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Summer heat means booming ant populations

Entomologists found a 400% increase in the West Knoxville ant population between June 1 and July 1.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — If you've noticed an uptick in ants around your home, you're not alone.

University of Tennessee entomology and plant pathology professor Karen Vail said the summer weather bringing more ants inside homes.

"When it's nice and warm, they're moving, looking searching for food," Vail said. "Beginning of June to the beginning in July, we saw a 400% increase in the odorous house ant populations found around homes in West Knoxville."

Bobby Lane, senior service center manager for Arrow Exterminators, said there are multiple steps you can take to prevent an ant infestation from coming indoors.

Some of his tips include caulking any cracks or crevices outdoors, cleaning your outdoor trashcans with soap and water and sparingly watering your plants.

"The outside is where your major pest control, prevention would start," Lane said. "Ants are looking for moisture. They're like us. They want a cool damp place."

Vail said being aware of your environment both inside and out is the best way to combat ant infestations.

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"Folks need to think about why the ants are present in their home... You're providing food, water, or shelter for them," Vail said. "Then they need to think about what they can do to reduce those conducive conditions around the home."

Inside your home, both experts advised residents to keep food or savory items in sealed containers and to frequently clean off floors and countertops.

If you try to tackle an ant infestation on your own, they said you need to be aware of what kind of ants you are dealing with and whether they will respond better to a sugar or protein-based bait. 

You should also use the bait outside or at the point of entry inside the home.

"Don't bait them on the on the countertop where they're foraging, because you're just going to bring hundreds of more insane ants in," Lane said. 

Even if you take all the proper steps to prevent ants from coming inside, Lane said baiting them might not work. 

"Ants can be very difficult to control: they're public enemy number one," he said. "In many cases, it takes calling the professionals to get them... get it taken care of."