It seems like no matter what you did the year before, Spring brings the ants with it. They are pesky little things with no regard for you or your comfort. Fortunately, if you nip the problem in the bud, ridding your home or business of ants should be fairly simple. You need to know 1: What they are after, and how do discourage them from getting to it; and 2: How to keep them from getting in in the first place. Remember the old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

What are they after?

However spiteful they may seem, ants are after something more than a spike in your blood pressure: They’re after food. Therefore, targeting the ants’ food supply is a crucial defense. Many ants are attracted to sugar and sugary foods (this could even include a small soda or juice spill, not just the honey jar or a candy bar). However, this is not always the case, and care must be given to all manner of foods. Here are some things to consider:

When you have a spill, clean it up immediately and thoroughly. This may sound obvious, but even a small slosh of a drink on the countertop can attract an ant scout, which has a heightened sense of smell. When that scout finds the spill, it will bring more ants, and they won’t stop with the spill–they’ll investigate until they find more food there.

Immediately clean dishes after a meal. At the very least, rinse them off or leave them to soak. Soaking them in water will mask the smell of food; plus, it will make scrubbing easier later! Do not leave scraps of food on plates or bowls, but rather scrape them into the trash or into your compost. Both trash and compost should be taken out regularly. Even if your trash is not full, food stuffs should not be kept in the bin for very long. Compost should be taken out after every meal; but if you have to wait, you should at least store it in a Tupperware or an old plastic ice cream bucket with a tight seal. All saved foods should be wrapped tightly or put into sealed bins.

Finally, trash and recycle bins, and compost heaps, should all be a good distance from the building. Small as they are, a few feet is nothing for an ant in search of food.

How do I stop them once they’re in?

The preventative measures above will do a great deal to discourage ants from entering your home or business to begin with. However, even after doing those things, you might still notice ants coming and going. Besides, it might be too late: You can’t prevent the ants that are already there from coming in!

Some ant traps you can buy at a hardware store work very well. There are also a number of natural solutions to discourage ants from coming in. If you find an entrance point, scented baby powder will confound scouts, sending them back to their colonies empty-handed. So sprinkle some where they are coming in; you can also sprinkle baby powder around such problem areas as the sugar jar or pet bowls. Other dry household items that work are black pepper and cinnamon. However, you might be opposed to sprinkling any of these things around your kitchen (especially if you have a curious pet who will lick up the herbs), so once again, finding the ants’ entrance point is very helpful.

Many people advocate a vinegar-and-water solution (3:1 ratio), which is non-toxic, cheap, and the smells vanishes quickly. Finally, cornmeal can be used to eliminate a colony, especially if you know where the actual colony is located and can target the entrance. If you provide the ants with cornmeal they will eat it, but will quickly die, as they cannot digest it. (See further: eHow)

Remember, after you get the ants off your turf, find any cracks or broken seals in tile, walls, doors, or windows, and seal those entrances up. Good luck!

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