The ants go marching one by one — into your home, up your counters, and onto your fresh fruit salad.
It's a scenario familiar to many people and, in the Northeast, a sure sign of spring, bringing headaches to homeowners and giving the squeamish the heebie-jeebies.
But with a little work, it is possible to reclaim your kitchen from the uninvited guests — and even prevent them from coming inside.
House ants and sugar ants are some of the most common species found in homes and apartments, according to Orkin's website. They build their nests outdoors, but will enter homes when foraging for food.
Exterminator companies like Catseye Pests explain ants love damp spaces and recommend homeowners remove wet or rotted wood near their homes, and trim shrubs and bushes that have grown close to the home's foundation.
Orkin recommends homeowners look for evidence of ant colonies — ant mounds in your yard, driveway or concrete walkways, for example. Each colony consists of many workers, one or more "queen," and larvae and pupae. Colonies should be attacked directly, either with commercial sprays, multiple pots of boiling water, or other home remedies.
Cracks in pavement, foundation and patios should be filled in, Catseye recommends.
Experts say the key to keeping ants out of your home is to not give them a reason to enter in the first place.
House ants' main target is food, especially sticky and sugary substances, according to the pest control website PestKill.org. Worker ants bring the food back to the colony for the queen and larvae. A steady food source means the colony will thrive.
Exterminators and web sources recommend various steps to keep ants at bay:
• Clean any food and drink spills immediately.
• Keep preparation areas like counters and stoves clean of food remnants. Check behind appliances and clear off clutter on the counter to make sure you catch every last crumb.
• Regularly wash and clean trash bins with an all-purpose cleaner, white vinegar or bleach.
• Wash dirty dishes, cups and silverware right away.
You aren't doomed if you find ants in your home. Local hardware stores and garden centers reported that customers have success with commercial spray pesticides and ant traps. But experts stress killing a few on the counter won't take care of the whole problem and that it's important to get rid of the entire colony.
There are alternatives for those looking to keep their home free of pesticides. Web sources recommend numerous home remedies.
Borax and sugar: Mix equal parts of Borax (the trade name for the mineral sodium tetraborate, usually found in the laundry detergent aisle) and white sugar. Place on small pieces of cardboard or plates. Worker ants will take it back to the colony. Can be used outside on pavement, near mounds or inside. (Take precautions when handling Borax and keep out of reach of pets and children — while it's natural, it can still be harmful when inhaled or ingested.)
Chalk lines: Many people report great success drawing chalk lines around windowsills, doorways and other entryways.
Vinegar: The stuff dads drizzle on their french fries has unlimited uses around the home and ants hate the stuff. Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray into corners of counters, windows and sink and let dry.
When in doubt, it may be best to call in a professional.
"Correct identification is crucial because ants are not all the same," Orkin states on its website. "Different ant species may have very different behavior, habits and habitats. Knowledge-based ant control is one of the most important services that your pest management professional provides. Knowing where the pest ant is found; their activities; and their likes and dislikes are crucial to effective ant management."