Why Are There Ants In My Washington D.C. Home?

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ants on a counter

Almost everyone has seen a show with a picnic scene that features ants. A red checkered tablecloth spread out on the green grass is covered in a delicious array of foods that a hungry army of ants finds irresistible. Before you know it, a long line of tiny ants is marching across the tablecloth and swarming onto a tray of fruit or a plate of desserts. 

Although this scene is often portrayed in a cartoonish and comical way, the truth is that when ants get into your Washington D.C. home, it’s not terribly different from what ants do in a movie scene. Ants often invade homes in search of food, with sweet foods being their favorites, and they leave behind a pheromone trail that allows other ants to follow their exact pathway. 

If ants have gotten into your house, the safety of your food is only one of the things you’ll have to worry about. Having an ant infestation is frustrating, difficult to manage, and it can also be dangerous. If you’ve been asking, “Why are there ants in my Washington D.C. home, and what can I do to get rid of them?” American Pest has the answers.

Common Ants In Washington D.C.

There are over 10,000 species of ants globally, but luckily here in Washington D.C., we have to worry about far fewer than that. Although over 100 species of ants reside in the Washington D.C. area, only a few are common home invaders. Not only is this good because it decreases the odds of an ant infestation, but also because it allows the pros at American Pest to truly become experts on the ants that most commonly make their way into homes in our service area. 

The three most common species of ants that get into Washington D.C. homes are listed below, along with a description of each and what, if any, problems they cause when they get into your house.

Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are very small ants that are typically black or brown. They rarely grow any larger than an eighth of an inch. 

Odorous house ants get their name because they frequently infest houses and give off a foul odor when crushed. The scent they leave behind is often compared to the smell of rotting coconuts. Odorous house ants are often referred to as sugar ants because of their love of sweet foods.

Drawn to warm, moist areas, when odorous house ants get into your house, they will likely nest near leaky plumbing fixtures, heating elements, or inside damaged wood. Outside, they typically nest in soil or under stacks of wood. They frequently move due to rain.

Although they aren’t dangerous, odorous house ants are a nuisance when they get inside. Aside from giving off a foul odor when crushed, they contaminate any food stores they get into. They also tend to infest homes in large numbers and can be difficult to get rid of entirely.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are the largest ant species to infest Washington D.C. homes. They grow to over half an inch in length and are usually black, red, or a combination of both colors. 

Carpenter ants get their name because they like to live in rotting or water-damaged wood. Although they don’t eat the wood, they do chew tunnels through it and can eventually make their way into dry, sound wood as well. 

Because of their nesting habits, carpenter ants are dangerous when they infest your home. They damage wooden items inside, including the beams and structures that hold your house up. Of the three most common ants to infest Washington D.C. properties, carpenter ants are the most destructive by far.

Pavement Ants

Pavement ants are in between carpenter ants and odorous house ants in terms of size. They average around an eighth of an inch in length and are usually brown or black.

They get their name because they usually take up residence in cracks or along the edges of your driveway’s pavement. These are the ants that you probably think of when you picture ants, especially because of the anthills they build along walkways, patios, and the edges of your lawn.

Pavement ants are nuisance ants, which means that they are not known to cause damage to your home when they get inside, nor are there any diseases they are known to spread. However, they will contaminate your food if they get into your house, so it’s best to avoid an infestation.

Why And How Ants Get Into Your Washington D.C. Home

Understanding why and how ants get into your house won’t get rid of an ant infestation, but it will help you gain a bit of understanding about ant behavior that can help you prevent an infestation in the future. Ants typically enter a home as they try to meet one or more of their basic needs. These needs include food, water, and shelter.

Food

Ants are foragers, which means they travel around, sometimes quite a distance from their nest, to find food. This activity is actually good news for homeowners because it means that just because you see ants in your house doesn’t guarantee they live in your house. However, if ants discover that your house is a good source of food, they will likely return regularly and may choose to move in in the future. 

Ants eat a surprisingly wide variety of foods. They’re known for their love of anything sweet, but they also eat meats, greasy foods, seeds, and even other insects. If your house allows ants easy access to any kind of food, they will find it.

Water

Of course, like most creatures, ants need water to survive, but this isn’t only about finding a reliable drinking source. Ants tend to prefer living in moist locations, so if your home has a water leak anywhere or high humidity that has led to mildew or water-damaged wood, ants are more likely to consider your house a suitable location for building a nest.

Shelter

Ants are fairly mobile creatures. Although they usually build their nests outdoors in the soil or in rotting wood, sometimes the conditions around them force them to move. If it gets too hot or too dry, ants may enter your house searching for a cooler and moister environment. Conversely, if it rains too much, ants may be forced out of their nest because of flooding. When that happens, they might end up in your house looking for a new place to live.

The manner in which ants get into your house is most likely just what you’d expect. Because ants are so small, they don’t need to find a huge opening in order to enter, but instead can find a way inside through any gap or crack they can find. They may take advantage of an open window or door, but they’re just as likely to find a crack in your foundation, a gap around a vent, or a hole in your siding that they can exploit.

How To Prevent Ants From Getting Inside Your Washington D.C. Home

When you know what attracts ants into your Washington D.C. home and how they get inside, it becomes much easier to take steps to try to prevent them from infesting your house to begin with. Based on their food, water, and shelter needs, the following tips will help you prevent ants from being attracted to your home.

  • Store all of your food in airtight containers or the refrigerator. Don’t leave fruit out on the counter or pantry items in packaging that is easy to get into or tear.

  • Check your cupboards and pantry on a regular basis to make sure nothing has tipped over or spilled. Clean up any spills that you find.

  • Clean up after each meal or snack by putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher or washing them right away, wiping down counters, and cleaning up any messes.

  • Vacuum or sweep the floors often.

  • Take out the trash frequently. Don’t let it get over-filled.

  • Periodically check under sinks and in the basement for leaky pipes. Fix any that you find.

  • Keep humidity low in your house to avoid moisture buildup by properly ventilating rooms with fans, opening windows, or using dehumidifiers.

  • Check for moisture issues outside your house as well.

    • Reduce shaded areas where water can’t evaporate as quickly.

    • Make sure your gutters are working properly and aren’t clogged.

    • Ensure proper drainage around your house.

    • Check spigots for dripping water.

  • Seal any entry points you can find around the outside of your house.Look for cracks and crevices in your foundation.

    • Check your siding for holes or damage.

    • Seal around vents, plumbing, and wiring entry points.

    • Check door and window screens for holes or tears.

    • Look for gaps around windows and doors.

What To Do If Ants Get Into Your Washington D.C. Home

By following all of the above prevention tips, you can reduce the chances of your Washington D.C. home ending up with an ant infestation. However, because ants are so small and can fit through the tiniest opening, it’s nearly impossible to completely seal off your house from these pests. Because of that simple fact, there is always at least a small chance of ending up with an ant infestation.

If you start finding ants in your house, the best thing to do is contact American Pest. At American Pest, we understand that the key to fully eliminating an ant infestation is to identify and eliminate the colony’s nest. Although homeowners often try to treat the symptoms of an ant infestation by getting rid of the ants they see, this doesn’t get to the root of the problem. 

The professionals at American Pest have taken the time to become educated in ant biology and habits. This knowledge allows us to identify where the ants are coming from so we can target their source. Once we remove the source, the infestation will no longer exist. 

In addition to locating and eliminating nesting sites, our ant control service also includes an exterior perimeter treatment to prevent other ant colonies from infesting your home, as well as a treatment of any areas that may appeal to ants. With this targeted and proactive approach to ant control, you can be sure that we will eliminate your ant infestation, and a new one won’t take its place.  To learn more about our ant control or discuss which plan is right for you, contact American Pest today.