How Do Ants Get Into Closed Containers? (And How to Keep Them Out)

It’s a little baffling how ants can get into closed containers, but they somehow manage to find their way in through the smallest of cracks.

Ants can squeeze into incredibly small spaces because their bodies are flattened from side to side. This allows them to pack more densely together, and since they travel in such large groups, this is an important adaptation for them.

Their strong mandibles also help them to pry open small spaces. All they need is a tiny opening, and they can get into just about anything.

Small but mighty – these ants don’t just use their numbers to their advantage. They are also able to lift and carry things that are up to 20 times their own body weight.

This is possibly one of the reasons why they are able to find their way into containers that seem to be closed tight. Aside from their strong jaws, their strength and numbers make them a force to be reckoned with.

The Anatomy of an Ant’s Body Explains Why They Can Get In Sealed Containers

Ants are a notoriously resourceful group of insects known for their ability to adapt and find creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Humble creatures, often overlooked and underestimated, these ants have complex anatomy that allows them to accomplish remarkable feats.

This skill is well demonstrated by their ability to get into closed containers and raid our pantries. While many factors can influence how ants enter and access containers, their incredibly strong jaws are the primary driving force behind these intrusions.

Powerful Mandibles

close up of ant mandibles

Ants have powerful mandibles that enable them to easily chew through many different types of materials, including the plastic used in most food containers. Ants also use their mandibles to pry open small spaces so they can squeeze their bodies through.

Flattened Bodies

Their bodies are specially adapted to allow them to squeeze into tight spaces and travel across various terrains. If you take a closer look at an ant’s body, you’ll notice that it is divided into three main sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.

The head is where the ant’s mouth and eyes are located. The thorax is the middle section of the body and is where the ant’s legs are attached. The abdomen is the back section of the body and contains the ant’s digestive system.

One of the most notable features of an ant’s anatomy is its thin, flattened body. This allows them to slip through tiny cracks and crevices that would be impassable for other animals.

In addition, ants have a special mechanism in their legs that will enable them to cling to smooth surfaces. This prevents them from being swept away by water or falling off of vertical surfaces.

Together, these adaptations make it possible for ants to get into just about anywhere they want to go.

How to Keep Ants from Getting to Closed Containers

These two adaptations – powerful mandibles and a flattened body – make it possible for ants to get into just about any container, no matter how tightly sealed it may seem. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no way to keep them out. There are a few things you can do to deter ants from getting into your food:

Use Airtight Containers, Preferably Glass

vegetables inside an airtight glass container

One way to make it more difficult for ants to get into your food is to use airtight containers, preferably made of glass. Glass is a non-porous material, so it won’t hold onto any ant scent trails that might lead other ants to the food.

Airtight lids will also create an extra barrier between the food and the environment, making it harder for ants to access the food inside.

If you don’t have airtight containers, you can try sealing the openings of non-airtight containers with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Just be sure to keep the seal tight, as even small gaps can allow ants to slip through.

Keep Your Containers Clean

Ants are attracted to food by scent. They use their sense of smell to find food sources and communicate with other ants about where they’ve found food.

This means that if your containers are dirty, they may be more likely to attract ants. Be sure to wash your containers regularly, especially if you’ve had them sitting out for a while or if they’ve been used to store sticky or sugary foods.

The more food residue there is on a container, the more likely it is that ants will be attracted to it. So, it’s important to keep your containers clean.

Wipe them down with a damp cloth after every use, and wash them regularly with hot, soapy water. This will help to reduce the scent of food and make it less likely that ants will be attracted to your containers.

Keep Food from the Floor

Even if you’re using airtight containers, it’s still important to keep food off the floor where ants can more easily access it. Try storing food on high shelves or in cupboards, and wipe up any spills immediately.

You should also avoid leaving any crumbs or fallen bits of food around, as these can attract ants looking for a quick meal. Regular sweeping and vacuuming can help to keep your floors clean and free of potential ant snacks.

Store Food in the Refrigerator

open fridge with food inside

One of the best ways to keep ants out of closed containers is by storing food in the fridge. Ants are highly attuned to smell, and they will be naturally drawn to any food item that is left out on the counter or in a pantry.

By keeping all food in the fridge, you not only limit the amount of exposed food but also drastically reduce the risk of an ant infestation. If you do need to keep food out, try to store it in a cool, dry place like the pantry rather than on the counter.

Final Thoughts

The way the ant’s body is structured, partnered with their strong jaws, allows them to get into containers that would be impassable for other animals.

Using airtight containers, preferably glass ones, keeping food off the floor, and storing food in the fridge are great ways to prevent ants from getting into your food.

If airtight containers aren’t available, you can add an extra layer of security by wrapping the containers in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Just remember to keep the seal tight! Doing these things will ensure that ants don’t get into your food and make a mess.