Did you accidentally spill some soda or drop a piece of food on the counter? You might notice a line of ants marching across your kitchen the next night, crawling over food that was left out. Is it okay to eat food invaded by ants?
It’s not safe to eat food attacked by ants because, while ants won’t infect your food directly, they can carry some foodborne illnesses. But there are no reports of a person getting sick from eating food ants have chewed on. Still, you can protect your pantry at home, like using airtight containers.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about ants and food, as well as what you can do if you find a swarm of ants in your home. If you’re having trouble with these insects, be sure to continue reading!
Will Ants Contaminate Food?
While rare, ants have the potential to contaminate food, water, and surfaces within your kitchen. Studies have shown that ants can transfer microorganisms, leading to contamination. Ants are sterile insects, but they can still carry diseases.
Because of their ability to carry foodborne illnesses, it would be better to throw out something you noticed had attracted ants. You don’t need to throw everything out, just the items that had lines of ants invading them.
Are Ants Dangerous?
Sugar ants, the small black ones you usually see around food, are not harmful. They can’t sting, but they may try to bite you if they feel threatened. However, they’re so tiny that they won’t cause you any pain.
Ants have a large number of antimicrobial agents in their bodies, which makes them sterile. If they bite you, you won’t have a reaction unless you’re allergic to them, and an ant biting your food won’t transfer foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses usually come from ants crawling through garbage and stepping on your food.
Do Ants Carry Disease?
Ants are fast and travel all over your home, picking up bacteria as they march around. So, while they technically don’t carry disease in their bodies, they might be covered in them. Ants can carry bacteria and even fungi that can contaminate your food and the surfaces in your kitchen.
They might carry the following:
- E. coli
It’s important to note that while ants can carry Salmonella, they very rarely do.
How To Stop Ants From Eating Your Food
If you have ants at home, you will want to stop them from eating your food by following measures you can to avoid the spread of foodborne illnesses. To keep ants out, you will want to:
- Store food in airtight containers.
- Wash dishes promptly.
- Clean up food and crumbs.
- Put away food you aren’t eating.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Remove moisture.
- Throw away food your pet doesn’t eat.
What Attracts Ants
Ants are tiny, so they can easily sneak into your kitchen, and if you know what attracts them to your home, you can take steps to prevent them from entering.
They are always on the hunt for food and water and will eat anything you leave out. Ants are also attracted to moisture, bread, sweets, and pet foods. To stop attracting ants, you will need to be diligent about putting food away and cleaning up promptly.
Remove any standing water in your kitchen and bathroom. Make sure that you hang up used towels, as the moisture encourages ants to nibble on them.
How To Store Food
You should also change how you store your food, which will prevent ants from entering your home. There are several ways to do this.
- Store bread and dry goods inside plastic containers to prevent ants from smelling them. The container should have a tight-fitting lid, so the ants can’t enter it. You will want to keep your fruit in the fridge instead of on counters.
- Clean the outside of your syrup and honey containers. If you keep your sugar in its original packaging, make sure you move it to a plastic container. When recycling soda cans, always rinse them before throwing them out.
- Make sure that you clean up spills immediately. Even if you leave a sugary drink on a surface for a few minutes before cleaning it, ants can still find the residue.
Learn Ant Habits
Ants are much more likely to enter your home during the winter because they’re struggling to find food outside and will discover ways into your pantry. Once an ant finds a food source in your kitchen, it will keep returning until the food source is gone.
If you find ants inside during the summer, they’re likely looking for water during dry periods. You may notice them in your bathroom during this time too.
How Long Does It Take Ants To Find Food?
If you already have ants in the house, they can appear immediately when you leave out food or water. However, ants can take days to decide your home is a good place to eat if they haven’t invaded yet.
When ants mark your home, they’ll keep returning, so you will want to react quickly to avoid an infestation.
How To Get Rid of Ants
One of the best ways to get rid of ants is to clean with white vinegar, as they hate the smell and will avoid areas you use it on. Mix a 50-50 water and vinegar solution, then use it to clean all of your surfaces, including your floors.
You can also buy ant traps online and set them up around your kitchen and bathroom, or in areas where you see the ants the most. TERRO Liquid Ant Baits are very easy to use and are low cost.
Cinnamon is another scent that repels ants. You can sprinkle some ground cinnamon in areas where you notice ants. They also hate the smell of other strong spices such as Chili Pepper or Cayenne Pepper.
You might look for essential oils in these scents to sprinkle in key areas of your kitchen or bathroom to keep ants out. Since they come in all scents, you’re sure to find some that will work.
According to a study, clove oil has a 88% efficiency when it comes to repelling ants, which is a relatively high number. That means that clove oil works almost as well as manufactured ant repellents.
Why You Shouldn’t Step on Ants
When you see an ant running across the kitchen floor, your first reaction might be to step on it. However, you don’t want to kill ants that are in your house, as they use pheromones to communicate with their colony members. This method allows them to show others where resources are.
When an ant dies, it releases a pheromone to signal danger. The alarm signals other ants to come and inspect the body. Even if you clean up the squashed ant, its pheromones will still be present.
So, when you kill an ant, you are unintentionally attracting more into your home. The best method to deal with these bugs is to repel them using natural methods or ant baits that kill them when returning to their colony.
Ants can contaminate food, so it’s best to store everything in an airtight container while dealing with an infestation. You will want to quickly take care of the problem, as ants can also transfer disease to your counters and other surfaces.
An ant biting your food won’t make you sick, but they still can transfer foodborne illnesses to your kitchen. However, getting rid of ants is easy once you have removed all their food and water sources.
- BoxGreen: Can I still eat food that has ants in it?
- Pest Control Inc.: DO ANTS CONTAMINATE FOOD?
- Fischer Pest Control: What Attracts Ants
- Ants: Getting Rid of Ants With Vinegar: Does it Really Work?
- NCBI: A study on the potential of ants to act as vectors of foodborne pathogens
- Pest Tips: Never Step on or Squash an Ant
- School of Bugs: Why do Dead Ants Attract More Ants? Everything You Need to Know
- International Journal of Biotechnology and Biochemistry: Small Plot Experimental Study for Testing Efficacy of ant Repelling Activity of Essential Oils