how do ants find food

Updated: May 13, 2022

No matter the season, ants are always unwanted house guests. And where there's one ant, there are usually many more not far behind. This makes these pests quite difficult to get rid of. These social insects can be especially active in the spring and summer months, so now is the best time to know what attracts ants to your home and what you can do to help get rid of them.

Why are there ants in the house?

Ants are social insects that live in colonies, which means that if you see a single ant in your home, it's likely a part of a much larger colony living nearby. When ants find a good location to find food, they will quickly let their friends know, and soon you'll have a full-blown infestation.

Ants can enter your house through the tiniest crack, but there's no single reason why they might breach your home's defenses. Ants are likely attracted to indoor areas for several reasons. If you can learn more about the reasons why ants are entering your home, you can hopefully end your infestation more effectively.

Here are some of the most common causes of ants in the house:


Ants are foragers by nature. Worker ants scavenge for food, notify other ants of any potential food sources via scent or pheromone trails and carry the food back to the rest of the colony.

Ants also have a diverse diet. They are generally considered omnivores, however, many individual species tend to prefer specific kinds of food over others.

To help avoid an ant invasion:

  • Keep your pantry and kitchen clear of crumbs.
  • Refrigerate fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • Quickly clean up spills on floors and surfaces.
  • Keep all food in sealed, airtight containers.

Removing food sources will make your home less attractive to ants and help prevent an infestation.


Although ants need water to survive, they don't generally depend on large sources of it to get their fix. Many ants are able to get sufficient amounts of water from the foods they eat. However, some species, such as the tropical import known as the pharaoh ant, must nest close to a reliable water source. Other ants, like the carpenter ant, are attracted to damp wood because it can be more easily excavated for nesting, and a leaky pipe can provide enough moisture to sustain an entire infestation.

To help prevent your home from inviting ants inside, be sure to promptly address any plumbing issues and eliminate any other sources of moisture. Ants usually cannot live without water, so depriving them of a water source makes your home less desirable to them.

Reproduction and Propagation

Spring is the time of year when homeowners are most likely to encounter one specific type of ant: flying ants. These insects, also known as alates, are reproductive ants, and they may easily find their way inside your home. As an ant colony matures, it becomes more populous. The flying ants, which have been developing in the colony all along, then emerge and perpetuate the species. Once they mate, the males will die and the female queens who survive will search for places to nest and begin new colonies.


Ants are cold-blooded creatures that rely on the environment to regulate their body temperatures. In the winter, they may seek out the cozy interior of your home in order to avoid the cold. Additionally, some ants, such as carpenter ants, that often nest in dead wood, may find it hard to resist the structures that we build. You may keep a spotless kitchen, have watertight fixtures in every bathroom and be impervious to swarming ants, and yet, you still may end up with ants in your home.


As mentioned earlier, when identifying a potential home, ants are attracted to steady sources of food and water. But even getting rid of access to food and water often doesn't solve the problem. This might be because it isn't always easy to see or clean up the things that ants are attracted to. While it may seem gross to us, ants will happily eat pet food and even other tiny insects.

If you have ants, it's important to keep your house spotless. Ants thrive around clutter, as it gives them more places to hide away. Regularly sweep and wash floors, and you may consider DIY bait traps to help get rid of these pests.

Types of ants in your home

Nine ant species, in particular, are commonly found around homes:

It can be difficult for an untrained eye to identify which species of ant you have around your home. This is why it may be best to call in a team of professionals rather than attempting to deal with the issue yourself. Pest control experts can easily recognize ant species, and they understand what treatment is most effective against each.

What threat do ants pose?

While ants don't typically carry disease-causing pathogens, they can be a huge nuisance. Plus, some species, like the fire ant, can sting or bite if threatened. Fire ant stings are painful, and no one wants to find a trail of ants heading into the pet food bowl or the pantry.

Carpenter ants are by far the most destructive type of ant that you may find in your home, as they can dig into wood to build their nests, potentially causing structural damage to your house.

While you can kill or crush the ants you see, it can be tricky to locate where they're coming from. And if you can't find the source of the colony, the queen ant will keep producing more workers, which means your infestation will be ongoing.

Get rid of ants in your home

Ants are a common problem for millions of Americans, which is why you see so many products promising to take care of them. But these products alone might not do the job. Each species has its own biology and characteristic behaviors. This, combined with the general difficulty of removing ant infestations, are reasons why you should avoid attempting DIY ant control.

If you want to get rid of ants but don't want to mess with ineffective bait traps or sprays, contact Terminix® today. Our team of pest control experts can figure out what species of ant is invading your home, and we'll quickly work to provide a solution to your ant problem.

Get started