Why do ants come into the house – and how to stop them

Ever wondered why do ants come into the house? Find the reasons why and how to stop them invading your home

ants in a house on a spoon of sugar
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If you're wondering why do ants come into the house, the unfortunate fact is that warmer weather often heralds some unwanted house guests.

Ants are always scurrying around our backyards, but particularly in summer months when we open up doors and windows of our homes to let in fresh air, they can see this as an open invitation to march on in – in their hundreds and thousands.

There are a number of options open to you if you're wondering how to get rid of ants, but prevention is always better than cure, so avoid an infestation of these little insects by not placing temptation in their way.

dragon fruit cut in half to see the seeds

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Why do ants come into the house?

While ants are valuable garden residents, helping to recycle organic matter and aerate the soil for soil health, we don't want them having a party in our homes. So why do ants come into the house?

'Ants usually come into the house in search of food, and if you don't deal with this quickly, they may decide to stay on. The easiest way to keep them out, especially in summer, is to keep food sealed in containers and to immediately wipe up spills from countertops and floors. Even the smallest crumbs will tempt them, so good housekeeping and following cleaning tips is a must,' explains Lucy Searle, Homes & Gardens Global Editor in Chief. 

care and cleaning

(Image credit: Emma Lewis)

Why do ants suddenly appear in the house?

Ants may suddenly appear in the house because they are on the hunt for food, water or shelter.

FOOD

Ants forage for food in spring and summer months, sending out search parties that and will scavenge for anything they can find. They particularly like sugary substances, and we've all experienced enjoying a picnic outdoors, only to turn around and find the little critters descending on food left on unattended plates. 

When it comes to ants coming into the house, 'sticky jam residue left on a kitchen counter, or a discarded sweet on a table are all excellent for attracting ants, and once one ant finds the source of this sweetness, they’ll leave behind a scent trail to attract others, which can result is a massive infestation in no time,' explain the experts at Smith's Pest Management (opens in new tab) in California.

WATER

Ants will also seek out water, especially in warmer weather. When they find a good source they will leave a scent trail for the rest of the colony, so water bowls for pets or leaking pipes can cause a problem, add the Smith's experts.

cleaning a kitchen work surface with a cloth

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How do I stop ants from coming into my house?

The best way to stop ants from coming into your house in the first place is 'keeping a clean house, clearing spills straight away and cleaning food prep areas,' says the experts at Pest Defence (opens in new tab).

Be sure to:

  • Throw away any rotten fruit sitting in fruit bowls or veg in racks
  • Keep sugary jams, cakes or biscuits etc in sealed containers or in the fridge – merely putting them in the cupboard might not be enough as ants can still squeeze their way in through the tiniest crack
  • Fix any leaking pipes and keep any animal water bowls away from entrances

What attracts ants in the house?

Sugary food or spillages in particular attract ants, but any food remnants left in a kitchen or elsewhere can lure them in. Even if windows and doors aren't left open, ants can still find their way through little holes and cracks in masonry or woodwork, so keeping a clean home is the best preventative.

It's not just our food that they might be attracted to, either: pet food left in bowls could still provide them with a bit of nutrition, so clean out pet bowls and keep the surrounding brushed and mopped.

Rachel is senior content editor, and writes and commissions gardening content for homesandgardens.com, Homes & Gardens magazine, and its sister titles Period Living Magazine and Country Homes & Interiors. She has written for lifestyle magazines for many years, with a particular focus on gardening, historic houses and arts and crafts, but started out her journalism career in BBC radio, where she enjoyed reporting on and writing programme scripts for all manner of stories. Rachel then moved into regional lifestyle magazines, where the topics she wrote about, and people she interviewed, were as varied and eclectic as they were on radio. Always harboring a passion for homes and gardens, she jumped at the opportunity to work on The English Home and The English Garden magazines for a number of years, before joining the Period Living team, then the wider Homes & Gardens team, specializing in gardens.