Why you’re seeing so many ants and how to get rid of them

May 12, 2015, 3:05 PM | Updated: May 13, 2015, 8:44 am

The carpenter ant is another household pest, which can threaten the structure of a home. (Creative ...

The carpenter ant is another household pest, which can threaten the structure of a home. (Creative Commons/Lindspetrol)

(Creative Commons/Lindspetrol)

Got ants?

They’re intrusive, they come in legions, and they stink.

“They smell bad if you crush them,” said entomologist Arlo Pelegrin about the common house-visiting sugar ant. “They smell like grape soda mixed with rotten shellfish.”

As the Northwest warms up this season, the area’s most notable pests become active. Since Washington had a warmer than usual winter, the cold-blooded insects might become active earlier.

“With the cooler weather, they may stay dormant longer. If it warms up sooner, they may think it’s summer,” Pelegrin said.

“The real problem ants are things like the odorous house ant, which some people call the sugar ant,” he said. “Those are non-native. They come from Europe and they live between boards. They are common kitchen pests.”

They are different than the ants observed outside your home making dusty mounds. So it’s not logical to think that destroying those mounds will help with an indoor ant problem, Pelegrin said.

He also doesn’t advocate for using chemicals to rid a house of ants.

“Ants are a super organisms. You can kill a thousand of them and that won’t stop them from feeding themselves and reproducing,” Pelegrin said. “If you hose down the ants with chemicals, you are only introducing chemicals to your home.”

Instead, go on a hunt.

“It’s probably better to find out where they are coming from,” Pelegrin said. “You can do that by following their trails. If you follow it far enough you can see where they are coming into the house. If they are already inside the house, then you might want to look into something for mass ant extermination.”

But soapy water is a simple way to get rid of the pests, Pelegrin notes. Ants leave trails so fellow ants can follow them to food sources. If you destroy the trails with cleaner, the ants won’t have any directions to follow.

It’s also a good idea to keep food out of an ant’s reach.

“The best thing is to keep your kitchen clean,” he said.

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Why you’re seeing so many ants and how to get rid of them