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Small black ants have been invading my kitchen. How do I get rid of them?

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Ants invade the home to forage for food, to seek shelter or both. They are often called sugar ants because they are attracted to sweet foods. They enjoy other food and materials as well, including greasy materials, starchy substances, wood and all kinds of plant and animal materials. Part of the reason ants become a nuisance in our homes is that they often like the same kinds of food we do.

Ants often nest outside homes and come indoors at opportune times during the year. In the spring, some species develop wings and fly to new locations. They invade homes to forage for food or to establish a new nest.

Termites also develop wings and swarm during the spring. They look similar to flying ants. Examine them closely to make sure you are seeking treatment for the correct pest. Ants are thin-waisted and have elbowed antennae. Termites have thicker waists and have antennae that resemble strings of tiny beads. You may need a magnifying glass to examine antennal features.

If you find you have termites, contact a local, reputable pest control company. If you have ants, consider these tips for control.

· Install under-door seals to prevent their entry. This is probably the most effective method of control. Also seal cracks and crevices to eliminate passages into the home. If you do not seal entry points, ants will most likely find their way into your home at some later time.Determine which food materials they are feeding on in your home and store those items in airtight containers.

Clean regularly. Ants lay down a scent or pheromone trail for others in the colony to follow. Therefore, regular cleaning with a disinfectant will help eliminate trail-following and more ants. Be sure to clean the floor, along floorboards, on counters, in cupboards and anywhere you find ants foraging. If the above methods don’t work, consider treating doorways, floorboards and other ant-infested areas with an insecticide registered for indoor use. Follow product label directions. Be cautious to keep the chemical away from food, and don't allow children or pets to use the floor area for the period of time recommended on the label. If you are able to locate an ant nesting area outside your home, treat the nest site with insecticide and clean up the area to prevent the ants from reestablishing. For further information on control of ants in the home, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/enviro/pest/factsheets/003-97.htm.

Posted on 18 Feb 2005

Diane Alston
Hort-Entomologist Specialist

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