We like to think of our kitchens as peaceful places where tasty food is abundant. Unfortunately, ants seem to think the same if given the chance.
While poor cleaning habits are more likely to attract ants to your kitchen, it’s not uncommon for them to target the cleanest spaces. They prefer easy access to food and water, but they’ll take anything you have to offer.
It’s not always clear why they’ve infiltrated your home, but we can help you discover the root of the issue. Keep reading to learn more about why you have ants in your kitchen and what you can do to get rid of them (and keep them away for good).
Why Ants Infiltrate the Kitchen?
Ants may commandeer your kitchen for a variety of reasons, most of which surrounding food. The most common culprits include:
- Crumbs on, around, or under cabinets and tables
- Spilled food or drinks (especially if they’re not cleaned properly and leaves residue)
- Dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter
- Crumbs and grease on unwashed pet food containers; pet water bowls
- Poorly sealed food containers
- Food residue in your trash can (leaking garbage bags)
Ants are also attracted to water from dripping faucets, leaky pipes, or water in the dishwasher drain
This doesn’t mean your house is dirty. Sometimes they enter the kitchen just because they can. You might have miniscule cracks or holes in your walls, door frames, or window frames, or damage to screens you didn’t notice.
Anything that touches your home on the outside also encourages them to venture inside, especially if you’ve experienced heavy rainfall in your area.
Identifying Ants in the Kitchen
Ants are very skinny with a narrow waist between the abdomen and thorax. They have versatile mandibles for battling and eating, as well as antennas with a small bend on the inside.
Carpenter ants appear similar to adult termites, but their wings are much stronger (whereas termite wings usually break off). They’re the least likely to infiltrate your kitchen because they would rather go after wood.
Other ants to consider are:
- Pharaoh ants
- Pavement ants
- Odorous house ants
- Thief ants
- Argentine ants
You will usually notice a colony somewhere on your property. You can follow the ant trail outside your home to locate the ant colony and more easily identify the species of ant you’re dealing with.
How Ants Lead Their Colony to Your Kitchen
There are thousands of species of ants across the globe, but they all operate in a similar fashion. They create nests to protect the colony, but will send out scouts to find water sources and food sources.
As the scouts return to the nest, they leave behind a pheromone trail for the other ants to follow so they can effectively harvest the rest of what the scout found. The others follow this trail as closely as possible (resulting in the uniform lines you see to and from the mound).
Scouts are most attracted to odorous foods, particularly the sweet scents and syrup goodness we keep in our pantries.
Getting Rid of Ants in Your Kitchen
Getting rid of ants in your kitchen is easy, but only if you approach the issue from all sides.
In short, you must:
- Locate the colony
- Lay out bait traps
- Seal off their entry location
- Follow up with a contact killer
This will not only get rid of the ants in your kitchen, but it will prevent reinfestation and allow you to move forward with peace of mind.
Locate the Colony
Make the ant trail work for you and follow it back to where the ants are coming from. It may take you along an odd path, but you should eventually find the nest so you can monitor your progress moving forward.
Keep in mind that the mound is only a fraction of what’s actually going on. Ants dig deep underground, sometimes as far as 25 feet, to build a safe and secure home. This is why it is so important to use bait traps that they take to the depths of their home to deal with the entire community.
Bait Traps and Gel
Bait traps are designed to be irresistible and slow-acting. They attract the ants with the sweet smell of rotting food, and ride back to the colony without any hint that the bait trap will soon take them out.
Bait gel works similarly, but you simply apply it where they’re walking so they pick it up as they march along.
This approach allows you to infiltrate the colony (similarly to how they infiltrated your kitchen) and prevent the ants from returning in great numbers to infest your home once more.
Seal Their Method of Entry
Your bait trap should tell you how long it takes to see results. If not, give it at least 48 hours before you block off their entry point. This is ample time for them to get back to the nest, but not so long that they can recover from the poison.
You want to seat the area you know they’re coming through as well as any other areas you noted in your inspection. Use caulk or joint compound to fill any cracks or crevices, and consider leaving more ant bait or boric acid around the area.
They’ll likely return to the spot, but they shouldn’t be able to get through.
Only use a contact killer after you’ve given the bait traps time to work. Otherwise you risk killing the ants before they can take the bait back to their nest, rendering the whole operation obsolete.
Insecticides that kill on contact are great for peace of mind because you aren’t left wondering about their efficacy; you can see them working right before your eyes.
There are plenty of ant sprays on the market that come highly recommended. Choose one that you’re comfortable with that has positive, honest reviews. Follow the instructions closely, paying close attention to any safety precautions you should take.
When spraying poison in the kitchen it’s best to remove any food, utensils, or appliances from the area. Food that the ants have touched can go in the trash outside.
After you’ve sprayed the area and left enough time for it to work, make sure you follow up with a quick clean of any surfaces or items it came in contact with. This will keep your family and pets healthy moving forward.
DIY Contact Ant Killer
While their efficacy is disputed, you can make your own ant killer using either water and dish soap or water and vinegar (or use both recipes for greater results).
Mixing water with a few drops of dish soap will create a spray that traps and suffocates the ants. You can wipe them away after giving them enough time to drown.
The 1:1 water and vinegar mix interferes with the pheromone trail left by scout ants, and it may kill some workers in the process. This will confuse ants trying to follow the trail.
How to Keep Future Ants out of Your Kitchen
Unfortunately, you can’t just move on with your life once you get rid of the ants. You need to identify the problem that brought them in and do everything you can to prevent attracting them back.
- Thoroughly cleaning up food messes immediately
- Repairing any leaky faucets or pipes
- Taming rogue landscaping
- Creating a barrier to deter ants from venturing insides
With proper organization, habits, and preventative measures, you shouldn’t see ants inside again.
1. Clean up Food Immediately
This can be especially difficult if you have kids or animals in the home that make food messes without any concern over who they may attract inside. Do your best to clean up these messes (with more than a dry rag or water if need be) as soon as they occur.
Wash and dry pet bowls daily, and make sure you store all your food in airtight containers. They don’t need to be fancy matching glass containers, but they should be well constructed to keep ants and other pests outside.
Rinse your dishes and put them in the dishwasher as soon as you’re done with them, or, better yet, wash them and set them in the drying rack.
You may also need to switch to a tougher trash bag or a more secure trash can if that’s what was inviting the ants into your kitchen. Sweep, mop, or vacuum daily to catch any crumbs you may have missed.
2. Repair any Leaks
This goes for drains that are collecting water as well. It may not bother you much right now, but these issues will only get worse and they may attract more unwelcome insects (like cockroaches or even termites).
Make sure you clean up water around your sink when you’re done washing dishes as well. Even a little bit is enough to attract these tiny foragers.
3. Tame Rogue Landscaping
Walk around your home and see if you can find any:
- Standing water
- Overgrown trees, bushes, or other plants
- Cracks or openings
- Wood piles or lawn furniture close to the home
Remedy these issues as soon as possible, and consider making your landscaping work for you. If you like having large plants around your exterior, you can plant strong-smelling greenery such as:
- Mint (be careful–it likes to travel)
- Hot peppers
With the right plants, proper landscaping will not matter as much.
4. Create a Barrier Around Your Home
You can create an attractive barrier using cedar mulch around your home, but this only repels certain ants.
The most effective way to prevent reinfestation is by spraying a formulated ant barrier around your foundation. This will ward off any looking for water or food, sending them far from your kitchen.
Stray food is usually the reason you have ants in your kitchen, but sometimes it happens for no apparent reason. By keeping up with your housework and making the necessary changes, you should be able to keep them away for good.
If you notice ants in your kitchen, remember to:
- Act quickly to prevent the entire colony from moving in
- Use bait traps first, and allow them a few days to work before following up with a contact killer
- Take out the nest and block off any entry points to prevent reinfestation
Are you dealing with ants in your kitchen? Let us know how it’s going for you, and ask any questions you have. We’re more than happy to help you send them on their way.