Toronto Homeowner Tip 1: Dealing With Ants

Every year, once the days get warmer, occupants of many houses and condos in Toronto have to deal with thousands of unwelcome guests during the spring and summer months. The most usual types that you might encounter in your home are either carpenter ants or sugar ants.

ant by jason bolonsky

Ants by Jason Bolonski

While real Sugar Ants live in Australia, the little black Pharaoh and Pavement ants that you keep stepping on in your kitchen are usually called 'sugar ants' in the US and Canada because of their inexhaustible appetite for sweet foods. They would be rarely found living indoors.

The other common type, Carpenter ants, are bigger in size (up to half an inch long) compared to sugar ants. Sometimes people confuse them with termites, but while termites (white in color) eat wood, Carpenter ants (black in color) just burrow into wood to build a home for their colony. They usually choose old tree stumps or fence posts for nesting, but sometimes they find a suitable place indoors.

carpenter ant by Sancho McCann

Carpenter Ant by Sancho McCann

To get rid of these ants, you basically have to take away the things they are searching for in your house. Sugar ants usually look for food and water. If you close down the free cafeteria that is constantly opened in your kitchen, they will simply stop coming in (or at least you won't see as many of them as before). Carpenter ants usually move into your home because they have found a comfortable place to lodge, so you will need to discover where they are living, move them out (usually with the help of a professional extermination company) and make sure they will not find your house as welcoming in the future.

in the kitchen by MAIP Photography

In The Kitchen by MA_IPhotography

Shutting down the cafeteria

If you think they are only coming in for food, try to follow these simple cleaning routine steps for at least two weeks before proceeding to some more radical action.

Keep your kitchen sink area clean and dry: ants love sinks because it provides food and water for them. Therefore, never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight and wipe every single drop of water in it so that the ants cannot find anything to drink or feed on.

Every night, wipe down all the kitchen surfaces with bleach or white vinegar. Vinegar is a very eco-friendly option, (which is just as effective) and also wash the floor with one or the other.

• You could also pour a few drops of bleach or white vinegar down the sink drain every night. This has also proved to be very effective.

Keep all food in air tight containers.

Empty the bin as often as you can, but at least once a day.

Find out where your visitors are entering your house and seal up all the cracks. Expanding Foam is probably the easiest and fastest solution to achieve this. (your local Hardware store will stock this). If they still find their way in after all your efforts, scatter some bay leaves or cloves nearby and this should do the trick.

drew stefani expanding foam

Expanding Foam by Drew Stefani

Finding the nest

To prevent Carpenter ants from nesting near or within your home, the best thing to do is to get rid of rotten wood in your garden and damp places in your house. If you keep seeing them inside but can't find their nest outside, they have probably moved in. Therefore it's important to determine where their nest is. Carpenter ants love damp wood, so look for old trees or fire wood in your garden. Look around sweaty pipes, washing machines, dishwashers and any other damp areas. Since there can be as many as 3 to 10 thousands ants within one colony, the damage to infested wooden structures can be quite extensive and therefore potentially dangerous, depending on its location. Since Carpenter love feeding on wood, sawdust can be a dead giveaway of their position. Or at quieter times you might hear a dry rustling sound, easily detectable with stethoscopes.

rotten wood by rabien22

Rotten Wood by rabiem22

Even if you use the services of a professional exterminator to rid your home of these horrible creatures, if you don't deal with the damp wooden areas around your property that attracts them, then for sure they will be back to visit you again next year. Of course, you can set bait to wipe them out, time after time, but if you don't keep your kitchen absolutely spotless, then the enemy will keep coming back.

Fire ants

Fire Ants and Aphids by Kevin Prichard
Fire Ants and Aphids by Kevin Prichard

Maybe neither of the above types of ants (Carpenter, Pharaoh or Payment ants) don't bother you at all. Maybe your real problem are fire ants. These little red ants have the annoying habit of fighting back when you disturb their home, as many gardeners will tell you. In fact, rumour has it that if you step on their ant hill, they will climb on you and sting you, all at the same time. Whether that's true or not, probably the best way of dealing with fire ants is to move the whole ant hill.

ant hill by guy schmidt

Ant Hill by Guy Schmidt

To be successful, you will need the following items: a shovel, large bucket, dish soap, plenty of water and an extra pair of hands if available. To protect yourself from stings during this operation it is advisable to wear long trousers tucked into your socks and a pair of wellington boots. Simply shovel the ant hill as quickly as possible including about a foot of soil from around and under the mount into the bucket/containers and pour the water over it, adding plenty of soap, which will help to break the surface tension, thereby drowning the ants faster. If drowning the ants seems cruel to you, then there's always the option of taking them far away from your garden and setting them free in the countryside. Good luck!

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