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One of the most common pests that homeowners have to battle is ants. As you may know, there are several types of ants that create colonies and make their presence known within kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoors on your sidewalk, driveway, and yard. While many people can live with ants and accept their presence (as long as they are not near a food source), once they begin invading pantries and crawling on food, ants become a real concern. This begs the question: Can I eat food touched by ants? The five-second rule should not even be considered if ants have touched your food. Sharing a snack with ants can have unexpected consequences no matter how innocent the act can sound.
WHY DO I HAVE ANTS IN MY HOME?
Most ants create colonies where they can thrive which means they are constantly in search of a food source for survival, which can lead them into your home. A kitchen is a perfect area for ants to infest with the potential for crumbs, dog food left in bowls, penetrable food packaging, and food such as fruit left out on tables and counter tops. No one wants to find pests in their home, but it can happen to virtually any homeowner.
Ants typically live outside, sending scout ants away from the colony to search for food. These explorers are usually the ants that you find in your drain, on the floor, and around food items. Human food is also appealing to ants. Once the scout finds a food source, they signal other ants to follow his trail and continue to take food and bring it back to the colony. The number of ants following this same trail grows as their food source remains available.
WHAT KINDS OF ANTS ARE IN MY HOUSE?
Pavement ants are small, black or brown ants that create small hills of dirt or sand in the areas between slabs in the sidewalk or your driveway. These ants are relatively harmless but can make their way into your home if they find an easy entry point. Pavement ants do not cause structural damage, but some clients do not like their presence on their property.
“Sugar ant” is a general name for ants that are attracted to sugary foods. If you see a sugar ant, you can be seeing Pharoah ants, acrobat ants, or odorous house ants, being the most common. Odorous house ants are a little bit less than a ¼ inch in size and dark brown or black. Their most distinct feature is the coconut or pine odor they give off when crushed. Sugar ants go after sweets in your pantry, especially when the packaging is penetrable such as cereal boxes.
Carpenter ants are classified as a “wood-destroying insect,” most literally meaning that they destroy wood in, on, or around your home. These ants are more easily differentiated by their black color and size, usually larger than ¼ inch. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. They chew it and then regurgitate to make their pathways. One sign that you have .
WHAT ATTRACT ANTS TO HOMES?
You may be wondering, “Why are there ants in my food?” The main reason why you are see ants in your home is that they have found a food source. Common food sources for house ants are pantry items in unsealed containers such as granulated sugar, cereal, and dog food. Moisture and easy entry points such as broken or leaky pipes and cracks and crevices around the foundation of your home draw them indoors.
DO ANTS CONTAMINATE FOOD? ARE ANTS DANGEROUS?
The biggest concern with ant infestations within your home is the potential for disease. Ants are constantly moving back and forth, indoors and back out, picking up germs along the way. This means that bacteria living on the ground or in your pipes can surface and spread if ants cross your food. Sugar ants are the most likely to cause infection because of their specific attraction to sugary and greasy foods such as cookies and chips. Pharaoh ants, another type of sugar ant, are known to be carriers of Staphylococcus, a bacterial infection that humans can contract. There is also a chance that you can contract salmonella from eating food that ants have come in contact with. By crawling across your food, they can spread salmonella for you to ingest. The best way to avoid these situations is to engage in proactive ant prevention measures and professional ant control services.
HOW CAN I PREVENT ANTS INDOORS?
You can prevent ants from entering your home by following these simple tips:
Move pantry items into sealed containers such as dishwasher safe plastic containers
Throw out food from dog or cat food bowls at the end of each day
Sweep floors to remove crumbs or other fallen food
Wipe down counters and tables after eating to avoid leaving food behind
Eliminate moisture problems in your home such as leaky pipes
Although prevention is key, it isn’t always enough to avoid infestation