Ants are considered a beneficial nuisance insect for their role in reducing dead and decaying plant and animal organic matter. Their nests also help aerate the soil. Many ant species have a fondness for aphid honeydew -- the sweet slop that aphids produce from feeding on plants.
Ants will eat just about anything, which is one reason they're such pests. All of the meat plant and animal materials. Some ants also love sweets. Others like greasy and/or protein foods.
The ants you find foraging in your kitchen are workers charged with the mission of bringing food back for their colony mates. What's more, they're also responsible for telling their buddies where food can be found. They do so by depositing a trail of pheromone, which stays in place for a long, long time.
Integrated Pest Management for Ants
These non-chemical approaches are advised for ant control:
Store all attractive food items such as sugar, syrup, and honey in closed containers.
Rinse out soft-drink containers before placing in trash.
Clean up grease splatters and spills as soon as they happen.
Don't free-feed pets. Many animals find kibbled foods irresistible.
Scrub ant entry points with soap and water. This will remove trail pheromones and make it more difficult for foragers to find previous trails.
A Fine Mess
Ants will not eat bait if food is nearby. For the best results, make sure that sinks, pantries, and other ant-infested areas are free of food particles and other ant-attractive substances.
Toxic baits, either liquids, solids, or gels, applied in stations or broadcast as granules are effective for controlling ants. Of these, gels and liquids tend to yield faster results than solids do.
Indoors, place bait stations along ant trails. Outdoors, site them every 10 to 20 feet and at any nest openings you can find.
Insecticides labeled for indoor ant control can provide immediate infestation relief while you're employing other control measures. Outdoors, pyrethroids can be applied at entrance points. More extensive perimeter treatments, while often recommended, can disrupt baiting programs and pose more of an environmental concern than baiting does.
Professional pest control operators have access to newer, non-repellant products for ant control. For severe ant infestations, or areas where ants are a continuing problem, a professional company should be consulted for long-term relief.