Ant control can be difficult, but there are some things you should know about how ants’ behavior can lead to big headaches for you and your home:
Entry Points: Ants can enter through even the tiniest cracks, seeking water and sweet or greasy food substances in the kitchen pantry or storeroom areas.
Scent trails: Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.
Nest locations: They can nest about anywhere in and around your house; in lawns, walls, stumps, even under foundations
Colony size: Colonies can number up to 300,000 to 500,000, and whole colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
Colony Lifetime: A colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years, and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
Do-it-yourself ineffectiveness: Most do-it-yourself ant control approaches kill only the ants you see. Some truly effective treatments can penetrate and destroy nests to help prevent these pests from returning. Also, home remedies don’t account for the fact that different kinds of ant infestations require different treatments.
Outdoors, acrobat ants nest near moisture such as under stones, in stumps, in rotting logs and under woodpiles. When they invade homes, acrobat ants often nest in damp areas such as in foam sheathing behind siding, and they even have been found nesting in roofing near a leaking skylight.
Acrobat ants often nest in wood that termites or carpenter ants have damaged. It is common for acrobat ants to clean out the galleries that other insects have made in the wood. They push the dirt or wood scraps out of the galleries. Sometimes homeowners find this debris and think there is an active termite infestation.
Acrobat ants normally eat insects and honeydew, a sugary waste excreted by sap-feeding insects like aphids. Acrobat ants protect the aphids that produce the honeydew. If acrobat ants come into a home, they usually prefer sweets and meat.
The acrobat ant workers enter homes in several ways. Sometimes they make a trail across the ground. Door thresholds and construction gaps are common entryways. Workers can also follow tree limbs or shrubs that touch the house. They have even made their trails on utility lines. The ants can enter the home through the same opening that pipes or wires go through.
Signs of an Infestation
Acrobat ants are capable of nesting inside buildings, sometimes inside insulated spaces. The most visible sign of acrobat ants are the trails of ants as they forage for resources. A second sign is the debris they deposit as they excavate their nests. This often consists of foam insulation and dead ants near the nest.
Cultural Control & Preventative Measures
Inspection is the key to successful control and the inspection methods are similar to those used for carpenter ants. When worker ants are found indoors, the first place to inspect is the structure’s exterior; one should look for:
trailing ants on the foundation
bits of foam board insulation which would indicate a nest behind the exterior sheathing or siding
trailing ants on all wires, utility lines and pipes coming into the walls
trailing ants on tree and shrub branches in contact with the wall
signs of excessive moisture such as peeling paint on wood thresholds, soffits, window frames, trim and molding
Acrobat ants that are foraging from the outside can be kept out by filling obvious cracks and crevices using silicone sealer, builder’s putty, mortar patch, etc. Tree and shrub branches should be trimmed away from the roof and walls to prevent bridging contact points.
In the yard, one should inspect logs, stumps, firewood, tree cavities, dead tree limbs, and loose bark for ant nests. Also, one should look under rocks and debris lying on the ground for ant nests. Indoors, it is important to investigate current and past areas of excessive moisture and consider past water leaks, plumbing problems, etc. A moisture meter is useful to detect areas of high moisture. Areas of old termite and carpenter ant damaged wood, if recognizable, should be checked for ant activity.
Outside, a full perimeter treatment will be applied by a Pest City technician using a residual liquid insecticide. Acrobat ant nests located in structural wood will be treated by injection with residual insecticide, aerosol or dust formulations. Nests in wall voids will be treated by gaining access via electrical outlet and plumbing penetration holes and injecting a dust or aerosol insecticide. Nests located in wallboard behind siding and in structural voids will be treated using high pressure aerosol injections with non-residual and residual insecticides. If ornamental plants and shrubs are infested with aphids, scale insects or mealybugs, the customer should have these treated by an arborist or landscape care professional to discourage acrobat ants from foraging thereon.
Carpenter ants reside both outdoors and indoors in moist, decaying or hollow wood. They cut galleries into the wood grain to form their nests and provide passageways for movement from section to section of the nest. This activity produces wood shavings mixed with parts of dead ants which provides clues to nesting locations.
Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but they will feed on a variety of food people eat—particularly sweets and meats. They will also feed on other insects.
Signs of an Infestation
Carpenter ant workers and swarmers (winged ants) are the most likely sign homeowners observe. The workers may be observed foraging for food. Swarmers usually are produced when a colony matures and is ready to form new colonies. These winged individuals often indicate a well-established colony. An additional sign of carpenter ant activity is the debris they produce from tunneling in the wood. Rough wood shavings mixed with parts of dead ants from the colony indicate carpenter ant nesting activity. A final sign may be the “rustling” sound sometimes heard as the ants go about their activity in the home’s wood.
In controlling an infestation of carpenter ants, it is necessary to first find the nest. Once found, it can be removed or treated chemically. All moisture conditions that the ants found conducive must be corrected.
If treated early, carpenter ants are seldom responsible for serious structural damage to houses and buildings. However, these ants could cause extreme damage if they continue undiscovered for an extended period. Thus, it is best to contact a pest control professional in the event of an infestation. It is advisable to seek professional help in containing carpenter ant infestations, as incorrect procedures may allow the colony to rebound when surviving members resume their burrowing and foraging.
Field ants encompass a large group of ant species belonging to the genus Formica. These ants make their nests in the ground in lawns, gardens, fields and parks.
Field ants usually nest near trees, rocks, sidewalks, fences or foundations of buildings. Many species of field ants make a mound with the soil that they excavate under the ground. Sometimes people mistake these mounds for fire ant activity. Field ants do not sting, but they will bite when they are disturbed. Some field ants can spray formic acid while they bite, so their bites can be painful.
Some species of field ants, like the western thatching ant, Formica obscuripes (Forel), make mounds of leaves, grass, twigs or even pine needles. Others, like the California red-and-black field ant, Formica occidua (Wheeler) and the brown field ant, Formica cinerea (Mayr), make their nests in cracks of sidewalks or beside trees or foundation walls.
Field ants eat honeydew. This is a sweet substance that they get from insects like mealybugs and aphids. They find the aphids on trees and shrubs. Some species of field ants, like the silky ants, Formica fusca (L.), keep herds of aphids so there is always a supply of honeydew. Field ants also eat other insects. Some field ants are attracted to meats. Many species of field ants are scavengers.
Signs of an Infestation
The activity of workers is an obvious sign. Considering the diversity of these ants, there aren’t many other common signs. The most likely encountered types of field ants, sometimes called thatch ants, produce distinct mounds made of grass or other plant materials.
Cultural Control & Preventative Measures
Preventing field ant problems begins with a careful inspection. Look for things that the ants might use as nesting sites. Place firewood on racks off of the ground and store it away from the house. Move mulch away from the foundation to discourage ants from nesting. Make sure exterior doors close tightly. Replace weather stripping where it is missing.
It is advisable to contact your local pest control professionals. They will have the products and the equipment to control field ants effectively.
A Pest City technician will apply a perimeter treatment with a residual insecticide to discourage structural entrance by field ants. Spot treatments using residual or bait insecticides will be made to obvious mound nests located in the ground.