Thirsty Invaders: Understanding Ants that are Attracted to Water

Pest Control
Written by: Charles Robinson
October 11, 2023
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Every homeowner knows that unexpected guests can come in many forms, but few are as persistent or surprising as ants that are attracted to water. We usually associate ants with the sugary crumbs left on our counters or the residue of a sweet drink left out overnight. Yet, a subset of these diligent creatures venture into our homes, driven by an insatiable quest for moisture. 

Their attraction isn’t primarily to the leftovers in our kitchen but the hidden damp and moist areas that many houses inadvertently provide. From carpenter ants burrowing into damp wood to cornfield ants searching for a humid retreat, understanding the behavior of these moisture-loving insects is vital. 

As climate patterns shift and seasons grow hotter or wetter, the presence of these thirsty ants might become a more common issue. Dive deep with us to explore the world of ants that are attracted to water, learn about their habits, and discover preventive measures to keep them at bay.

What are Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants, known scientifically as Camponotus, are a unique subset of the ant family. Distinguished not only by their size but also by their habits, these ants have developed a reputation as unwelcome house guests. 

They are often black, but can also be red or a combination of both colors, giving them a distinctive appearance. Their size, combined with their wood-boring habits, frequently leads homeowners to confuse them with the more destructive termites. However, the crucial difference lies in their relationship with wood; while termites feed on it, carpenter ants simply hollow it out to create pathways and chambers for their colonies.

Where Do Carpenter Ants Live?

Carpenter ants showcase a clear preference for locations that provide the right balance of shelter and moisture. Natural habitats include tree stumps, logs, or dead parts of trees and shrubs. 

When they invade human-made structures, they target areas vulnerable to moisture damage. Basements, attics, and spaces behind bathroom tiles are prime real estate for these ants. Even wooden objects damaged by previous insect activity, mold, or physical wear can host a thriving carpenter ant colony. Their presence often indicates moisture problems in a structure, making them a sign of potential home damage beyond just their nesting activities.

Attraction to Water

Water is life – and for carpenter ants, this statement holds especially true. Their biological makeup necessitates a damp environment. This ensures their eggs maintain the right moisture level and provides a conducive environment for the young ants. In their search for ideal nesting conditions, carpenter ants can often be found trailing along pipes or other water sources in homes. 

While they don’t drink excessive amounts of water like some species, the humidity and moisture associated with it are essential for their survival. As such, homes with unresolved water leaks or poor ventilation, leading to condensation buildup, are at higher risk of a carpenter ant infestation.

Common Types of Ants Attracted to Water

While all ant species require some level of moisture to survive, certain species are particularly attracted to water-rich environments. These ants not only need water for hydration but also choose humid conditions for building nests and breeding. Let’s delve deeper into some of the common ants that are known for their affinity towards water.

Cornfield Ants

Cornfield ants, scientifically termed Lasius alienus, are prevalent in many parts of North America. While they’re typically found in open grassy areas, what’s less known is their strong preference for damp conditions. They construct their nests in moist soil, often under rocks or logs. When the environment becomes overly dry, these ants are known to move closer to water sources, making them frequent visitors to garden areas with sprinklers or drip systems.

Sugar Ants

The term “sugar ants” is a common name for various ant species attracted to sweet substances. While these ants are infamous for their raids on sugary foods in our kitchens, they also possess a strong instinct to locate water. Their need for water is especially noticeable in drier climates or during summertime when they venture out on long trails, searching for any available water source. They can often be spotted around kitchen sinks, bathrooms, or any area with even the slightest moisture.

Other Species of Ants

The relationship between ants and water goes beyond just a few species. Many other ant types prioritize locating reliable water sources, especially during periods of drought or high temperatures:

  • Odorous House Ants: Identified by the unpleasant odor they release when crushed, these ants have a notable preference for moist environments. They often nest in areas close to water leaks or damp wood.

  • Pavement Ants: As their name suggests, these ants usually set up shop under pavements or concrete. However, they do need moisture and can be seen emerging after a rainfall or around puddles.

  • Argentine Ants: Native to South America but now found globally, these ants are known for forming supercolonies. They prefer humid environments and are often found in gardens, under plant pots, or near other consistent water sources.

Sources of Moisture and Water for Ants

Ants are resourceful creatures, constantly seeking out water sources for their survival. Especially during dry spells or in generally arid regions, ants can be quite innovative in locating moisture. Here’s a deeper look into the various water and moisture sources that ants are attracted to:

Leaky Pipes and Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing defects, often concealed within walls or beneath floors, are a magnet for ants. Beyond just the visible drips, the moist environment created by persistent leaks provides a perfect breeding ground. If left unchecked, these secluded, damp spots can host significant ant colonies, resulting in infestations that might go unnoticed until it’s a full-blown problem.

Excess Moisture in the Home

A home with inadequate ventilation or unchecked humidity becomes a sanctuary for various pests, including ants. Bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are particularly vulnerable, with their tendency to trap moisture. Using dehumidifiers or ensuring efficient airflow can be crucial steps in preventing such habitats.

Pet Food Spills and Storage Containers

The moisture in wet pet foods is a two-fold attraction: it offers sustenance and hydration. Likewise, the condensation formed on storage containers, particularly those kept in damp environments, can become a water source. Regularly cleaning and ensuring dry storage areas can deter ants from capitalizing on these sources.

Clean Water Sources

For an ant, an open container of water, like a pet water bowl or an uncapped bottle, is akin to an oasis. Even a forgotten mug or a wet sink can serve as a makeshift pond for these thirsty insects. Ensuring water sources are not exposed, especially overnight, can reduce ant attraction.

Other Natural Sources of Water

In the great outdoors, ants are expert scavengers. After a rainfall, they’ll take advantage of puddles or even the tiny water droplets on plants. Garden areas, with their regular watering schedules, are particularly vulnerable. Plant saucers, frequently overlooked, can retain water and become a prime attraction for ants. Additionally, they’re drawn to moisture-laden soil and can often be found bustling around the bases of well-watered plants.

FAQs About Ants that are Attracted to Water

What are the primary signs of an ant infestation in a home?

The primary signs include spotting live ants consistently, noticing ant pathways in and around your home, and finding their nests, which resemble small piles of soil or dirt.

Can ants cause structural damage to homes, similar to termites?

While carpenter ants can hollow out wood to create their nests, they don’t consume wood like termites. However, their nesting activities can weaken wooden structures over time.

Are there natural repellents to deter ants from entering homes?

Yes, natural repellents include lemon juice, peppermint oil, and cucumber peels. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around entry points can also deter ants.

Why do ants seem to be more active during certain times of the year?

Ant activity often corresponds with seasonal changes. They may be more visible in warmer months as they forage for food and water, while in colder months, they often stay underground or within nest structures.

How can I identify the specific species of ants in my home?

To accurately identify ant species, observe their size, color, behavior, and preferred nesting locations. For precise identification, consulting an entomologist or pest control expert can be beneficial.

Protecting Your Home from Thirsty Ant Invaders

To answer the question at hand, yes, ants that are attracted to water can and will find any accessible moisture source. By understanding their behavior and preferences, homeowners can take preventive measures, ensuring these thirsty invaders don’t establish a stronghold in their living space. Regular inspections, repairing water leaks, and ensuring dry conditions can deter these ants and maintain the sanctity of your home.

Are you dealing with thirsty invaders in your home? Fret not, and take the next step by contacting a trusted ant exterminator near you! We will ensure a pest-free environment effectively.