.
Regions Where You’re Most Likely to Have an Ant Problem
Image via Flickr by emrank
Ants live on every continent except Antarctica, so if you don’t work to deter ants, you could have an infestation in your home. Though ants live everywhere people do, they’re cold-blooded insects that require warmth to live. This means ants are most active in warmer months. Some of the more aggressive and particularly problematic species are abundant in the Southern states, Central America, and the Southern Hemisphere.
Pharaoh ants, for instance, live throughout the United States but thrive in the warm climate of the South. Other species, such as Caribbean crazy ants and red fire ants, proliferate in Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, and similar areas. If you live in one of these regions, take extra precautions to make your home unappealing for ants and make sure you’re maintaining your yard to avoid attracting them.
Getting Rid of Ants in Your Home
When ants find a way into your home regardless of your prevention attempts, you’ll need to step up your efforts to curb an infestation or irradiate a colony that’s already established itself as your new neighbor.
Clean Your Yard
Many ant species love taking shelter under rocks or fallen leaves or building colonies into decaying wood. Maintain your yard to make it less inviting for these insects.
Make a Natural Insecticide
A mix of soap and water sprayed on ants will kill them on the spot. However, this won’t target the colony. If you want to kill the queen and keep more ants from entering your home, pour boiling water or a puree of citrus peels down a mound entrance to kill ants. You can also mix cornmeal with boric acid. Ants will harvest the food and take it back to the colony, killing the queen and her workers.
Hire a Professional
Some of the DIY methods recommended are best for prevention or targeting mounds outside. If you’re dealing with an infestation or find that ants have built nests in your walls, contact a professional for help.
Small red ants in your kitchen will never be a welcome sight. Make your home less appealing for these insects, and reach out to a pest specialist if needed to handle an infestation.