They're industrious and hungry. And they're likely looking for a way into your kitchen.
Ants are America's No. 1 nuisance pest, according to the National Pest Management Association. As weather warms in spring, ants get on the move, sending out scouts in search of dinner.
"Pests invade our homes while looking for three things food, water and shelter," said Missy Henriksen, the NPMA's vice president. "In particular, ants are looking for food."
Recent research found ant infestations increasing nationwide.
"Ants are a pest," Henriksen said. "They're not something you want in your home. They can contaminate food. In the case of carpenter ants, they can do damage to your home, too."
About 200 species of ants inhabit California, but fewer than a dozen qualify as household pests, according to the University of California's integrated pest-management program.
Spring invaders are often odorous house ants and carpenter ants. Argentine ants and pavement ants also are common in California homes. Kitchens and bathrooms are most vulnerable to infestations.
"(Nationwide), odorous house ants are the most common in the home," Henriksen said. "If you crush them, they emit an offensive odor. Carpenter ants (which are larger) act like termites. They can take up residence inside your house. They don't actually 'eat' wood; they excavate it in order to build out their nest."
The best defense? Keep the ants out and don't give them any reason to come inside.
"That advice sounds so basic, but it's true," Henriksen said. "Any sugary substance is very attractive to them, but not exclusively. Any crumbs or other types of food can draw ants."
This time of year, ants will send out scouts in search of food. Once a source is discovered, those scouts will alert other ants to the found food and form a pheromone trail leading their six-legged brethren to dinner.
"To prevent ants, really make sure your home is clean," Henriksen said. "Wipe the counters. Clean the floors. Remove soda cans. Any drips or spills, clean up immediately. Pet food dishes should be kept empty. They can attract ants, too."
If you have an ant emergency, determine what the ants are attracted to and remove the food source, say UC Davis pest experts. Then, destroy the pheromone trails either by vacuuming, wiping them with soapy water or spraying with window cleaner.
To prevent ants from exploring, plug up possible entry points. Seal cracks and holes around the outside of your home with caulk. UC Davis pest experts also suggest plugging small holes with petroleum jelly.
"If you believe you have an infestation, contact a pest professional to make the proper identification and treatment," Henriksen added. "With ants, you don't just have one. If you see one, there's probably a larger problem."
Warm weather helps young plants get off to a fast start. Transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash seedlings. Make sure they get enough water, especially if temperatures heat up or if the soil is dried out by wind.
Plant seeds for melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes and annual herbs such as basil. Keep soil moist (not wet) and they'll sprout quickly.
Put your veggie garden on a regular diet. Set up a monthly feeding program, starting this weekend, and keep track on your calendar. Make sure to water your garden before applying any fertilizer to prevent "burning" your plants.
In the flower garden, plant seeds for sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, salvia, marigolds, celosia and asters. You also can transplant seedlings for many of those same flowers.
Deep-water trees and shrubs. To make this easier, mound dirt to form basins, 2 to 4 inches deep, that can hold water and let it soak down. But be mindful that water doesn't stand around trunks for long periods of time.
To discourage birds from stealing your crop, hang strips of foil in fruit trees.