When ants invade your home, yard, car, or business they are a worthy opponent. Ants have extraordinary capabilities that are not readily appreciated when battling an ant infestation. To get rid of ants quickly and thoroughly, whether you use bait or trap you should have some background knowledge about their behaviors, biology, and abilities. With over 12,000 species of ants throughout the world, proper ant identification is vitally important to successfully get rid of ants.
Ants are found on every continent on earth, except Antarctica. Ants are social insects, meaning they live together in groups called colonies. Colonies are divided into 2 castes, workers and reproductive, both male and female. As Aesop’s Fable The Ants and the Grasshopper suggests, ants are productive and hard-working creatures. The worker ants, sterile females, have many responsibilities. They must construct, repair, and defend the nest, feed and nurture the young and other adult ants in the colony, forage for food and water, and take out the colonies’ trash. The Bible points us to the work ethic of the female worker ant and challenges us to emulate her self-motivation and work ethic. Proverbs 6:6-8 states, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” The reproductive female ants are also called queens; their primary function is reproduction. Some queens live for years and produce millions of young. In some ant species, the queen may help by caring for and feeding the first brood of workers. Depending on the ant species, a colony may have one queen ant or dozens of queens. Male ants’ only job is to mate with the queen. After they mate, they die.
Let’s consider again the remarkable physical feats that ants are capable of. Ants can lift 10-50 times their body weight. If humans were capable of such weight-lifting capabilities, a 200-pound man would easily lift a car. Ants do not have lungs. Similar to stomata on plant leaves, oxygen enters ants’ bodies through tiny holes all over them, and carbon dioxide exits their bodies through these same holes.
Ants communicate with one another by leaving trails of pheromones. You may wonder how seemingly thousands of ants have found their way to your bathroom or kitchen. The answer is the foraging ant who located the food source left a scent trail proclaiming the find for the other ants! Ant communication through scent is complex but effective. Ants use pheromones to warn of danger to the colony, to remove sick or dying ants from the nest, and to tell others where to go to find food.
Some ants utilize fairly sophisticated “farming” techniques. Just as humans raise, care for, and protect sheep, goats, cows, and chickens, some species of ants raise aphids. Ants fiercely protect their “herds” of aphids from predators and parasites and ensure they have enough food to consume. In return, aphids provide ants with a reliable supply of sweet honeydew, which is a sugar-sweet meal for the ants. This symbiotic relationship is so powerful that some aphids are dependent upon the ants to “milk” them. Ants will stroke the aphids to stimulate the release of honeydew.
Another example of an ant farming technique is found in the leafcutter ant. Leafcutter ants are found mostly in Central and South America but are also becoming prevalent in Texas, Arizona, southern California, and western Louisiana. Leaf Cutter Ants cut leaves and carry the pieces back to their nests, which are in the soil. Leaf Cutter Ants have gardens of fungus, and the fungus needs decaying plant matter to grow. The Leaf Cutter Ant’s diet consists only of this fungus that is grown inside their nests.
Ants have a proficient survival instinct. Some species of ants can swim and float. This phenomenon is most easily observed with fire ants. When a fire ant infested field floods, fire ants will abandon their nest and clump together in the shape of a pancake. In this arrangement, fire ants can float for weeks without drowning. These flotillas of fire ants are often seen in the south in the aftermath of hurricanes.
We have briefly discussed some of the more remarkable abilities of ants in general; each species has its own food preferences, behavioral characteristics, and biological impulses. To permanently kill the ants infesting your home, business, or vehicle, accurately identifying the species of ants is necessary. Once the ant identification is confirmed you will know what they prefer to eat, how and when they forage, and how to kill the ants.
How to Get Rid of Ants in the House
Ant infestations are the number one reason people call a professional pest control company. Ants in your home are tough to get rid of! It seems like no matter how many you kill, there is another army of ants to take their place. Ant species come in many sizes, colors, and food preferences. The first step in getting rid of ants is to perform a thorough inspection of your home and yard. A thorough inspection should reveal the type of ant you are dealing with and possibly where the nest is located. Typically, kitchens and bathrooms are the best places to begin your ant inspection, but your inspection will likely lead you outdoors as well.
- Using a flashlight, look behind and under the appliances such as the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, under the sink, and inside cabinets.
- If the ant infestation is severe, you may be able to follow the ant trail from the kitchen or bathroom to the nest. Since foraging activity may be greater at night, an inspection in the evening may yield more conclusive results.
- If a foraging trail is not clear, sometimes it helps to encourage ant excitement by placing food options out for them. Ants either crave sweet sugary foods or protein-rich foods. Leave a pea-sized drop of honey or simple syrup and a pea-sized dab of peanut butter in the areas where you have seen ants. In a surprisingly short time, you will have ants gathered up at your buffet. At best, this test will give you enough ants to follow back to the nest, at worst it will tell you if they prefer to eat sweets or proteins.
- By following the ant trail, you will likely end up outdoors. Ants are survivors and can build nests in a variety of conditions and they may be very well hidden. Look under firewood piles, under yard debris, under the siding on your home, inside decaying tree stumps, and any vegetation on or near the ground near the ant trail.
Because many ants are described as small, black, sugar ants, a more definite identification may be difficult without the aid of an entomologist, a specimen sample, and a microscope. If you need help identifying an ant specimen, most county extension offices have personnel that will try to identify the ant for you. Here at Nextgen Pest Solutions, we have an Entomologist on staff who can identify the less common ants we encounter.
Get Rid of Ant Food Sources
Another integral facet of getting ants in your home under control is sanitation. An ant problem does not mean that your home is filthy. Sanitation in pest control terms simply refers to ensuring there is no available food or water for pests (ants, roaches, rats, or mice). Ant control efforts will be ineffective if the dripping honey jar is not cleaned up from the back of the pantry. Food spills or crumbs that are left will be a constant draw and frustrate your best intentions on killing ants. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the caked-on food from your small appliances such as your blender or stand mixture. These appliances often host sweet treats that ants will exploit. Also, limit food consumption to one room of the house. A Halloween candy bucket filled with Jolly Rancher wrappers will surely draw ants to your child’s hiding place!
Seal the Ant Entry Points
When dealing with larger species of ants such as carpenter ants, if you can figure out where ants are coming in, you can eliminate the ant problem much more quickly and easily by sealing the entryway. Following the ant trail may lead you to a window with a cracked or broken seal. By sealing that window or door, or caulking around the cable wire, you can prevent ants from finding their way inside your home. Ants are highly industrious and will utilize the smallest of cracks.
Ants – Bait vs. Sprays
When killing ants, the goal is to kill the entire colony, including the queen. Even if you can not locate and treat the nest, with today’s highly technical and specialized insecticides, it is possible to kill the entire colony. Insecticides have come a long since the stinky white residue left along the baseboards of the 1970s. Well-informed Modern Pest Control Operators favor baiting for ants rather than applying a chemical treatment spray inside your home. Baiting is considered a safer, more green option for households, and it also proves to be the most effective method of killing ants.
Ant baits come in a variety of formulations such as gels, liquids, granules, and solids. All ant baits contain some attractant or a combination of attractants, usually a sugar, carbohydrate, or a protein, and an active ingredient pesticide. The active ingredient is designed to be slow-acting and not cause immediate death. Baits work well for ants because of their societal structure. Worker ants forage for food and bring it back to the nest where they feed the queen and the male ants. Because these baits work slowly, the foraging ants have time to tell the others of the easy “food” supply and make multiple trips from the nest to the bait.
The active ingredients in ant baits vary. One of the most common and effective is boric acid, or borax, which is found in laundry detergent. Other ant baits utilize the active ingredients fipronil, avermectin, and indoxacarb, which are also found in the flea and tick medications you put on your dog or cat. The active ingredients in baits are generally in such low doses that the likelihood of poisoning by human ingestion is very low.
The drawback of baiting for ants is that ants can be very picky eaters. Understanding ant feeding behavior is necessary to get ants to “take the bait.” Within the same species of ant, at times they crave or prefer protein, and at other times they crave carbohydrates. If the correct attractant is not in the bait that is being offered, the pest ants may ignore the bait completely. Many professional pest control operators couple their edible bait offering with a chemical spray on the outside of the home. However, the correct class of spray must be used.
Ant Sprays – Repellent vs. Non-Repellent
Have you ever grabbed the can of bug spray from under the kitchen sink and sprayed the ants that were marching across your kitchen counter? What did they do? They probably immediately stopped the march, made a series of right and left turns, and proceeded to go right around the spray. That is the hallmark characteristic of a repellent spray. While repellent sprays have their appropriate uses, ant control is not one of them. If using a repellent spray on ants, you are essentially chasing them around your kitchen and bathroom.
If you have used a repellent spray on a surface that you now need or want to use for bait placement, you can try to clean that surface. Ants have an extremely sensitive sense of smell. Try cleaning the surface with warm soapy water and a paper towel followed by a water rinse to remove any residue from the repellent spray.
Non-repellent sprays are highly effective in the battle against ants. Ants cannot smell non-repellent insecticide sprays; therefore they do not avoid them as the ants did in the above scenario. These non-repellent sprays operate on the same principle as baits, only you do not have to convince the ants to eat what you are offering. Instead, they walk through the invisible insecticide and take it back to the nest. Like a germ, they spread the active ingredient from one ant to the next, and ultimately the colony is eliminated.
Spraying indoors should be a last resort. Most ant problems can be solved without using spray indoors. Some non-repellent sprays that are labeled for use for ants should only be used on the outside of your home. The label on the bottle of the product is the law. It is a violation of federal law to use a product in a manner that is inconsistent with the label. Be sure to read and follow the label on your product, but generally, you may spray around the foundation of your home and around entry points such as doors and windows. You may use the spray around the holes where cable lines and electric lines come into the structure as well.
How to Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen
As with all of the pest species that we deal with, ants are drawn to your home because of the abundance of food, water, and shelter. Even in the cleanest of kitchens, the industrious ant can find a meal. To kill ants in the kitchen, a few special considerations should be made.
Remember above where we talked about the importance of following the ant trail? Now is where that becomes important! Baiting for ants actually brings more ants to the table (bait tray). If you place a tray of bait on your kitchen counter, you will see more ants than before you treated, and that is never the point of pest control! If you are horrified by the ants marching across your kitchen counter, feed them the bait earlier in their march. By following the ant trail to a windowsill or door frame, you can intercept them and feed them the bait before they come to the kitchen. You will see an immediate reduction in the number of ants in your kitchen.
By stopping the ants before they reach your kitchen, you will have an opportunity to assess whether they are eating the bait. If you place a bait tray brimming with sweet bait, and they are ignoring it completely and heading for your kitchen, they are craving something different. Ant baits are formulated to satisfy ants’ various cravings, such as sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. You may need to switch baits until you find one the ants accept.
Of special concern for ants in the kitchen is keeping the area ant-free. Clean up any spills quickly and thoroughly. Never leave uncovered food on the counter. Create a routine for regularly cleaning spills in cabinets and pantries and other hard-to-reach areas. Inspect and promptly fix any leaking faucets or plumbing pipes; excess moisture invites pests of all kinds to your kitchen.
How to Get Rid of Ants in the Bathroom
Ant infestations in your bathroom can be handled with the same protocols that you use in the other areas of your home with a few special considerations. If ants are congregating in your bathroom, they are likely there because they are getting something from your bathroom that they need to survive. Water is the most obvious life-sustaining element ants are receiving from your bathroom.
The most likely species of ant in your bathroom is the carpenter ant. Carpenter ants and how to kill them will be discussed in greater detail below, but they often build nests in the damp wall behind the tiles or walls in your bathroom. Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but they can excavate and remove damaged wood in your structure to build their nests. Carpenter ants are one of the most difficult ants to exterminate, especially when they are nesting inside your bathroom.
Argentine ants are another ant species that regularly makes an appearance in the bathroom. Argentine ants build nests outside in moist areas that are close to food. Indoors, that may mean under the bathroom sink, inside the toilet tank, or behind the toilet. Argentine ants are considered super-colony ants. They are highly adaptable and survive in conditions that most other ants cannot. All efforts should be used to eradicate the entire Argentine ant colony if you find one in your bathroom.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are one of the most common indoor pests. Carpenter ants are easily recognizable by their large size and black and red color pattern; adult carpenter ant workers are about ½ to 5/8 inches in length. Carpenter ants live in large colonies and are considered one of the most difficult species of ants to kill. To fully eliminate carpenter ants from your home, it is especially important to locate the nest. Carpenter ants can build their nest indoors, or the nest may be outside. Killing carpenter ants requires specialized knowledge and often some serious detective work.
Carpenter ant treatment protocols are similar in many ways to other species of ants and different in others. Earlier we discussed baiting ants with edible ant baits. If the bait is eaten, the ants take it back to the nest and feed it to the other ants. This is problematic with carpenter ants because they so often choose to eat both live and dead insects rather than baits placed out for them. The most popular and effective bait specific to carpenter ants has been taken off the market, however, there are other baits labeled for carpenter ants. To make baiting matters more difficult, at different times of the year, carpenter ants will only eat specific things. You may have to alternate between or offer a combination of sweet, protein, and carbohydrate-based baits to effectively control carpenter ants. Trial and error of baits may be necessary if the nest is indoors and inaccessible.
In addition to edible baits, a non-repellent chemical spray can be very effective against carpenter ants. You can almost always achieve 100% control by using low toxicity baits indoors and a non-repellent chemical spray outdoors. Spraying indoors for ants should be a last resort. As discussed before, it is very important to follow the ant trails. Carpenter ants are most active at night and are therefore difficult to follow. If your carpenter ant trail leads you out a window or sliding glass door, you are in the realm of using a non-repellent chemical spray. This is not the time to reach under the sink and grab the can of bug spray you picked up at the grocery store. Carpenter ants cannot smell or discern in any way a high-quality non-repellent insecticide. Carpenter ants preferred food is live insects. Even if they are nesting indoors, they must trail outside to get their live insect meals. When they trail outdoors they will come into contact with the insecticide sprayed around your home. The insecticide coats the ants’ feet and bodies and, as they interact with the other ants in the nest, is transferred among all the ants in the nest. Eventually, the slow-acting insecticide causes death to the carpenter ant colony. These sprays may be used to treat the perimeter of your home, around the doors and windows, and any cable or electric lines that the ants could be entering through. If you find the carpenter ant nest, check the product label to see if you may treat the nest and nearby shrubbery or trees with the insecticide.
Another useful tool against carpenter ants is treatment with non-repellent foam. If a carpenter ant nest is inside of a wall void or another inaccessible area, the use of a pesticidal foam may be appropriate. By drilling a small hole into the wall and injecting foam, you may be able to get insecticide close enough to the nest to allow it to be brought inside by the foraging ants, thus killing the colony.
Because they exhibit many unique characteristics, carpenter ants are one of the most difficult problems presented in pest control. Whether it is in the form of edible baits (liquid or granular), chemical sprays, or on-repellent foams, the key is to kill the entire colony. The ultimate carpenter ant control is established when both satellite nests and the nearby parent nest are eliminated.
Carpenter Ants Feeding and Foraging
Carpenter ants forage at night and often individually. Carpenter worker ants forage up to 100 yards from the nest to find food and water; that is the length of a football field! Carpenter ants are unique in that they eat sweet nectars and honeydew like other ants, but they also eat other smaller insects, both alive and dead. In your home, they can satisfy their protein cravings with pet food. If the carpenter ant nest is outdoors, a foraging carpenter ant will use trees that touch the roofline or a cable or electric line to gain entry into your home.
Carpenter ants require water to survive, therefore carpenter ants are sometimes referred to as an indicator species. The presence of carpenter ants may be warning you of a water leak, rotting wood, or other moisture issues inside your home.
In addition to foraging for food and water, carpenter ants forage for nesting spots as well. A large, mature carpenter ant colony may establish as many as 9 – 12 satellite nests. If you only kill one satellite nest, the problem is still multiplying on your property. Indoor satellite nesting spots require less moisture than the parent nest and may be found under attic insulation, inside wall voids, and other hollow spaces. Usually, if a carpenter ant nest is indoors, it is a satellite nest, not the parent nest. Satellite nests are usually 20-100 feet from the parent nest. Satellite nests consist of workers, mature brood, and often winged reproductives. Although satellite nests cannot reproduce without a queen, these nests are a bustle of carpenter ant activity for years if left undisturbed.
Do Carpenter Ants Damage Wood?
The name carpenter ant implies these ants will hack and saw away at the solid wood holding your house together. Carpenter ants prefer to nest in wood damaged by wood rot, decay, mold, or termites, however, the black carpenter ant can chew through good sound wood. In an effort to establish a nest, carpenter ants tunnel and remove wood in your home. They do not eat wood for nutritional purposes like a termite, but they can and do chew through wood causing structural damage. In creating their nests, they excavate wood for tunnels and pathways. The wood that they cut through is then chewed up into fine powdery sawdust and expelled from the tunnels. Carpenter ant damage is visually distinct from wood that has been damaged by termites. An experienced Pest Management Professional or an Entomologist can identify which insect caused the damage.
Carpenter Ants or Termites?
Carpenter ants develop through complete metamorphosis, the life stages being egg, larva, pupa, to either an adult worker or adult alate or reproductive. Carpenter ants create new colonies when winged males and females, the reproductives, fly from the nest for their mating or nuptial flight. After they mate the male dies, and the female attempts to bury herself and establish her new colony with her fertilized eggs. During this swarm season between April and June, dead male winged carpenter ants fall on windowsills and door frames. Since these winged ants are rarely seen, they are often confused for termites. The trained and experienced eye of a Pest Management Professional can determine whether it is carpenter ants or termites that are swarming in or near your home. Here is a summary of the differences between carpenter ants and termite alates.
- Carpenter Ant Alate – antennae are elbowed, meaning they turn at nearly a right angle
- Termite Alate – antennae are beaded, meaning they are short and appear to be strung together like beads on a necklace
- Carpenter Ant Alate – the wings closer to the head (fore wings) are larger than the hind wings
- Termite Alate – the front and back wings are the same sizes
- Carpenter Ant Alate – waist is constricted or pinched in and slender
- Termite Alate – waist is broad and thick
If you find either winged carpenter ants or winged termites near or in your home, we recommend you contact Nextgen Pest Solutions for a professional inspection, insect identification, and treatment plan to kill the pests swarming near your home.
Carpenter Ant Nests
Carpenter ant nests begin when the newly fertilized queen drops from her mating flight. She seeks out loose bark, wood debris, or a dead tree stump where she buries herself and rears her first brood. It takes approximately 50-70 days for carpenter ants to develop from egg to adult stage. The colony quickly grows as the queen can live up to 25 years and produce thousands of young in her lifetime. The average carpenter ant colony has between 4,000 and 10,000 worker ants.
As stated earlier, a mature carpenter ant colony will establish satellite nests. These satellite nests are usually between 20-100 feet away from the parent nest and do not have a queen. These nests require less moisture and can tolerate higher temperatures than the parent nest. These are the nests that are more likely to be found indoors. Indoors, carpenter nests are usually found in areas with some moisture seepage such as bathrooms and kitchens, although they are commonly found in attics as well. Additional common locations for indoor carpenter ant nests are wall voids, under the eaves, under bathtubs, around doors and windows that are susceptible to rain or sprinklers, behind or under appliances (especially the dishwasher), on flat roofs, and behind wall panels. Damage caused by excavating carpenter ants is much slower than termite damage, but it nonetheless occurs. If these nests are allowed to persist in your home, structural damage may occur.
Locating the nest and treating the nest is key to killing carpenter ants. A thorough carpenter ant treatment involves not only finding and treating the satellite nest but the parent nest as well. If a satellite nest is treated, but foraging workers from the parent nest are still coming into your home, the problem is only partially solved. If the conditions that allowed the initial carpenter ant infestation are not remedied, ie. moisture issue or untrimmed branches creating a highway to your attic eaves, and the entire colony is not destroyed, carpenter ants will continue to forage into your home.
How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants
Have you ever had little black ants surrounding the one drop of maple syrup before the breakfast table is even cleared? If so, you probably cursed sugar ants. How did they get there so quickly? Ants have 5x more odor receptors than most other insects. Many common species of pest ants seem to have an insatiable sweet tooth, hence we generically call them sugar ants. There is a species of ant called the banded sugar ant, but it is only located in Australia. Here in the United States, what we colloquially refer to as sugar ants are usually ghost ants, pharaoh ants, or odorous house ants.
Sugar ants are notoriously attracted to sweets such as jelly drips from your child’s sandwich, syrup, or honey. A box of sugary cereal left open in the back of the cabinet will attract sugar ants. Outdoors, these ants eat honeydew secreted from aphids and nectar from flowers. Usually, when sugar ants invade your home or office breakroom, they are being drawn a spill in the pantry or a cabinet.
How to Get Rid of Ghost Ants
In Florida, ghost ants are the number one reason a person calls a pest control company. Ghost ants are a tropical species of ant and are most concentrated in Florida in areas south of Orlando, although isolated colonies have been found as far north as Jacksonville. North of Florida, ghost ants are confined to greenhouses and other areas that are protected from the environment.
Ghost ant workers are very small, between 1.3 to 1.5 mm long. Their head and thorax are dark brown, but the ghost ant’s abdomen is milky-white to opaque. They are small and hard to see, but easily distinguishable from other species of ants because of their opaque abdomen. Similar to odorous house ants, ghost ants give off a musty coconut-type odor when crushed.
If you happen to have ghost ants in your kitchen, children love this simple experiment of feeding them. By mixing sugar water and food coloring and depositing it near the ghost ants’ trail, you can watch as their abdomen turns red, green, or yellow. Kids are always fascinated by insects; although ghost ants will not be permitted to stay in your kitchen, it is always fun to take an opportunity to learn something new!
Ghost ants almost always nest outside and trail indoors. Ghost ants are tiny, but trail for hundreds of feet. The nest may be located in your neighbor’s yard, but they will skip your neighbor’s home and raid your kitchen instead. Ghost ant colonies may contain more than one queen. Often ghost ants choose nesting locations that are small and cannot accommodate an extremely large colony. They create “transient nests” which can be easily moved. A ghost ant colony may be divided into subunits or subnests; this process is called budding. When the colony has depleted nearby food or they have run out of space, they create a subnest. Ghost ants move a queen, workers, and brood (young ghost ants) are taken to a new nest where food and space are more plentiful. Since these subunits or subnests have a queen, they can reproduce. The worker ghost ants within the colony as a whole can exchange workers between the parent nest and the subnests. The mantra, “The brood is moved to the food” is true with ghost ants. If ghost ants perceive your home or office breakroom to have an abundant supply of food, water, and shelter, they will establish a subnest and often bring their young along with them. Think of this process of budding like opening a franchise rather than starting a brand-new business concept.
The best prevention and control measure against ghost ants is sanitation. Create a habit of quickly wiping up spills and putting food away. Create a schedule so that the cupboards and pantries are regularly emptied and wiped clean. Remove plants that attract aphids or any other insects that produce honeydew. Address any moisture issues such as leaky faucets.
If proper sanitation doesn’t do the trick, or if ghost ants have created a subnest in your house, a bait treatment should kill the ghost ants utilizing that nest. Follow the ghost ant trail to determine where the ants are coming from. By tempting ghost ants with either a sugary bait or carbohydrate or protein-rich bait, you ensure they will bring the food/insecticide bait back to the nest where it will be shared with the reproductives and the young. Continue placing bait out until there are no signs of ghost ants.
How to Get Rid of Pharaoh Ants
Pharaoh ants, a native of Africa, got their name because of the mistaken belief that they were one of the 10 plagues brought upon Egypt. Pharaoh ants are now found across the United States and are considered notoriously difficult to kill. Pharaoh ants are about 1/16 of an inch in length and their bodies are usually yellowish to reddish with a darker abdomen. In northern parts of the country, Pharaoh ants can not survive outdoors year-round, but in south Florida, they can survive outdoors.
Pharaoh ants eat a wide variety of foods and tend to create nests in unusual locations such as inside electrical switches and light bulb sockets, between sheets, and even in piles of trash. When a worker Pharaoh ant leaves the nest and finds food, she leaves a pheromone trail for others to follow. Pharaoh ants have been observed following wiring inside of walls and hot water pipes. If initially treated improperly, Pharaoh ant colonies tend to fracture or abandon that nest and spread throughout the facility exacerbating your problem.
Baits are recognized as the best option for controlling Pharaoh ants; however, in a food-rich environment such as a hospital or food processing facility, convincing them to eat the bait is no easy task. Sprays are generally not labeled for nor recommended in sensitive environments such as a nursing home or assisted living facilities. Often Pest Management Professionals must utilize a variety of baits and bait placements to gain control of Pharaoh ants. Outdoor sprays do offer some control in Florida where Pharaoh ants go outdoors. Like carpenter ants, Pharaoh ants like eating insects in the landscape when they crave protein. When they leave their indoor nest, and trail outdoors in search of food, they will come into contact with the perimeter spray. An active chemical barrier around the perimeter of your property should be maintained, to help eliminate the current infestation and to prevent new Pharaoh ants from establishing residence within your walls. When Pharaoh ants are infesting apartment buildings or other multi-unit dwellings, the entire building should be treated. Unless every nest in and around the property is eliminated, Pharaoh ants will return time and time again.
Pharaoh Ant Indoor Nests
Pharaoh ants are well adapted for nesting and reproducing indoors. Indoor pharaoh ants create nests in inaccessible areas such as wall voids, behind baseboards, under floorboards, and even inside furniture. Similar to ghost ants discussed above, pharaoh ants create new nests by the process of budding. The size of pharaoh ant colonies varies dependent upon factors such as space and availability of food and water. Pharaoh ant colonies are usually a few thousand workers, with the largest observed at a few hundred thousand pharaoh ants. There are usually several queens, or females capable of reproduction within a colony. Male pharaoh ants die within a few days of mating.
When space in the nest runs short or a more plentiful supply of food is found, the pharaoh ant nest splits through the process of budding. A queen, along with workers and some immature youth pharaoh ants will leave the main nest to form a daughter or subnest. Indoors, pharaoh ant nests are usually found in areas with a plentiful supply of food, water, and warmth. They have been located in light bulb sockets, potted plants, cracks, and crevices in walls. Pharaoh ants are especially problematic for grocery stores, warehouses, commercial bakeries, factories, office buildings, food distribution facilities, and medical facilities. The design of these types of facilities provides endless opportunities for pharaoh ant nests.
Pharaoh Ants in Medical Facilities
Pharaoh ants live in large colonies and have a propensity to invade not only homes and businesses but medical establishments such as hospitals and nursing homes. Pharaoh ants are attracted to many of the elements utilized in a hospital or assisted living situation. Feeding tubes filled with sugar, protein, and carbohydrate-rich liquids, trash cans containing medical and food waste, and food brought into nearly every room in the medical facility and eaten in bed, makes hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities at risk for pharaoh ant infestations. Pharaoh ants have been known to penetrate the gauze covering on burn patients and feed on their wounds and seek moisture from sleeping patients’ mouths. It has been demonstrated that pharaoh ants act as vectors for certain diseases within the hospital setting. Pharaoh ants are small and highly mobile, they crawl through the trash and waste, then into IV tubes and incubators used for infants contaminating sterile areas and increasing the risk of healthcare-associated infections. Medical offices and facilities large and small should partner with competent and experienced Pest Management Professionals and have a robust protocol against pharaoh ants in place.
How to Get Rid of Odorous House Ants
Odorous House Ants, also sometimes called Stink Ants or Coconut Ants, are a common household pest and found throughout the United States. Odorous House Ants emit a pungent rotten coconut odor when they are crushed. Odorous House Ants are small, approximately 1/8-1/16 of an inch in length, and are dark brown or black. Odorous House Ants do not bite unless provoked and like other ants, we have discussed feeding on sugary and protein-rich substances.
Odorous House Ants are considered Tramp Ant. Many of the most difficult-to-control species of ants are classified as Tramp Ants. Tramp Ants are ants that have adapted to comfortably live very close to humans, in fact, they are more prevalent in areas where human development has limited the natural landscape. The following characteristics of Tramp Ants make their control difficult:
- Colonies have multiple queens and multiple sub-colonies
- Related colonies are not aggressive with each other
- Live in close association with humans
- Varied Diet
- Wide Range of Nesting Habits
Odorous House Ants are known to move their nesting sites frequently, but they prefer to nest in moist, shady areas close to a food source. Outdoors Odorous House Ants create nests under rocks, firewood piles, mulch, and leaf litter. Inside, Odorous House Ants prefer to create nests near moisture leaks or condensation. They usually move indoors seeking shelter when there is excess rain outside. You may find an Odorous House Ant nest under carpets, bathtubs, or toilets. They may also nest inside attics near a roof leak, or near window or door frames. Odorous House Ants are unique in that they often come back to the abandoned nest and utilize it when conditions revert back to favorable.
Odorous House Ant colonies reproduce by both mating flights and budding. Mating flights are when male and female winged reproductives fly from the nest and mate. After the flight, the female drops and attempts to establish a nest in the environment with her fertilized eggs, and the male dies. This is infrequent but occasionally occurs within an Odorous House Ant colony. Odorous House Ant colonies have multiple queens allowing for a process called budding. When space begins to get tight, or the nest conditions change, either because of weather or human intervention such as a pesticide application, Odorous House Ants will leave that location. A queen and workers will take immature ants to a new location and establish a subcolony.
The connection between the original nest and subnests or subcolonies is an important factor in completely killing Odorous House Ants. A well-established Odorous House Ant colony in an urban environment, with multiple queens, may have tens of thousands of workers. Now add in the subnests and you may have hundreds of thousands of workers. An ant supercolony is one in which the many subcolonies use the same foraging trails and even workers and brood are exchanged. Odorous House Ant supercolonies have been known to have as many as 6 million workers.
This complex structure, nest mobility, and the sharing of subnest resources amongst themselves create a difficult environment to kill all of the odorous house ants. A Pest Management Professional or homeowner must locate and bait as many foraging trails as possible. Often these colonies are so large that the nest is not even on your property. If your neighbor is not aggressively baiting for odorous house ants, long-term control is difficult due to these ants’ propensity to reinfest previously used nesting locations. If you are dealing with an odorous house ant supercolony, the baiting procedure looks very different than baiting for an occasional sugar ant. There are specialized liquid bait stations that can be placed around your property that hold anywhere from 16 to 32 fluid oz of bait at a time. These bait stations must be maintained, refilled when empty, and checked for freshness. Granular baits may be used in conjunction with liquid baits. Check the label on your product, but granule insecticides can usually be broadcast in the turf and scattered near the foundation.
To get rid of odorous house ants, a combination of tactics must be used. Odorous house ant nests will fracture and move at the first sign of disturbance or pesticide application. Improper use of pesticides, including baits and liquids, makes killing the entire odorous house ant colony even more difficult. Aggressive and plentiful baits in conjunction with a non-repellent spray around the perimeter of the structure are often effective at getting rid of odorous house ants. The non-repellent chemical will stick to the ants’ bodies and be transferred to the others in the nest. Non-repellent chemicals do not scatter ants, cause colonies to fracture, and disrupt foraging trails. The ants operate normally until they die.
To locate odorous house ant nests, follow the ant trails. If you find an odorous house ant nest outdoors, it may be treated with a residual insecticide. Check the label on your product to verify it can be used to target odorous house ants and the location and manner in which you plan to treat them. Mix the chemical according to the label. Odorous house ant nests are usually shallow. If it is covered in mulch or leaf litter gently expose the nest. Apply the pesticide and cover it back up. Once you begin to disturb the nest work quickly to avoid causing the nest to split.
Odorous house ants are fascinating to entomologists because out in the woods, without human structures and foodstuff, odorous house ant colonies remain small. When introduced to urban areas, their numbers explode into super colonies of sometimes millions of ants. It seems that the colonies are larger when close to people as opposed to in nature. Multiple treatment methods are often necessary to get rid of these annoying little ants, and neighbors need to work together to solve their odorous ant problem.
How to Get Rid of Big-Headed Ants
Another tramp ant that is a pest of significance in Florida is the big-headed ant. The big-headed ant is native to the islands of the Indian Ocean but it is now well established in south and central Florida. Thankfully, big-headed ants do not normally bite humans or sting, in the insect world they are considered pretty aggressive. The worker caste is divided into two categories, majors and minors. The minor workers are small brown “normal” looking ants. The major workers are the name-sake of the species. They are about twice the size of the minor workers and their heads are very large in relation to their bodies. With the strong jaws of the major worker, big-headed ants can defend their nest against fire ants and other invading insects.
Big-headed ants can develop into super colonies. Super colony ants require different pest control methods and customer expectations. These colonies become so extensive, that they can extend beyond your property lines. Inadequate treatments can make the problem worse. Often, to gain complete control of a large colony of big-headed ants, a community or neighborhood effort is required. Big-headed ant colonies can have multiple queens and they can easily take their brood and move to a new location if they are disturbed or there is an environmental change. These sub-colonies or sub-nests will connect to each other via interlocking trails and food, brood, and workers may be exchanged. With this expansive footprint and behaviors, completely eliminating big-headed ants is a large undertaking.
Big-headed ants nest in the soil. They displace large amounts of soil as they excavate their underground tunnels. They often build nests under objects such as bricks, flower pots, and along the base of structures and walkways. The “ant piles” created by big-headed ants are numerous and distinctive. They can tunnel under foundations and come into your home via cracks in the foundation or slab. When foraging big-headed ants come indoors they often leave dirt and debris around baseboards, windows, bathrooms, and kitchens.
Big-headed ants are omnivorous and have a varied diet. They feed on sweet honeydew and nectar, dead insects, and they will forage through trash to eat fats and proteins. Because they have big-headed stronger workers, they can tackle larger chunks of food than most other ant species. Big-headed ants can recruit the majors from among the colony to help disassemble and carry back large insects, such as beetles, back to the nest for food.
To get rid of big-headed ants, a combination of treatment methods will likely need to be deployed. Most big-headed ant colonies are manageable, but once they explode into super colony status, elimination becomes much more difficult. You should follow the big-headed ant foraging trails and carefully inspect sandy areas of your yard for ant mounds. Pay careful attention to areas where sand has visibly accumulated. Closely inspect the foundation, under or around bricks and stepping stones, and where the sidewalk meets the grass or sand. This inspection should give you an idea of the breadth of the ant colony. If your yard is well manicured and has thick green grass, chances are you will not see the evidence of big-headed ants in the middle of the yard.
A big-headed ant pest control treatment should provide enough ant bait both indoors and outdoors to ensure the entire colony will consume a fatal amount of ant bait. If you only kill the ants utilizing one sub-nest, you will only see temporary big-headed ants results. If the colony is still active in and around your yard and neighborhood, big-headed ants may turn into a chronic problem. For this reason, we recommend a full-yard treatment. Big-headed ants, when catapulted to super colony status cannot be eliminated because you alone are treating your house. However, you can turn your yard and house into an ant-free island in a sea of ants. Fight the battle at your property line rather than at your doorstep. If this is your situation, call Nextgen Pest Solutions today. We have the technical experience to get rid of big-headed ants for good.
How to Get Rid of White-Footed Ants
White-footed ants are the reason for many calls to pest control companies. Although they do not bite or sting, they have remarkably large colonies. White-footed ants are small and black or dark brown in color. They are aptly named as they have white or yellowish feet. Mature white-footed ant colonies may have as many as 8,000 to 3 million individuals. Their colonies grow so large because up to 30% of the ants in the colony are capable of reproducing. Like big-headed ants discussed above, white-footed ants are a super colony ant species. They build extensive nests and cooperatively share resources and food. A supercolony of white-footed ants may extend for several square miles.
White-footed ants are strongly attracted to sweet nectar and honeydew. Although this is not an agricultural issue in the United States, in some countries, white-footed ants are known to “farm” honeydew producers such as aphids, mealybugs, and scales. White-footed ants will actually take care of these honeydew producers and defend them against predators. This has caused great crop losses due to aphids, mealybugs, and scales.
In the United States, they are most often a problem because they are aggressive foragers and often wind up in kitchens and bathrooms. Although they do not cause structural damage, they may nest in abandoned termite galleries. Often, white-footed ants nest in moist areas such as loose bark or rocks, decaying tree branches, and leaf litter, in trees and bushes, and sometimes in wall voids and attics.
As with all ants, to kill white-footed ants, we must understand both their foraging and reproductive behavior. As stated earlier, almost half of all female white footed ants are capable of reproduction. White-footed ant colonies expand in two ways, a nuptial flight and a process called budding. During the nuptial flight a male and female fly from the nest, mate, and the female attempts to establish a new colony with her fertilized eggs. Budding occurs when a female reproductive and workers carry immature ants off to a new location and begin to reproduce. Often, this new nest is connected to other nests by foraging trails. Therefore, to kill the colony, you must kill all the white-footed ant nests.
Most ant colonies are fed by the process of trophallaxis. Trophallaxis is the process by which foraging ants regurgitate some of their food and place it in the mouths of non-foraging ants. This process is exploited when baiting ants. Early researchers believed that white-footed ants do not feed through trophallaxis, thus baiting may be ineffective. Turns out, this belief was an identification mistake; bait is an effective weapon against white-footed ants. Their numbers are so massive however, the amount of bait required to impact their population is voluminous. For example, if you know that a tree contains a white footed ant nest, place a container of sweet bait at the base of the tree. You can significantly impact the health of the colony if you eliminate most of the foragers. Bait is a necessary component of killing white-footed ants, just be aware, that you will be using a lot of bait!
White-footed ant control requires plenty of fresh bait and the application of a non-repellent spray. White-footed ants are numerous and often forage along walls and hard edges. During your inspection, it is imperative that you follow the ant trails. The non-repellent spray should be applied according to the label. Ants can not smell this spray and therefore do not avoid it. This spray transfers to other ants in the nest eventually causing the elimination of the colony. With the careful selection and application of a non-repellent spray, you do not need to rely on the ants consuming the bait.
White-footed ants are often especially difficult to treat once their numbers are in the millions. A key part of controlling white footed ants is limiting their access to your home. Trim all tree branches and bushes so that they are not touching your home. Any vegetation touching your home is a highway for white footed ants. The foliage common in south Florida is favored by white-footed ants. Nearly all palm trees, fruit trees, and trees with large flowers and sweet nectar should be carefully inspected and treated for white footed ant nests if necessary.
How to Get Rid of Argentine Ants
Argentine ants are an ant invasive species, from, you guessed it, Argentina, and the surrounding areas of South America. Argentine ants are now found in many areas of the world. They are widespread throughout the southern United States, California, and Hawaii. They are especially prevalent during hot, dry summers. Argentine ants are small ants, but they accumulate in large colonies. A mature Argentine ant colony may have a million or more workers and hundreds of queens. With this reproductive capacity, it is no wonder the colonies become so large!
Another reason argentine ant colonies become so large is they do not fight amongst themselves, they actually “team up” with neighboring colonies. However, Argentine ants are highly aggressive with other native insect and animal species. With their massive numbers, Argentine ants will attack other ant species, wasp nests, carpenter bees, and have even been known to invade bird nests. Argentine ants are partially to blame for the decline in numbers of the endangered coast horned lizards. This lizard primarily eats native harvester ants. However, harvester ants are declining due in part to the aggressive behavior of the Argentine ant. A mob of Argentine ants has also been known to attack the coast horned lizard itself.
In some insect communities, Argentine ants inspire fear and in others, Argentine ants are a welcome relief. Like many other ants, Argentine ants consume the sweet honeydew excreted by aphids and other insects. In an effort to protect their food supply, Argentine ants will “farm” or tend to and protect these crop-destroying insects. Argentine ants will carry aphids right up to the tender buds on plants. Argentine ants have a significant agricultural and economic impact as they attack pollinators and introduce and protect pests to crops.
Many pest control professionals notice a cyclical nature to Argentine ant invasions. Argentine ants require a reliable water source; when conditions outdoors are dry or cold, ants will come indoors and nest near a moisture source. During the heat of summer, ant populations increase. At the same time, dry conditions cause ants to come indoors seeking moisture. Seeking warmth and shelter, Argentine ants are more likely to come indoors during the winter as well. Argentine ants prefer to nest outdoors, so as warmer spring temperatures arrive, they often head back outdoors to nest and forage in the shrubs, mulch, and pine straw, under rocks, or along sidewalks. It is easy to believe you have obtained control over an Argentine ant colony simply because they moved their nest outdoors. Control efforts in the yard should be made in the spring and fall when the Argentine ants are not invading your home.
Argentine ants are a polygyne species, meaning the colony has multiple queens. Often Argentine ant colonies contain hundreds of queens capable of egglaying. Argentine ant queens can lay eggs for many years (up to 10 years) after mating once, and they lay up to 60 eggs per day. Argentine ant colonies expand by budding. A queen and a handful of worker ants will leave the nest and start a new nest. These new nests, or subcolonies, are interconnected and share resources. These colonies often expand beyond the boundaries of your property and often encompass entire city blocks. Because of their community characteristics, these Argentine ant super-colonies become formidable opponents when trying to kill them.
The best way to kill a supercolony of Argentine ants is by utilizing a combination of products and methods of control. Getting rid of Argentine ants requires a multi-treatment approach after a thorough inspection. Argentine ant foragers feed others in the colonies through the process of trophallaxis, they share food via mouth-to-mouth transfer. If a forager has consumed a sweet bait that she believed to be honeydew, she will directly share the bait with the other ants in her nest. Because Argentine ants are so numerous and their colonies so extensive, multiple bait placements, both indoors if necessary and outdoors, with large amounts of fresh bait are necessary to impact the Argentine ant population. In addition to baits, Argentine ants should be targeted with a non-repellent spray. These sprays are undetectable to ants; therefore, they walk through the insecticide and do not avoid it. When they go back to the nest, the active ingredient is transferred to other ants in the nest, ultimately killing the ants inside. During your inspection, if you locate an Argentine ant nest or sub-nest, directly drenching the nest is highly effective. Granular insecticides applied to your yard may act as a “buffer” and keep Argentine ants proliferating in the area from entering your yard and home.
Pursuant to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, Argentine ant control involves more than insecticide applications. Argentine ants are small; great efforts should be taken to seal any holes around windows, doors, the foundation, or any other area where they may be able to enter the structure. Tree branches and bushes and shrubs should be trimmed and should never touch the roof, gutters, or any part of the structure. When vegetation directly touches your home, you offer Argentine ants a highway into your home. When battling a large colony of Argentine ants, every tool in the professional Pest Control Operator’s tool belt will be used, as they present multiple challenges. If you need help getting rid of Argentine ants from your Georgia or Florida home or business, call Nextgen Pest Solutions today.
How to Get Rid of Tawny Crazy Ants
Tawny crazy ants are a relatively new pest species to the United States. Upon their introduction from South America in the early 2000s, there were significant identification questions. Tawny crazy ants are almost visually identical to their close relatives Caribbean crazy ants, which are also prevalent in Florida. In Texas, it was often referred to as the Rasberry ant after the Pest Control Operator who brought it to the attention of researchers. Early scientific literature refers to tawny crazy ants as hairy crazy ants, Caribbean crazy ant, Rasberry crazy ant, and hormiga loca, but in 2013 the Entomological Society of America officially accepted tawny crazy ant as the proper name.
Tawny crazy ants are currently in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and the other Gulf Coast States. Tawny crazy ants invade by the millions, and they seem to have a special affinity for electrical appliances and wiring. There are many documented instances of tawny crazy ants nesting in electrical equipment. Their presence can cause short circuits and damage wiring and insulation. Millions of accumulated dead tawny crazy ants can cause overheating and mechanical failures in electrical equipment. Tawny crazy ants have shut down a sewage pumping station and caused electrical failures on both a small and large scale.
Tawny crazy ants derive the name from their coloring and behavior. Tawny reflects the orangish-brown coloring of the small ant. Where most ants forage in orderly straight lines, crazy ants are so named because of their erratic foraging behavior. They appear to run in a frantic zig-zag pattern as they search for food. However, tawny crazy ants have been known to make people whose homes and properties they have infested think they have gone crazy. People describe tawny crazy ants pouring from their television sets and laptops as a plague of Biblical proportions. The saying everything is bigger in Texas is certainly true of the tawny or Rasberry ant problem. Texans report these ants crawling up their legs and on their arms by the thousands, selling their homes, and bordering on the verge of divorce because of a tawny ant infestation.
Although tawny crazy ants do not sting and their bite produces only a small amount of pain for a human, they are considered a fierce ant in nature. Rather than a stinger on their back end, tawny crazy ants have a gland that produces a chemical that acts as an antidote to fire ant venom. Armed with this shield against the fierce venom of the fire ant and the sheer numbers, tawny crazy ants are displacing fire ants in the landscape. Tawny crazy ants are irritating to native birds and bees and displace other native insects.
Once a tawny crazy ant population is established, the colony can spread at a rate of 20-30 meters per month in a neighborhood and an astonishing 207 meters per month in a rural landscape. If well-established, tawny crazy ants contain millions of ants. Tawny crazy ant colonies have multiple queens capable of reproducing. When the colony is ready to expand, a queen will leave with workers and immature young to establish a new nest. Part of the success of the tawny crazy ant is rooted in the fact that this new nest retains communication and resource sharing with the other nests in the colony. These nests that comprise the super colony cooperatively work to feed and protect the entire colony. This makes complete eradication of the tawny crazy ant extremely difficult.
Baiting is a highly effective form of controlling most ant species, however, tawny crazy ants cannot be controlled with baits alone. Early observations seemed to indicate that tawny crazy ants are not attracted to insect baits. However, later research indicates they do eat insect baits and they do kill the ants that eat them. There are just so many tawny crazy ants in a colony, that when you kill 1 million out of 10 million, the treatment appears ineffective. As tawny crazy ants live in enormous colonies, they are aggressive, and cannot be easily controlled with ant bait, the control becomes much more difficult. Their nests are usually outside, so indoor baiting is unlikely to impact the large complex nest.
Integrated Pest Management practices encourage utilizing every tool available to control insects; it is a most important practice when fighting the tawny crazy ant. If you are dealing with an invasion, clear the land around your home or business of any ant harborage. Anything sitting on the ground retaining moisture becomes a potential shelter for tawny crazy ants including, tree stumps, leaf litter, or fallen limbs. Repair or replace anything around the property that is creating excess moisture in the home or landscape. Fix any broken or leaking pipes or reduce irrigation and improve drainage if possible. Cracks and crevices need to be sealed to prevent entry and all shrubs and vegetation should be cut back to avoid contact with your home. Avoid spreading tawny crazy ants; if you need to relocate something from your property, carefully inspect it for ant nests before transferring the object. Homeowners should take care to eliminate honeydew excreting insects such as aphids. Tawny crazy ants rely on the honeydew from aphids to the extent that they tend to protect the aphids.
Utilizing safe, effective chemicals should be an aspect of any successful tawny crazy ant treatment. An aggressive protocol of providing multiple placements of fresh bait, a non-repellent perimeter spray, granular insecticides in your yard, and investigation to locate and treat the nests directly should provide control. Because of the nature of their colony habits, no pesticide application will keep these ants at bay forever. Tawny crazy ants are often a community-wide problem; the more people in your neighborhood that are aggressively treating them, the greater the control will be. If a tawny crazy ant colony is tormenting your neighborhood or business district, you should expect regular applications and constant monitoring to keep them from invading your home or office.
How to Get Rid of Acrobat Ants
Compared to the super colony ants we have discussed, acrobat ants are nothing more than a mere nuisance. They deserve a mention in this article for the entertaining way they react when disturbed. When startled, acrobat ants will raise their abdomen above their heads as they run in a show of flexibility and athletic ability! They may bite and rarely emit a foul odor when surprised.
Acrobat ants are well established in Florida and Georgia. Acrobat ants are small to medium in size, usually about 2.5 – 3.2mm in length. They are shiny and dark in color with a heart-shaped abdomen. Compared to other ant species we have discussed, acrobat ant colonies are much smaller and more manageable. Acrobat ant colonies contain one queen. The colonies expand when winged females and males fly from the nest and mate. A new nest is established when a founding queen drops from the nuptial flight and finds wood that is already damaged by rot, termites, or wood boring beetles. She burrows in the rotting wood and lays her eggs and rears the young. Acrobat ants are territorial and exist only 1 nest to a tree. As the colony grows, the queen goes below ground at the base of the tree, and the other ants utilize the height of the tree to forage for living and dead insects and sugary sweet honeydew.
Acrobat ants generally nest outdoors in rotting tree stumps or hollow tree cavities but may venture indoors in search of food or water. If acrobat ants are nesting in your home, it may indicate a moisture or wood rot issue. Acrobat ants only create nests in moist, damaged, rotting wood. When acrobat ants are a problem, look for plants or shrubs that are touching the house. If a plant that contains an acrobat ant nest is touching your home, you are providing them a highway into your home. Keeping your trees and shrubs trimmed back at least 6” away from your home can prevent most acrobat ant problems. A lone foraging acrobat ant may enter your home in search of spilled honey or syrup. Generally, proper sanitation (quickly wiping up spills), reducing access to your home by ensuring a proper seal on windows, and doors, and having an active preventative pest management program in place will take care of your acrobat ant problem.
How to Get Rid of Small Black Ants
When small black ants begin to march into your home, you need a plan and fast! Many ant species look similar to the untrained eye, most ants that invade homes and businesses are small and black. These small black ants that occasionally come into your house are in search of food and moisture. Most species of ants are looking for sweet liquids or carbohydrates. If you are dealing with occasional sightings of small black ants, here are a few basic tips to get rid of these pesky invaders for good.
- Clean up food spills right away
- Keep food contained in the kitchen and dining room
- Store food in sealed containers
- Promptly fix any water leaks or moisture issues inside and outside your home
- Trim tree branches and shrubs so that they do not touch the structure
- Seal all windows and doors and any entrances to your home
- Follow the ant trails to find and treat the nest
- Apply ant bait near the trails; reapply as needed to supply a steady supply of fresh bait
- Apply a non-repellent perimeter spray around the structure
- Actively monitor the ant infestation
How to Get Rid of Flying Ants – Ant or Termite
Ants with wings are normal ants, however, they are sexually mature and capable of reproducing. In general, ant colonies are comprised of female reproductives (alates), female non-reproductives (workers), and males. For most ant species, male ants’ only job is to mate, and then they die. They do not participate in the search for food, rearing the young, or building or defending the nest. A common way that ant colonies expand is by nuptial flight. When conditions are right, winged females and winged males fly from the nest and mate. The male dies, and the female chews her wings off and burrows into the ground or a tree stump and lays her eggs. If her colony is successful, she is now the queen of this colony.
Winged ants are often confused with winged termites. Winged termites emerge in a similar fashion from their colonies and often warn us of a possible termite infestation with expensive structural damage to our homes. Winged ants will often be found in smaller numbers than a typical termite swarm, but there are some easy ways to tell them apart as well.
- Waist – a winged ant’s waist is tapered and narrow; a winged termite’s waist is broad and thick
- Antennae – a winged ant’s antennae have a “joint” that makes the antennae appear to turn at a right angle; a winged termite’s antennae are straight
- Wings – a winged ant’s front wings are longer than the back wings; a winged termite’s wings are the same size
If you are unsure if the winged insect you see are ants or termites, we encourage you to seek professional identification. Some species of termites can cause damage quickly; an accurate identification is crucial to protecting your home. Most pest control companies offer free inspections, or you can bring them to your county extension office for identification.
How to Get Rid of Small Ants
The most common complaint a pest control company receives is a call for those generic tiny black ants. There are many species of ants, and a handful of them are considered pests. Each species of ant has unique physical and behavioral characteristics. We have outlined in this article the distinctions between most of the major pest ant species. In a severe infestation, knowing the exact species, their foraging behavior, where they nest, and how and when they reproduce strengthens the efficacy of the control efforts. If you can not tell the difference between a pharaoh ant and an odorous house ant, or a big-headed ant and an Argentine ant, you can often get rid of a minor infestation without an exact identification.
If you can not identify an ant down to the species, collect samples and keep notes of your extermination efforts. This way, if you call a professional, they can positively identify the ant and know what has already been done.
The first step in getting rid of any species of small black ant is performing a thorough inspection. Follow the ant trails to the tree or bush outdoors that houses the ant nest. As you follow the ant trails, keep an eye out for broken windows or space under a door. Notice any leaking faucets or water accumulation indoors or out that may be allowing these small black ants to be comfortable on your property. Remedy any physical condition such as unsealed windows and leaking faucets promptly.
Most ant species respond very well to ant baits. Baiting for ants does require ants to eat the bait you offer. Depending on the species, time of year, and the ants feeding cycle, ants may be picky eaters. Most ants will eat sweet bait, but they may prefer bait consisting of fats, carbohydrates, or proteins. This is where ant identification down to the species is helpful, rather than treating for the generic little black ant. If a sweet bait does not attract the little black ants, try another bait with a different attractant. By placing bait near their foraging trails and near their nest outdoors, a minor infestation of tiny black ants can usually be killed.
Regular preventative pest control applications are very helpful in keeping these small black ant invaders outdoors. If a small army of ants attempts to invade your home or business, and the structure is protected with preventative pest control measures, your minor ant issue will likely be taken care of outside without your even seeing an ant. If you try to kill these small black ants yourself and continue to see them re-emerge and come back stronger, we recommend you call a professional. Professional Pest Control Operators have the knowledge and experience to hunt down the ant nest and kill the entire colony.
How to Get Rid of Ants Outside in the Yard
In the south, nothing can ruin a backyard event like an angry fire ant mound. All of the ant species we have discussed so far have a strong outdoor presence, but only become a “pest” when they come into your home. Not so with fire ants. Fire ants are a problem even if they never make it into your home. Fire ant mounds can appear in golf courses, playgrounds, suburban yards, and cracks in the pavement or your home’s foundation. When you step on one of the fire ant mounds, you immediately know it. Thousands of workers quickly descend from the nest to ward off the invader (you). Fire ants first bite with their jaws to stretch your skin, then sting with their abdomen and inject venom into your body. Each fire ant can sting you more than once. As you swat at and fling fire ants from between your toes, others are holding on tight and injecting their venom. A small white pustule forms usually the day after the bite/sting. Fire ant bites do not usually require medical treatment, however, if a person is allergic to the venom, an anaphylactic reaction may occur. If a very young baby or an elderly person has experienced an excessive number of bites, we urge you to seek medical attention.
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants
Fire ants are an invasive species, believed to have been introduced to the United States from Brazil in the late 1930s to the mid-1940s. Because of their aggressive nature, they have successfully spread to most of the southern states, including Florida and Georgia. Fire ants are so aggressive they are known to attack other insect and animal species. The decline in the numbers of the horned frog, ground-nesting birds such as quail, and lightning bugs have been attributed to the red imported fire ant.
There are 2 main species of fire ants, the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) and the native fire ant. The RIFA is by far the most common species that we see. Red imported fire ants build mounds and pile up large amounts of soil; a fire ant pile is usually not larger than 18” in diameter. Fire ants have proven to have a high economic impact, significantly lessening yields of soybeans and damaging crops of citrus, corn, peanuts, and potatoes. In conjunction with the economic impact and the potential medical harm imposed by fire ants, much research has been done on fire ant reduction and control methods. State and federal governments apportion millions of dollars in their budgets for fire ant control, as do individual businesses and homeowners. Thankfully, the investment into fire ant research has yielded effective pest control methods to get rid of fire ants from your yard or property.
Fire Ant Reproduction
It was originally believed that fire ant colonies had one queen, but more recent research reveals that some RIFA colonies have multiple queens. The main way that a well-established fire ant colony expands is through a mating flight. On a warm sunny day after rain in the spring and fall, as many as 4,500 winged fire ants (alates) fly from the nest. They mate during this nuptial flight; the males die and the females search for a place to bury themselves and lay their eggs. Fire ants reproductives are attracted to pools for some reason, and often a homeowner will wake up to find thousands of winged alates on the surface of the water. This nuptial flight can occur as many as 6-8 times per year. Through this process, in the south, a fire ant-infested acre may have as many as 97,000 active fire ant queens on it.
More recent research indicates that there is a genetically distinct fire ant that forms polygyne colonies. Polygyne means that there is more than one queen, sometimes hundreds of queens per colony. In these colonies, the worker fire ants are smaller in size and these workers move freely between the different mounds/nests that belong to the colony. They do not battle with neighboring mounds, so long as they are a part of their colony, rather they freely share food and resources. These polygyne or multiple queen colonies, often produce about twice the number of fire ants per acre of land than the monogyne (single queen) fire ant colonies.
Fire Ants Food Preferences
While most ants will eat small amounts of protein, they prefer sugary sweet nectar and honeydew. Although they are omnivores, Red Imported Fire Ants, however, are more known for their carnivorous tendencies. To quote Dr. Edward Vargo, an entomologist studying fire ants at the University of Texas’s Balcones Research Center in Austin, ”Basically, anything that stands still for longer than 15 or 20 seconds is fire ant food.” RIFA eats mosquito eggs and larvae, cockroaches, chiggers, fleas, and ticks. He argues that in areas of high fire ant concentrations, tick and flea populations seemed to have declined. Fire ants can also eat fly larvae that help decompose dead animals. By removing the competition for the food, fire ants keep more decomposing meat for themselves.
Like many other species of ants, red imported fire ants, feed on honeydew excreted by aphids. They even go so far as to take care of the aphids to ensure a reliable source of honeydew. Many people complain of fire ants in piles of dirty laundry. This is likely due to sugars, oils, and other bits of food left on our clothes.
Survival Tactics of Red Imported Fire Ants
Fire ants are consummate survivors. Fire ants often build nests near streams, creeks, and ponds. During times of flood, hundreds of thousands of fire ants can clump together and float for weeks at a time. During a hurricane or tropical storm, the excessive rainwater forces fire ants up out of the ground. They cling together and float until they find high ground. Should you ever encounter one of these floating fire ant balls, avoid it at all cost. If they believe your arm or leg to be high ground, you will suffer immensely. During times of rising water, fire ants can also form a tower to escape their submerged nest. These towers have a wide base and a narrow top. These towers can reach 1.5” tall and be comprised only of fire ants. During times of drought, they burrow deeper into the ground where moisture may still be available and the temperatures are cooler. It is usually only during times of flood or drought, that fire ants become a problem indoors.
Despite the red imported fire ants’ survival tactics, through extensive research and field trials, we do have adequate control measures for fire ants. It is generally accepted that RIFA will never be eradicated from the United States, but areas can be sufficiently treated so that you can enjoy your yard. The best fire ant control is often achieved through community-wide action. If you only treat your ¼ lot and your neighbor does nothing for fire ant control, they will reinfest your yard within months. A coordinated neighborhood-wide effort is ideal. If properly communicated and executed, a few treatments per year for every home in the neighborhood can provide excellent relief from fire ants. In addition, the cost of fire ant control can be dramatically reduced by working together. Ants wouldn’t survive if they didn’t work together, maybe we humans can learn a lesson from the ant in this regard!
Treating Your Home for Fire Ants
Killing fire ants is generally a two-step process. Step one is a general broadcast of fire ant bait in the yard, and step 2 is treating the individual fire ant mounds.
Applying a bait product for fire ants is the most effective treatment method. Baits work by combining a food-grade attractant and an active ingredient/pesticide. The worker red imported fire ants may travel up to 100 yards in search of food. By spreading fire ant bait throughout your yard, they will find it, bring it back to the nest, and feed it to the other fire ants in the nest. Fire ant bait is notoriously difficult to apply correctly. Check the label on the product that you choose, but most products should be applied at a rate of 1 to 1 ½ pounds per acre. A very small amount of bait is actually needed to provide effective control and it is very easy to over-apply fire ant bait.
Different fire ant bait products have different goals. Some products kill fire ants quickly, and some are slower acting, and others contain an IGR component. IGRs are Insect Growth Regulators. IGRs prevent insects from reproducing, but by themselves take between 2-6 months to suppress fire ants. Baits containing the active ingredients indoxacarb provide the fastest results, with fire ant mound reduction in 8-24 hours, but they are very expensive. Baits containing the active ingredient hydramethylnon provide maximum control 1 – 2 weeks after the application. One of the most popular fire ant products combines the relatively fast-acting adulticide hydramethylnon with the long-lasting control of the IGR. Fire ant baits should only be applied when ants are foraging and when it is not expected to rain in the next 8-10 hours. Just like a bag of potato chips, fire ant bait doesn’t stay fresh forever. If fire ant bait has gone rancid, the ants will not eat it. Fire ant preventative broadcast treatments should be applied every three months. Always check the label on your fire ant control product or talk to your pest management professional if you have horses or chickens.
Treatment of the individual mounds can be done with either a fast-acting bait or a product that kills adult ants on contact. Contact mound treatments only kill the ants that are touched with the insecticide and are only effective if the ants are up near the surface. Contact treatments may be in the form of an insecticidal drench of the mound, applying granular or dust products to the mound and surrounding area, or injectable pesticides. For environmental reasons and because they are simply highly effective, in most circumstances, we recommend applying a fast-acting bait near the fire ant mound. If you choose to apply a fast-acting bait, sprinkle a small amount around the fire ant mound; do not dump a large amount of bait on top of their home. It is unrealistic for a large amount of food to suddenly crash through your ceiling. Ants too recognize this as odd and bait acceptance will be poor.
By combining preventative regular broadcast treatments and treating any individual mounds that do pop up, you can again throw the football in your yard and host the BBQ. Fire ants will not be eliminated from our environment any time soon, but you can control them in your small piece of paradise.
Natural Ant Killer
Ants are the number one call-generating pest for pest control companies. Ants have highly developed systems for survival and locating food. Ants use chemical communications called pheromones to let others know where the food is located. Worker ants follow the pheromone trail and partake in the meal and bring it back to the nest where it is shared with the other ants in the colony. It is believed that ants have 4 to 5 more odor receptors than other insects making them highly sensitive to scents and smells. This leads many people to believe that oils and powders with strong odors are a natural ant killers.
Ants can be an extremely particular pest, and if treated incorrectly, the problem can worsen. If the ants sense danger by your attempts of killing them with cinnamon or vinegar, the colonies can separate and multiply making them more difficult to eliminate. Furthermore, if you contaminate the surfaces in your home with ideas that you find on the internet, you may have difficulty getting ants to accept a bait if you later choose to go that route.
The term natural means different things to different people. To some people, a natural ant-killing product is something that is not engineered in a laboratory. To others, a natural ant killer is something you have in your house or kitchen already. To others still, only an OMRI Certified organic ant killer is considered a natural ant remedy. However you define natural ant killer, there are benefits and negatives of only considering this approach. An ant treatment is considered a success when the colony is eliminated. Many alternatives or “natural” approaches may kill the ant that it touches directly but will not effectively kill the colony.
Homemade DIY Ant Killer
When searching for DIY or homemade ant killers you will find people that recommend everything from peppermint oil sprays to sprinkling cinnamon on their counters. Other people swear by coffee grounds, grits, and cornmeal. Many people believe that wiping counters down with vinegar will disrupt the pheromone trails. Despite many people pouring aspartame onto ant mounds and sprinkling it onto their counters, the idea that aspartame is toxic to ants started with a satirical article on The Spoof. There is no evidence that aspartame kills ants.
The idea behind many of the other homemade ant killers mentioned above is to simply repel the ants. Depending on the species of ant, the colonies can be enormous, and the foragers may be highly persistent. Because of their highly sensitive odor receptors, ants can easily go around areas that have been sprayed with a repellent product such as mint, lemon, or cinnamon oil. You will likely repel some ants for a time, but without addressing the underlying cause, which is the ant colony, you will not find a lasting solution to your ant problem. Ant colonies may go down 25 feet in the ground. Pouring coffee grounds on an anthill will most likely cause the ant colony to simply move their mound entrance over a few feet, a minor inconvenience for the ants. If you spray every ant that comes into your kitchen with soapy water, you may kill them, but you will constantly be chasing ants around with your soapy water bottle. You can kill on contact thousands of foraging ants (the ones that make it into your kitchen), but without killing the queen, ants become a chronic problem.
The one household ant killer that has the greatest chance of permanent success is an ant bait made with borax. Boric acid is a natural product that is mined out of the ground. Boric acid is used in contact lens solution and as a cleaning agent, often added to laundry. Boric acid effectively kills insects by disrupting their stomach functions and nervous systems. It also damages their exoskeleton. By mixing boric acid, a sugary sweet attractant, and water, you can create a homemade ant bait. The ants will carry the boric acid bait back to the nest and feed it to the other ants in the colony. Many commercially available ant baits utilize boric acid as the active ingredient.
Although not likely found in your home already, a natural product that can kill ants is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is made from fossilized remains of tiny sea creatures called diatoms. These fossils are finely crushed in dust. This dust can be scattered near trailing ants or near the mound. These finely crushed diatoms stick to the ants and damage their exoskeleton eventually causing them to dehydrate and die. Diatomaceous Earth, often referred to as DE, will only kill individual foragers. Only about 10-20% of the colony are foragers, thus likely to encounter the diatomaceous earth. If they are killed, they will easily be replaced by the colony. It may repel some ants and put some stress on the colony, but DE will not kill the colony and provide a long-term solution. In addition to being completely formed by nature, many brands of DE available are OMRI Certified Organic.
Organic Ant Killer
Many pest control companies have green or organic preventative pest control programs that you may choose to enroll in. Carefully question the pest control company about the products they use and whether they are environmentally friendly or “green” or are truly certified as organic. Because of the low toxicity and small amounts of pesticides used, baits are considered a “green” form of pest control, but most ant baits are not labeled organic. If the organic label is something that is important to you, or you need it to retain your own organic certification, do not be afraid to ask the tough questions.
Pesticides that are certified as organic, are derived from natural substances as opposed to lab created or synthetic. Popular OMRI Certified Organic pesticides include active ingredients derived from chrysanthemum oil, citrus oil, geranium oil, cedarwood oil, or peppermint oil. These organic pesticide products are highly aromatic. This is not ideal for ant control as they can very easily smell the insecticide and avoid contact with it. If you must rely strictly on certified organic pesticides to control ants, the nests must be located and treated. You can not rely on the transfer effect of baits that is so powerful and effective.
How to Permanently Get Rid of Ants
There are over 12,000 known species of ants in the world. Ants are ecologically important as they are one of nature’s great decomposers. They have many unique capabilities, and their work ethic is applauded by all who take the time to observe them. However, they are not welcome in our homes and businesses. The same ant attributes that engage our curiosity, make them a worthy opponent to a homeowner and pest control operator. Our ability to control ants is better now than at any other time in history thanks to research and scientific advancements. Ant baits and sprays that transfer active ingredients to the nest on our behalf allow us finally gain control over ants when they become pests.
Regular preventative pest control and a relationship with your technician can spare you endless hours of battling ants. With regular attention and the trained eye of a pest management professional, a small ant problem rarely becomes more than that. By having the ability to call your pest control company when you first notice an ant, you will never be on the losing end of an ant infestation.
As discussed in detail in this article, properly identifying the species of ant is crucial to a successful ant treatment. When you call Nextgen Pest Solutions for an ant problem the first step is a thorough inspection. The goal of the ant inspection is to ascertain what kind of ant is present, where they are coming from, and the severity of the infestation. Is the nest indoors or outdoors? Are the sanitary conditions of the home or outdoors inviting the problem? Are trees touching the house or piles of decaying yard debris littering the yard? Depending on what is found, inspections may lead to the attic or the pool pump area. A thorough ant inspection leaves no ant trail unfollowed.
In keeping with Integrated Pest Management principles, a thorough inspection will reveal ways to gain control of ants by non-chemical means as well. Areas of moisture such as a leaking spigot outdoors, or underneath the kitchen sink should be carefully investigated. By encompassing a multi-prong approach, ant control can be accomplished using physical barriers (seal windows and doors), landscape modification (trim trees and reduce yard clutter), sanitation (seal and properly store ant food sources), and low-toxicity ant baits and targeted spray applications.
Once your Pest Management Professional has gathered as many facts as possible, he will apply your situation to his or her bank of knowledge of ant biology and behavior.
Every species of ant is different and has different behaviors and characteristics. For most ant species, professional exterminators’ first line of offense will be to apply a bait product near the ant trails. By placing the bait near where they are entering the home rather than on the kitchen or bathroom counters, you have already reduced anxiety and conflict. Ants are notoriously picky eaters, and a baiting protocol relies upon the ants eating the bait you offered. If you notice the ants are not tempted by the bait you placed, try another bait with a different bait matrix. If you tried sweet, try a protein bait. If you tried protein, try a carbohydrate bait. Different brands of ant bait have different nutritional content and flavors. Once the ants are eating the bait keep it coming! Make sure the bait is replenished regularly and is fresh. Whether you are dealing with a supercolony of Argentine Ants or a few sugar ant foragers, continue to provide bait until the ants are no longer a concern.
The second step that will help to permanently get rid of ants is the application of a non-repellent spray around the perimeter of your home. The purpose of this spray is to get it onto their feet and legs as they walk through it. When they go back to the nest, it will transfer to the other ants, ultimately causing the entire ant colony to die. It is of utmost importance to choose a non-repellent insecticide so that the ants do not avoid the pesticide application. Usually, these sprays are applied outdoors along the foundation of the home, around windows and doors, and where cable or phone lines enter the building. Follow the label on the product carefully, but often a tree or stump that houses an ant nest may be treated as well. It varies with outdoor conditions, but most of the common non-repellent sprays used for ants last and are effective for months.
Combining aggressive baiting with a long-lasting non-repellent spray is an effective strategy for most average ant infestations. Always be on the lookout for ant nests in your yard and shrubbery. Directly treating the ant nests expedites the destruction of the colony. Remember to know your ant species and keep realistic expectations. In areas of high fire ant activity, regular preventative treatments must be maintained, or your neighbor’s fire ants will encroach upon your property. This is true as well with a supercolony of odorous house ants. With regular feeding of bait and the application of pesticides, you can create a barrier around your yard. However, you will quickly be overrun if you decide not to continue to manage the situation.
Whether it is ants in the yard or ants in your home or business, they can and should be treated. With the wealth of information that the internet is, Do-It-Yourself ant treatments can be effective if you take the time to apply the correct products to the correct locations. Ant treatment is not as simple as tossing out ant bait and hoping it works. Follow-up inspections evaluating the control methods used is an important step in gaining permanent ant control. If you have decided that you would prefer to leave it to the professionals, we here at Nextgen Pest Solutions are ready to help. We know service; we are a Veteran Owned company with pest control branches in Georgia and Florida. Our trained and experienced ant control technicians can be at your house the same or the next day to solve your ant problem.