Ants tend to keep the same nest for several years at a time if not disturbed and while a cold winter can wipe out a local ant colony, we have had the 3rd warmest winter in 100 years and a warm spring too, conditions are just about perfect for ants to mate and thrive.
The most common ant species in the UK is the Black Garden ant, which generally lives outside in nutrient-rich, moist environments. During the spring and summer, they are often found in the warm, damp area beneath paving slabs. They frequently make their way indoors in search of food and additional places to nest. Should they find a food source, the ants will lay down a chemical trail to give other ants a signal to follow, causing a potential problem to quickly escalate in your home.
Preventing an ant problem all starts with simple hygiene. Storing food in sealed containers and wiping down surfaces will go a long way to keeping your home ant free. If caught early, ant issues can be dealt with quickly and easily. A range of products are available for use indoors and outdoors, in the form of sprays and powders, and nests can be treated with a killer gel which the ants themselves then help spread within their nest.
However, immovable infestations may require professional attention to effectively and finally deal with the problem, particularly if the ants have found their way into wall voids or under floor tiles.
There could also be an increase in the number of Flying Ants – these are the males and new queens produced by the black garden ant colony, growing up to three times the size of their peers. The goal of the flying ants is to breed and build new nests in other areas creating a potential pest nuisance for the following season. On a side note, flying ants make a tasty inflight snack for most common garden birds so if you see a large flock of birds suddenly appear over your house or garden around sunset / early evening then chances are you have flying ants in your immediate area.
Tips to prevent ant problems:
Exercise good hygiene
When there is a spillage or mess, clean it up as soon as possible. Once ants have found their food they leave chemical trails to lead other ants to the area. Be sure to clean up sticky messes, shut food containers properly, and don’t leave washing up to fester. Also keep surfaces clean and clear of food, so there won’t be anything to attract them.
Regular deep clean
Aside from maintaining a hygienic environment on a day to day basis, a regular, proactive cleaning regime plays an important role in avoiding an unwelcome visit from ants. Pay particular attention to those hard to reach places, which could be fostering the moist conditions craved by ants. Cleaning also disrupts the chemical trail left by ants.
Keep an eye out for any ants outside your home
Most patios are laid on sand, and ants will often emerge between the cracks to find and carry food. By watching where the ants disappear into the crack, you’ll be able to locate the nest and have a place to aim that ant killer spray before it spreads any further.
As shown in the picture, the finely granulated soil on the pathway is a clear indication of an inhabited Ant colony and also marks the main entry / exit of the nest.
As the summer progresses and the weather stays hopefully warm, remember to check below windows before throwing them open and keep a close eye on any paving slabs or patio areas you have in your garden for the signs of an ant colony under your feet.