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If you’ve ever seen Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, you know how busy ants are this time of year. If colonies want to survive the cold of winter, they have to get creative. Ants start their winter prep early by stockpiling large quantities of food to last them until the snow melts. Because the ant motto is “there’s no such thing as too much preparation” (really, it is!), however, colonies never stop looking for food. Every ant colonies’ dream is to find a reliable, replenishing source of food. Then, ants could wait out the winter in the lap of luxury without having to worry about whether they have enough to eat. Unfortunately, you could be the food paradise these pests are looking for. Ant colonies will stop at nothing to try to get at your food this fall. Here are Plunkett’s best tips on how to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Store Your Food

store your food in solid containers to keep ants out this fallEven more than most pests, ants want your food. Ant colonies require considerable food resources to sustain themselves. Foods like bread, cereal, pastries, fruit, and nuts provide ants with the nutrients they need to help their colonies survive. When ants infiltrate a home, they break off small chunks from any food they can access and carry it back to their colonies nearby. If there’s enough food and a convenient access point, ants may even establish “satellite colonies” in a home to access their food source faster. Conventional food containers made of paper, cardboard, or plastic bags can’t keep ants out. Transfer cereals, pastas, grains, flour and other at-risk foods into hard plastic storage containers. Put these products on high shelves. Refrigerate fruit, vegetables, and loaves of bread. Any source of food stored uncovered and out in the open is a prime target for ants. It’s like we say, “Never underestimate the resourcefulness of a hungry ant colony.” What? We really do say it!

Find Your Drafts

seal up drafts to keep ants out this fallIndoor drafts suck hot air out of your home through a gap and replace it with cool air. Ants and other pests feel the hot air as it passes outdoors, and follow it into your home. Like most other pests, ants can’t survive the cold. They also struggle to survive rainy fall weather. During cold or rainy autumn months, ants need to stay warm and dry as much as they need food. Most drafts originate in basements. Gaps in insulation, foundation, or weatherstripping suck out hot air and replace it with cool air. Basement drafts are on the ground level, so it’s easy for ants to use them to get into your house. Look for drafts in your basement around windows, places where utility lines enter the home, and along the floor, especially in corners. Seal off drafts with steel wool or caulk, and have them professionally repaired if the problem is significant. Not only will sealing up drafts keep ants out, it’ll save you money on heating, as well.

Clean Up Your Yard

clean up your yard to keep ants out this fallFall makes your yard messy. Leaves blow around, twigs and branches fall off the trees, and rain makes mud. It’s tempting to give up on the whole groundskeeping enterprise and let the snow cover it all up. Unfortunately, all kinds of creepy crawlies love this time of year, because lawn clutter gives them the perfect cover to sneak close to your home. Whether it’s the leaves, the twigs, or the mud, ants and other pests are attracted to easy outdoor hiding places. Luckily, fall yard maintenance isn’t hard. Rake up leaves before they can pile up. Keep trimming your bushes and cutting your grass until they stop growing. Pick up fallen twigs and branches. If you keep firewood outside, make sure it’s covered and elevated. When you’re finished, there should be a 5-foot radius around your home that’s clear of all outdoor refuse and clutter.

Clean Your Home

clean up your home to keep ants out this fallLast but not least, it’s time for “fall cleanup!” We told you we’d make it a thing. Ants don’t just like hiding outside. They’re just as attracted to hiding places like stacks of boxes and bags as other pests. If those hiding places have crumbs near them, they’ll be really attractive. Even though ants need a lot of food, they’re very patient. They have no problem taking your sloppy seconds back home. The more crumbs you generate, the happier you’ll make your ant roommates. Going on a crumb patrol is probably the best thing you can do to prevent ant infestation this fall. Wipe down counters, tables, and other surfaces food has touched after each meal. Do dishes immediately instead of leaving them to “soak” in the sink. Vacuum at least once a week, especially in the kitchen and dining room. Keep an eye on where snacking happens, and make sure nobody’s leaving behind food remains. If they are, you know what to do     Ants are annoying for any length of time, so having them around all winter long sounds insufferable. A little extra anti-pest vigilance this fall could save you a big headache this winter. And we all have enough winter headaches as it is. If you do end up with ants, now or in the winter, you still have options. You can always call Plunkett’s Pest Control for help. We’ll root out and kick out that colony, no problem. Then you’ll only have to suffer the normal winter headaches, like all the rest of us.

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