While ant infestations are a common problem for house owners, many people will tell you that high-storey flats have also become a victim to their colonies. In order to understand why this is happening to you, try to understand the ants themselves.

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Why are there ants in your kitchen?

Like any other living being, ants are attracted to food. That’s why the most common place to spot them on your property would be the kitchen. Dried food in open packages in the cabinets is the easiest way to attract ants. Same goes for food crumbs on the floor and table tops. And if there is a bowl of uneaten cat or dog food – that’s an open invitation.

The one thing ants are most attracted to is sugar. Especially in the summer. It makes sense since most creatures on this planet are attracted to the biggest source of energy. Artificial sweeteners are not the same as sugar, but they’re close enough to attract ants as well.

Like any other animal, ants also need a water source near their colony, in order to prolong their stay. Unlike some other types of insects, ants don’t need puddles of water to survive, as they get most of their daily amount from food. But some species are additionally attracted to damp wood materials.

What types of ants infest UK homes

There are a few common species of ants that plague the lives of UK homeowners.

Pharaoh ants

The pharaoh ant is a species found in every corner of the world. They are a huge indoor pest, which is especially interested in sterile places like hospitals. Their colony is polygynous, meaning they have more than one queen per colony, which, for a close observer, could be interesting if he or she were into investigating their caste interactions. Buildings with central heating are ants’  most common choice of habitat.

Pavement ants

The pavement ant is most common in Europe. The name comes from the fact that the colonies make their homes in pavements. Pavement ants are considered hostile, as they pick fights and attack other ant colonies. It’s not unusual from a human standpoint to notice thousands of ants, dead on the sidewalk, or even witness a huge battle. Little kids like to additionally stomp on them, which in the end leaves no winner. Cruel world.

Argentine ant

The Argentine ant is not typical for Europe, but, as reported, these ferocious insects have been establishing themselves in the UK. Note that it is an invasive species. These ants will set up their colonies in the ground, in cracks in concrete walls, in the spaces between timber fixtures and structures, even among people’s belongings in residential properties. This species prefers to also settle close to water sources.

Related: How to Get Rid of a Flea Infestation at Your Home

How to get rid of ants in the kitchen

Once you know you have an infestation, there are two important things you should learn: how to get rid of ants and how to deter ants from coming close. There are effective methods of how to achieve both and this way, ensure that your house is ant-free. Keep on reading for tips on DIY methods, or book ant removal from a pro.

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How to deter ants from the kitchen

  • Keep your house clean. It doesn’t take too much effort to keep ants (and any other bugs) away from the kitchen, or any other place in the house. Simply take away their food source. Keep the floors, countertops and cabinets clean of food crumbs, especially crumbs containing sugar. Have all food that you keep outside the fridge, even such in your kitchen cupboards, in tightly sealed containers.
  • Take out the rubbish regularly. The waste bin is another place ants might get attracted to, as it will most likely contain food scraps. To avoid an infestation, throw away the rubbish regularly and wash the bin to eliminate odours.
  • Vacuum often. A vacuum cleaner is a “God-given” device when it comes to keeping insect infestations away. Brooms and mops cannot always remove everything from the floor, but nothing escapes the vacuum. Be sure to regularly hoover all kitchen surfaces, where remnants of food may end up, such as under the table, near the fridge, cooker or microwave oven, under kitchen settees and chairs.
  • Keep the kitchen sink clean and dry. Since the kitchen sink is where tiny food scraps, grease and liquids are being washed down every day, it naturally gets dirty. So, it’s essential to keep it clean to stop ants from crawling into it. It will be also a good idea to make sure the sink is always dry, as well, since, as we’ve already said, some ant species are attracted to water.
  • Use natural deterrents. There are certain smells that ants do not like and keep away from. Good news is, some of those smells are wonderful. One example is the fragrance of cinnamon. Another is the scent of cucumber. A couple of not very common, but still effective deterrents, are white vinegar and cayenne pepper. Simply spray or sprinkle any of these around the base of doors, on window sills, next to wall baseboards and trim work and near any other places that might serve as an entryway for ants.

How to get rid of ants in the kitchen

If deterring has failed and you have a serious infestation on your hands, there are effective methods to get rid of the pesky vermin.

There are different ways to deal with different species, so it’s a good idea to try to identify the ants, first. Check them out closely and determine their characteristics. You might have to do a quick research online to find out more information.

In any case, you can follow the general steps below:

  • Find the ants’ targets. Focus on the path the ants are following and you will find their entry points and their targets. You will then know what the primary cause of the infestation was. And this will also determine your next course of action.
  • Place ant traps. You can easily find affordable ant traps to help you in your battle with the infestation. Note that some contain ant poison, which is harmful to human and pet health. Discuss this matter with the store clerk and decide accordingly on what kind of trap is most suitable for you.
  • Seal all entryways. Seal any cracks and crevices with caulk. Now, ants will definitely find new ways to come in, but this can buy you some time. And sometimes, this might be enough to motivate the colony to move elsewhere. If not, there is only one other thing to do.
  • Call a professional exterminator. If everything else fails, simply pick up the phone and call a reputable ant exterminator. It might be more expensive than doing the job yourself, but at least you can rest assured that this nightmare will be over.

Essential oils that repel ants

Here are more smells ants dislike. The fragrance of essential oils tends to linger for a longer time, and unlike some other remedies, they make your house smell wonderful. All you need to do is add a few drops of your favourite oil in some water, dip a cotton swab in the solution and wipe any surface. The most potent essential oils are:

  • Tea tree essential oil
  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Clove essential oil

Don’t touch the oil with bare hands, as it’s a highly concentrated substance that might cause skin irritation. Also, keep it away from your eyes.

Make your own ant spray

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup water;
  • 1/4 cup vodka;
  • 15 drops peppermint essential oil;
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil;
  • 7 drops clove essential oil.

You can mix as many essential oils you’d like, we simply love the smell of tea tree and peppermint. But you can also make your home smell of citrus if that’s more of your liking. All you need to do now is pour all the ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well. You know where to apply the solution already – at the base of walls, doors, windows and near any other entry point that might be used by ants.

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What happens if you kill the queen ant

It’s very hard to find the queen ant in a colony if you don’t know where to look, but if you do manage to find and kill it, different species will react in different ways. If there is only one queen, the colony will collapse, though, it will take some time until this happens. The ants will simply leave and join another colony.

In colonies with more than one queen ant, nothing will change. The other queens will simply take over the dead one’s place.

Despite everything we’ve said, ants are an extremely important part of the ecosystem, not any less important than bees. They are often called “Nature’s sanitation unit” and they work hard to do their job of cleaning up waste (especially Pavement ants). So, as long as they’re not invading your home, take some time to think about their incredible discipline and sense of duty.

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Did you find our article on how to get rid of ants helpful? Have you dealt with ants before? Why not share your thoughts with us in the comments below?

Image source: Shutterstock / Maksimilian

  • Last update: October 17, 2019

Posted in Insect Infestations

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