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Keeping ants out of the house

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ants might be tiny pests but they can be a gigantic nuisance for homeowners, especially in the spring and summer when they are most active.

Luckily, there are steps families can take to keep ants from entering the house.

Generally, ants are looking for food and or shelter when they come inside, said Kevin Shelton, Extension coordinator, Pesticide Safety Education program at Oklahoma State University.

“Thorough sanitation and good housekeeping are probably the most important things you can do to control and prevent pests, but sometimes even well-kept homes have problems,” Shelton said.

Ants feed on sweets, starches, greasy or fatty foods and other food materials. To make the home less attractive, food should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer or if left out, food should be sealed in plastic, metal or glass containers.

Pet food and birdseed should be kept in sealed containers and stored away from the kitchen, while outdoor pets should be fed away from the house.

“Remove clutter in rooms, the garage and storage areas to eliminate areas where pests could hide,” Shelton said. “Clean up areas where grease, food scraps and and other spillage collects to remove possible food sources. Make sure that unwashed dishes, pot and pans are not left on the counter or in the sink.”

Outside, homeowners should clean up grass cuttings, leaves and dead foliage from around the foundation of the house to reduce potential hiding places for all types of pests.

Identifying where ants are entering the home and foraging for food will increase the chances of successfully controlling or getting rid of the infestation.

Nests can be sizable and tend to be closer to the house in the mulch or leaf litter during warmer months of the year.

Ant colonies also may be found in wall voids or behind bricks on the house, particularly in the late fall or winter, as well as in flower pots, window boxes and other containers for soil.

“Homeowners can usually control moderate infestations of pests by carefully following the label directions on pesticide containers and doing a thorough job of application,” Shelton said.

In addition to using dusts or liquids, baits may be effective, if placed in an area where ants are present.

Do-it-yourself-minded homeowners may try mixing 3 teaspoons of boric acid powder and 10 ounces of syrup in a small container. This bait should be kept away from children and pets.

Severe, widespread or persistent ant infestations may require the services of a pest control professional.

For more information on how to control ants contact the county Extension office and download OSU Fact Sheets EPP-7312, “Household Pest Control” and EPP-7306, “Ornamental and Lawn Pest Control for Homeowners” at

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