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With everything we put up with during midwestern winters, you’d think we’d at least get a reprieve from kitchen pests. But we don’t. Of course we don’t. Kitchen ants are relentless, and that doesn’t change just because it’s freezing outside. In fact, some species of ant impose themselves on your home because it’s freezing outside. So now we have another thing to blame winter for. Believe it or not, there’s one upside to the relentlessness of your kitchen ants: they’re predictable. The ants bothering you during winter behave exactly the same way the ants bothering you any other time would. They want the same things for most of the same reasons. More importantly, you can stop them the same ways. Here’s everything you need to know to reclaim your kitchen this winter. Don’t give up; spring will come again some day!  

Why they’re here

why ants get insideThe most common ant encountered in midwestern homes during the winter is the pavement ant. This small, red-brown or black ant has a habit of nesting in cracks or gaps in pavement. In most circumstances, they bunch together and become stationary in winter, so they can keep warm. If they manage to find a warm place to nest, however, they can remain active all year. Pavement ants commonly nest in wall voids, under concrete slabs, around pipes, and under baseboards. If you’ve encountered a lot of ants in your kitchen this winter, they’re probably nesting in a warm place nearby. Usually, pavement ants find their nesting site by burrowing into the soil until they find a heat source. Pavement ants that remain active because of their nest’s location need food, but they can’t survive freezing temperatures. These needs and limitations basically force them to forage for what they need to survive indoors.

What they want

what ants wantAnts need the same things we all do: food, water, and shelter. If you’ve got active ants in your home this time of year, they already have their shelter. Pavement ants like protein heavy, greasy foods like meat, cheese, dry pet food, and peanut butter. Given the opportunity, they will infest food products. They’re also attracted to sugary and fatty foods, so watch the holiday fixings.     Ants don’t need much in the way of water. A little moisture--such as the amount produced by a plumbing leak or condensation--will suit them just fine. If you find ants in cupboards, near baseboards, or even in your basement, check for nearby leaks. Drafts near windows and doors might produce condensation that ants can use, as well. Ants don’t generally reproduce during winter, but if new ants can continually enter homes, they will. If ants still live indoors in spring, you could end up with a multi-generational problem rather quickly.  

Why they’re a problem

why ants are a problemHonestly, pavement ants aren’t a particularly major pest problem. They’re not dangerous, they don’t transmit diseases, and they can’t even sting or bite. Most of the ants you could encounter indoors during winter are classified as “nuisance pests”. Just because they can’t hurt you doesn’t mean you’ll be particularly pleased to see them, however. Have you ever poured a bowl of cereal only to find ants in the bottom of the box? We don’t recommend it. Nobody wants to eat food that has been infested by ants. Even if it won’t transmit diseases, ant feces can easily soil stored food. Tossing out ant-infested food is a drag, and it can even get expensive! And then there’s the psychological toll. Winter is depressing enough as-is. You don’t want to have to worry about running into an ant swarm every time you enter your kitchen.

How you can stop them

how you can stop ants from getting inFirst, try to determine where the ants are coming from. Most pavement ants enter your home through tiny cracks and gaps in corners, near utility lines, or around windows and doors. Seal up any access points you find with caulk. Next, look for plumbing leaks and other sources of moisture. Ants need water to survive, so if you deprive them of it they’ll have to go elsewhere. Last but not least, the obvious one: keep your kitchen and eating surfaces clean. Vacuum the floor under your dining table frequently. Wipe down countertops and eating surfaces after every meal. Don’t leave food sitting out on counters or dishes piled up in the sink. Keep the food in your pantry stored in airtight hard plastic containers. Dispose of garbage right away. The reason pavement ants leave their nests and enter your home in the first place is to forage. If there’s nothing to forage, they won’t emerge to bother you.     We know there’s something particularly demoralizing about dealing with pests during the winter. Maybe it’s because you have so many chores to do. Or the fact that you’re always inside. Or the fact that it’s always dark out… But that’s exactly why knowing how to deal with pests like kitchen ants is so important. Every win we can pull over on winter is a win we need. If you need a little help pulling off that win, we’re more than happy to help. Let Plunkett’s Pest Control be your warm ray of sunshine in this cold time of year. After all, your winter wins are our winter wins. And we could use a couple, too. Stay warm!

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