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Reasons for ant infestation

Ants typically invade your home for one reason: food. Most feed on sugary or greasy items.

Sugar ants — also called odorous house ants — are one of the most common ant invaders and among the first pests to show up in the spring. They’re about one-eighth of an inch or smaller and are attracted to food sources.

The common pavement ant, which is brown to black and about 1/10th of an inch long, will set up colonies near driveways or patios and then send out scouts to search for food in your home. They eat meat, grease, seeds, dead or live insects, and can sting and bite if disturbed.

Carpenter ants, which are black and up to half an inch long, look for protein rather than sugar, and will eat through wood to find nesting locations. Small piles of wood shavings called "frass" found under windows or door frames are signs of carpenter ants.

Moisture ants are larger — about 4 to 4.5 mm long — and are usually an indication of excessive water somewhere. Either can be a problem in bathrooms.

Knowing what type of ant you're dealing with can help you prevent or combat an infestation.

Keeping ants out

The first step to keeping ants where they belong
: clean house. If you see scout ants in your home, kill them immediately. Make sure you don't leave any food out and keep all kitchen surfaces clean.

If you continue to see ants, make sure you've closed off possible entry points, including sealing small cracks in your walls or under windows. Start by caulking potential entry points, such as window casings.

Next, you can lay down barriers like salt or talc under doors to turn ants away, or apply scents such as vinegar, peppermint oil or cinnamon. Bear in mind, however, that anything you put down will also be of interest to pets and children, so be careful what you use.