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How To: Control ants before they become a problem

Homeowners have more than enough to worry about; the last thing you want to have on your mind is pesky ants wandering through your kitchen, invading your home and your life.

The four most common ant species in the U.S. are carpenter ants, pavement ants, Argentine ants and odorous ants. In fact, the black carpenter ant is the most common ant with more than 1,000 different subspecies throughout the world.

Ants prefer their natural habitat, but when they're hungry, no home is off limits. Often, ants send a scout in to find food. Once food is located, they leave an odor trail on the way back to their mound leading their fellow ants on an easy hunt.

Have no fear; there are ways to prevent home-invading ants from setting up camp in your house.

Treat outdoors

Ants invade homes because they are looking for food and water. The best way to control ants in your home is to keep them from entering in the first place. Using an ant-block product around your patios, sidewalks, in cracks, and surrounding the entire foundation of your home, is an effective way to inhibit the most common U.S. ant species.

Secure cracks

Caulking cracks in walls and securing holes in doorways are great ways to start protecting your home from ant invasions. But if they sneak by, you need another solution. Target hard-to-reach crevasses with two easy-to-use baits. One is an ant stake that can be inserted into the ground around the outside walls of your home, and the other is a bait syringe that can be used in the hard-to-reach cracks.

Hide food

There is a chance that these determined invaders will find a way into the house. Plastic containers and freezer bags are not only good for the freshness of your food; they also keep bugs out of your cabinets. Bait stations target ants inside the home, as ants are attracted to the scent and taste of the bait. So when they take it back to the colony to feed other ants, including the queen, they destroy their friends within days, instead of invading your home.

Don't let home-invading ants take over your life, use the right products to control ants and protect your house before it's too late. For more information on AMDRO AntBlock visit www.Amdro.com/antblock. For more information on Grant's Kills Ants visit www.GrantsProducts.com/ant_control.html.

-- ARA

Decorating Tip: Boost mood with natural light

Infuse natural light into your home for an immediate morale (and energy-efficient) boost.      

Windows are a piece of art and can be used to showcase an outdoor tree or plant and create that seamless look between the indoors and the outdoors -- but they must be clean.

According to a recent survey, almost half of homeowners (48 percent) would rather clean the toilet or shower than their outdoor windows. For many that may be because of the time and effort that goes into the chore, but it can be simple and the results can be dramatic.

Try an all-in-one glass-cleaning spray that will give your windows a streak-free shine.

-- ARA

Home-Selling Tip: Focus on selling home, not items inside

Don't turn your home into a second-hand store. When potential homebuyers come to view your home, don't distract them with offers to sell those furnishings you no longer need. You may lose the biggest sale of all.

-- RE/MAX

Did You Know …

Lining a plant pot with a coffee filter will prevent soil leakage through its drainage holes.

Home Improvements: Create curb appeal with attractive driveway

Driveways are often overlooked, spoiling an otherwise manicured landscape. Unless it is severely cracked, crumbling or poses a safety hazard, there's no need to spend thousands on removing and replacing it. There are easier options to make over a tired driveway that will boost the curb appeal of a home.

- Restore damaged asphalt by filling cracks with an asphalt crack filler or drive patch. Then renew the look of old, worn blacktop driveways with a flexible, long-lasting filler and sealer.

- Add inexpensive landscape lighting. Low-voltage or solar lighting creates a softly-lit path to border the driveway, sidewalk and garden beds.

- Instead of having to keep the edge of the lawn trimmed against the driveway, create a "buffer" strip with a decorative rock garden or plant flowers along the path to build an inviting drive up to the home.

-- ARA

Garden Guide: Save water, save money

Conserving water makes sense environmentally, and can also help your family reduce your water utility bill this summer.

- Choose drought-resistant native plants for your landscaping needs. Your options won't be limited to cactus, either. Your local Cooperative Extension office can help you identify plants that are right for your area.

- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends adding water-retaining organic material to your soil. You can also reduce evaporation by using mulch in landscaping beds.

- Look for alternative water sources other than the outdoor tap -- such as collecting the water that drains from your air conditioner. Consider collecting roof runoff in a rain barrel.

- Irrigate efficiently with low-volume irrigation systems and smart watering practices.

-- ARA

Backyard Buddies

You can attract birds that normally don’t visit feeders using mealworms. Bluebirds, robins, wrens and warblers are attracted to mealworms.

Mealworms may be offered in old breakfast food bowls or shallow plastic food dishes that are too slick on the sides for the mealworms to climb. Place the bowls or dishes in an open area where the movement of the mealworms will attract the birds' attention.

Mealworms can be purchased at pet stores or bait shops.

-- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

GateHouse News Service