Summer antics! Ant activity soars across the UK

Rentokil Pest Control have revealed a significant increase in ant activity across the UK. Ant-related call outs increased 148% from March to April. The figures also reveal a 20% increase over February to April, compared to the same period last year.

Experts believe the rise could be attributed to the unseasonably warm start to the Spring – after Brits experienced record-breaking warm weather in April. Last month’s period of clear skies and the hottest April day since 1949 may explain the surge in activity, as ants are typically more active in higher temperatures and colonies use sunlight to navigate.  

If the weather remains mild, Rentokil expects higher levels of ant activity throughout the summer period. Ant lifecycles depend on temperature, and the amount of food available to them. Provided the Queen is healthy, and enough food is being brought back to the nest, ant eggs have a greater chance of survival. Ants can hatch after just three weeks, leading to increased breeding and larger colonies during prolonged warm periods.  

David Cross, head of the technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control explains: “Last month we saw reported ant infestations rise to levels we wouldn’t usually expect until June or July. It’s rare to see ant infestations in cold or overcast weather, and while the ‘Beast from the East’ may have caused them to remain dormant in March, the sudden change in temperature has since brought them out in their droves. This trend could be set to continue throughout the rest of the summer.

“If temperatures remain high, we also expect this to really be a bumper year for flying ants, which could manifest itself at ‘Flying Ant Day’ – the ‘nuptial flight’ stage of ant reproduction where swarms of flying ants are prominent.”

Most garden ants are content living outside, where their main food source is sugary secretions from sap-sucking insects like aphids. However, some may enter houses in search of sugary deposits from fruit or food. This is particularly common in urban areas, where ants tend to build their nests outside buildings. The ant that discovers a new source will then produce a pheromone trail: a chemical secretion which indicates where other ants from their colony can find food. Common UK ant species such as the black garden ant (Lasius niger) are most likely to enter homes or buildings under doors, via pipes and through gaps around window frames.

“Some ant nests can last for several years and cover a large area – with anything from several hundred to tens of thousands of ants in each colony. Their size can make them difficult to spot indoors, but ants leave sticky residues on worktops because they are attracted to, and eat, sweet things. If you think you have a problem in your home, it’s always best to seek professional advice,” Cross concluded.

Rentokil’s top tips to avoid ant infestations

  • 1. Clean up after yourself
    When there is a spillage or mess, clean it up as soon as possible. Once ants have found a food source they leave chemical trails to lead other ants to the area. Be sure to clean up sticky messes, and don’t leave washing up to fester. Also keep surfaces clean and clear of food, so there won’t be anything to attract them.
  • 2. Be proactive in your cleaning
    Aside from maintaining a hygienic environment on a day to day basis, a regular, proactive cleaning regime plays an important role in avoiding an unwelcome visit from ants. Pay particular attention to those hard-to-reach places, like underneath kitchen appliances, which could be fostering the moist conditions craved by ants.
  • 3. Keep things sealed
    Ants will always seek out food, whether it is stored or being prepared. Be sure to store food in sealed containers, and ensure all rubbish is kept in sealed containers, to avoid attracting ants indoors. 
  • 4. Keep an eye out for any ants outside your premises
    Most patios are laid on sand, and ants will often emerge between the cracks to find and carry food. By watching where the ants disappear into the crack, you’ll be able to locate the nest – and have a place to aim that ant killer powder before the problem escalates any further.