When you put your home on the market, you want buyers strolling in but sometimes, during the hot weather, you find the ants come marching in too and that certainly doesn't help a potential sale. It may not seem like much of a problem but if you've had ants then you know what a headache this can be especially if you have buyers coming into your home daily.
"First of all you have to understand why the ants go on the march, says Steven Coy, President of Happy Pest Control. He explains that ants view your home as a place of refuge. "Inside it's cooler and the ants associate coolness with a greater probability that there's moisture there. They don't understand how we build houses though; we build them to stay dry. So even when it's air conditioned and freezing it's still dry as a bone unless you wander into the bathroom or the kitchen where there are sinks," says Coy.
Coy says, for the ants, the home is like a desert - it's very dry. So they scout out looking for things to bring back to the colony. "They're walking across the walls, ceilings, windows, mirrors, carpets looking for food or water," says Coy. He says when the scout finds it, the ant's body releases a pheromone which trails back an odor to the workers enabling them to come out and bring back whatever is needed for the colony "whether it's protein, carbohydrate, or fat." It's important to understand the way ants operate in order to rid your home of them. Coy says "There are different companies that make ant bait. They used to just have one kind of bait. Now, they typically have a bait station that will have something sweet in it for carbohydrate, something that has protein like peanut butter, and something that has fat or oil in it," says Coy.
"I've noticed that one day the ants will go right by the sugar and go for the protein and another day they'll go right by the protein and go for the fat," says Coy.
According to the Ant Institute, ants are the number one nuisance pest in the U.S. They drive homeowners to seek all kinds of remedies - many do-it-yourself strategies may work but can be less effective than expert treatment. While ant treatment isn't quite as costly as termite treatment, (estimated at more than $5 billion every year for treatment and repairs) it can still be a lengthy process to eradicate the problem.
A good cleaning can help. "If you're selling the house and you can scrub everything down and have no food residue anywhere in the house, that's helpful. That still doesn't prevent ants from coming in just to look for water and there's no way you can remove all the water because at the bottom of every single sink is a P-trap (that's to keep the sewer gasses from coming into your house)... so there's always water in that," says Coy. Of course, the shower drain and the toilet also attract the ants. But Coy says the more you can limit water and food sources the less likely you'll have an ant invasion. Aside from leaving the home like a model home with no food in it, Coy says, you can take some preventative measures before you put your home on the market. "[Sellers] might want to hire somebody to do a thorough exterior service which can be anything from a band just 10 feet wide around the perimeter of the whole house to something more extensive," says Coy.
Coy says he typically sprays the entire yard using a low-toxicity insecticide with lots of water; it acts as a good repellent. Indoor treatments can be really beneficial as well. The problem with do-it-yourself ant baits placed inside the home is that they attract more ants to come - exactly what you don't want.
Of course, not treating an ant problem not only creates an unsightly look in the home, but also, can weaken the structure. For instance, carpenter ants can nest in dead tree limbs, weaken them and cause their eventual death.