How Did These Ants Get in Your Kitchen?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Oct 03, 2016 @ 02:19 PM

In Southern California, ants are fairly common and can easily invade your kitchen when food is left out. If you leave a bit of cake out overnight, you may wake up to lines of marching ants on your counters, floors, or walls. But how did they get there so fast? And what kinds of foods attract these ants?

In this blog, we'll discuss how ants are able to locate food and lead their colony to it, and we'll also address which foods ants prefer and don't prefer.

How Do Ants Find Food?

Ants are able to sense unique chemical combinations from great distances, and this ability helps them find their favorite foods and bring them back to the colony. But they may have to wander for a while before they sniff out the right foods.

To find food, ants essentially fan out from the nest, walking randomly until they find what they're looking for. They don't necessarily walk in straight lines, instead walking meandering paths as they push on. As they search, they lay down pheromones so they can find their way back home or so other ants can follow their trail. Every ant has a unique scent, so ants can identify if a route was left by a friend or foe.

When ants find food, they take a piece back with them to the colony, following their own trail back as they lay down more pheromones, thus doubling the strength of the scent. Once they've dropped off their findings, they'll go back on the path to further strengthen the scent of pheromones for their nest-mates to follow.

If the other wandering ants happen upon another ant's trail, they'll abandon their own and follow the scent. If they end up back at the nest without any food, they'll turn back around to keep following the trail and see where it leads. And all the while, they're laying down their own pheromones to strengthen the trail.

So, if an ant happens upon a strong trail that leads to food, they'll further fortify the trail with their own scent, and other ants will eventually happen upon the path.

After a while, enough ants will gather to collect food, resulting in a small group swarming a large muffin crumb or drop of syrup. This tactic allows ants to quickly find food and communicate with their nest-mates. But it can be inconvenient for a homeowner, especially when he or she finds the kitchen crawling with ants the morning after a dinner party.

What Foods Attract Ants?

Southern California is home to a number of different ant species, including:

  • Thief ants
  • Odorous house ants
  • Argentine ants
  • Pharaoh ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Imported fire ants
  • Pavement ants

But not all ants share the same food preferences. For the most part, the diets of ants can be divided into three main groups: greasy foods, sugary foods, and everything else.

Greasy Foods

Some species of ants, such as thief ants, love greasy foods. They're attracted to foods like cheese, peanut butter, and nuts, and they'll often go for cooked foods as well. You can find them on counters or stoves, and you can sometimes find them in cabinets or sinks.

Sugary Foods

Many ants favor the sweeter foods, surrounding a lone cookie crumb or a spot of honey on the counter. These ants are often more persistent than some of their cousins, and you can find them just about anywhere in your home. They'll even target fruits and nectar, and sometimes, they'll seek out the sweet honeydew excretions aphids leave behind.

Everything Else

Other ant species are happy to eat just about anything. They'll take sugary and greasy foods, and they'll even add a few other items to their diet, including insects, meat, oil, and eggs.

Some ant species eat things that are easily found in nature, such as seeds and plants. While they may scurry through your garden, they probably won't be a prevalent presence in your home.

What Foods Do Ants Dislike?

While a variety of ants can love a variety of foods, there are some foods and spices that can drive ants away. Ants dislike foods with strong scents, such as cinnamon, peppermint, and chili powder. They also avoid cloves and bay leaves, and throwing some of these in your picnic basket can help you have an ant-free meal in the outdoors.


Even if you keep your kitchen and home as clean as possible, ants can still infiltrate your home in search of food. When you notice them crawling along walls and floors and overtaking your property, call in the professionals at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management. We can provide you with effective pest control for ants of all varieties.

We use natural, non-toxic solutions to keep you and your family safe, and our friendly staff members can provide tips for keeping pests at bay.

Tags: ants, food pest, Food Safety

Protecting Your Food Storage from Pests

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Dec 06, 2013 @ 01:17 PM


tornado resized 600Survival Food resized 600

Food Pest Safety and Survival Food

Let’s face it; we are living in a time of economic uncertainty and tragic failures providing victims proper care and response in the face of disaster. We have seen the level of damage and emergency response with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.  This disaster taught us that we cannot rely on help reaching us in a timely manner (if at all) from our government, or its agencies for these types of disasters.

More and more people are seeking ways to be more self sufficient in surviving disasters.  This has been a personal concern for some time and I have become much more aware of the things we need to do in order to look after our families. Planning ahead is going to be the key to readiness.

Food and water after any disaster is critical, but often times not available in the disaster zone for long periods of time because of hording, poor response from emergency agencies, and possible contamination of supplies on hand.  It’s become very popular to be educated on survival techniques and long term food storage.  

As an Entomologist I am aware that just having these supplies isn’t a guarantee that the quality of the food will be in a usable state when it is needed.  I’ve seen my share of Stored Product Pest damage and the Millions of dollars it cost the manufacturing companies it affected over the years.  So knowing the potential damage it can cause to a survival program, I wanted to offer some storage practices that can help mitigate inventory loss.

Facts:  About 80% of human food comes from grains, such as barley, corn, millet, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat, and legumes, such as beans, soybeans and peanuts. All of which are great to have in a survival program.

Food Pest resized 600

Loss of product comes from two sources, (1) the actual consumption of grains form insects and rodents. (2) Contamination and damages to structures or containers by poor storage and/or rodents and insect activities. Indirect contamination also can be from those from which result from dry and wet grain heating, moisture migration, bacteria, fungi, aflatoxins, and parasites of humans.

Stored Product Pest can already be in your food when you purchase it. I know this is scary, but many of the flour and grains have eggs in them and can hatch at any time depending on moisture and temperature.

Storage Practices:  Knowing the potential risk of these facts, you want to think about How and Where you are going to store your dry food products can greatly improve the chance that when you need it, it will be in a usable state.  I can’t imagine the heartache of opening your food supply when you really need it to only find a web filled, powdery mess, full of bugs.  So, for starters you want to choose a “pest Proof” container such as insect proof containers, such as glass or plastic jars. Pint-size freezer bags that are moisture and vapor proof work pretty well, but my first choice is a vacuum sealed bag, such as a Seal -a- Meal ®.  This offers many advantages such as

  • Air Tight
  • Extend the life of the food
  • Clear
  • Takes up less space
  • Adjustable size
  • Water proof
  • Contents can be boiled for cooking
  • Easy inspection for food pest inspection
describe the image
It’s always best to keep each item separate form others so if a product does hatch you will not contaminate your entire supply.  This is where you need to have a regular inspection of all storage.  Placing everything into a sealed drum isn’t your best option here.  Out of sight, is out of mind and you will not likely be happy when you do open it.  Pest won’t hatch out if you are able to keep in the refrigerator or better yet in a freezer.  I know not everyone has room, but having a spare freezer or refrigerator in the garage is a good investment. 

External threats are also a concern with long term storage.  Rodents are probably going to be your biggest concern because they can chew through just about every container material there is.  Metal drums that have a removable ring on the top is a good start.  Access is a key issue so choose a place that will be secure and available when you need it.  Monitoring your products on a regular basis is going to be key in the quality of your survival food.  There is Stored Product Pest pheromone traps available from the Internet that can be used to “sample” the storage area that you choose to keep your food in.  Also, if you choose your garage, be sure that your total storage isn’t going to cause an access issue if you have a major earthquake, you don’t want your food to be buried under Aunt Edna’s collection of glass wear.

If you have a specific issue or concern, please don’t hesitate to ask, I am here to answer your questions

.Click me

Tags: Food Safety, pest control food safety, survival food storage