Summer is a prime season for families to enjoy fun in the sun. And ants—whose families can have thousands or even millions of hungry little members—are no exception. California is home to around 270 ant species, of which fewer than a dozen are among the most invasive and destructive of house pests. Ants damage your property (especially carpenter ants), carry risk of disease (Argentine ants), and might even set up colonies in your walls and carry in their own food to their new colony (odorous house ants). Others, like the velvety tree ant or the dreaded red fire ant, present a risk of bites and stings. In short, ants might want to celebrate their summer inside your house, but it’s best to keep them outside where they belong.

We’ve put together a few tips to help you manage ant infestations and help reduce the chance that these hardy little critters will come calling.

Food Management is Ant Management

Anyone who’s ever been on a picnic knows ants are drawn to food. They love to feast at humanity’s table, and are especially fond of anything sugary, fruity, or rich in both protein and sugars. So the first step in staving off an invasion is to limit the temptation.

You probably already have a shipshape kitchen and dining area, but even the cleanest home might have a few tempting targets for opportunistic ants. You can help reduce your chances of attracting ants by:

  • Keeping food in food areas only. In addition keeping food and eating in the kitchen and dining areas, make sure food, crumbs, and any other debris such as napkins or paper plates are promptly cleaned away.
  • Consider ditching your fruit bowl. They’re attractive and convenient, but fruit bowls are also a magnet for a wide array of household pests.
  • Harness the power of nature. Soapy water mixed with citrus peels or citrus oil will not only destroy ants, but wash away the scent trails they rely on to follow scouts during an invasion of your home.

Give Ants the Seal of (Dis)Approval

Ants are opportunists, and can infiltrate your home through even the tiniest hole. You probably won’t be able to seal up every nook and cranny, but you can make a decent go of reducing ant infestation by replacing leaky windows and doors, re-caulking existing ones, and replacing all your weather stripping. It’s a home improvement project that’ll improve your home in more ways than one!

The Dry Look is Back

OK, maybe the dry look should be left in the seventies, where it belongs. But moisture can attract ants, especially during the blazing days of summer, so making sure you’ve dealt with any standing water near your home or minor leaks in your home’s plumbing is essential to ant control. This will also help you avoid attracting other pests, and reduce the risk of mold, mildew, or other air quality issues.

Another “dry” tip: lay down a barrier of dried black pepper, cinnamon, chalk, turmeric, or charcoal at the suspected access point. Ants rely on chemical scent trails, and these substances both disrupt their messages but repel the ants themselves.

Call on a Pest Control Professional

The best time to exterminate ants is in the winter, when they are relatively dormant and breeding slows; however, a professional exterminator can help set you up with a regular pest control maintenance program that not only takes care of your existing ant woes, but will help keep them from coming back. Your neighborhood ant experts can identify the colony or colonies that are causing your issues, keep an eye out for any other pests that might be joining the party, and provide additional wisdom and guidance on making—and keeping—your home pest-free.