WASHINGTON – Some small, sneaky insects with a taste for sweets could be marching into your house right now.
“This is the time of the year that ants become active,” says Mike Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland.
“If you’ve got a little bit of molasses on your countertop or maybe some honey up in the closet and they find it, they’re coming inside,” Raupp says.
He says if you see a single ant wandering around, it’s likely a scout on the hunt for something tasty.
“Once they find the molasses, what they do is they grab some of the molasses, they imbibe it or ingest it, and then on the way back to the colony they lay down the pheromone trail. So when they get home, the other ants say, ‘Oh baby this is really good,’ and the pheromone trail is already laid. So instead of one scout randomly searching, you now have a whole stream of workers coming in following the pheromone trail. The more workers that use the trail, the stronger the signal gets,” Raupp says.
Step one: Figure out what’s attracting the ants.
If it’s a kitchen cupboard, for instance, seal items such as sugar and honey. And clean up any spills of things like pancake syrup.
Step two: Buy some ant bait.
“These baits contain pesticides that the worker ants will take back to the nest and poison the queen. What I do, is I find out where the ants are entering. Usually it’s around my patio door. I’ll find the trail. I’ll put some ant bait on the inside where they enter, and on the outside where they enter my home. And usually within a matter of a week or perhaps 10 days, those trails will decline and finally the foraging will stop. The ants will be gone.”
Step three: Use a household cleaner to sweep away any of those chemical trails ants have left behind.
A WTOP staff member was recently surprised to find ants living in a fairly new coffeemaker, so WTOP asked Raupp how to get rid of them.
One way, he says, is to seal the coffeemaker in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three days.
Another chemical-free way to kill the insects is to use heat.
Raupp says you could put it in a warm, 130-degree to 150-degree oven for a while, or seal it in a black plastic bag and set it outside in the sun for a few hours.