Ants are an unwanted nuisance for home owners across the country. They are a social insect that live in colonies. In order to successfully control ants, you have to exterminate the entire colony. Simply spraying some ants you see will not see long-term success in ridding you of your ant problems.
Understanding the behavior of ants might help you better eliminate them as an issue. Ants typically enter through the smallest of openings and foraging your home for food or water. Sweet or greasy foods attract ants the most and once they find a sustainable food source, they will leave a pheromone trail for the other ants to follow. Once that happens, you have a problem.
Carpenter Ants: (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
In some areas of the country, carpenter ants cause more damage to structures than termites. They are difficult insects to control and can cause extensive damage to the wood members in your home. Carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood but excavate galleries within it to use as nesting sites.
Foraging activity can occur at any time of day but usually happens at night when there is less movement in the house. When foraging inside houses, carpenter ants are attracted to sweets, meat, grease and fat.
Ant Colony Formation
A carpenter ant colony is usually formed by a queen who begins her nest in a piece of old buried wood or in a partially decayed tree or stump. In mature infestations, there may be as many as ten satellite colonies linked to the main colony by trails. There is a frequent exchange of workers between these satellite colonies and the main nest. Colonies normally do not produce winged reproductive forms, until they are at least three to six years old with emergence of swarmers (flying ants) typically occurring from May through July.
The most common way in which homes become infested is through emigration of an existing colony. Houses located near wooded areas or brush covered lots are good candidates for infestation. Carpenter ant colonies are inclined to move when disturbed. Often, people first realize they have a carpenter ant problem when construction work is being performed in the house or when a nearby ant infested-tree is cut down.
Common Signs of Carpenter Ant Infestations
- Frass (sawdust), which is made up of wood shavings, bits of soil, dead ants and parts of insects. This material is often piled up outside of nest openings and can be found in spider webs and window sills.
- Small “windows” or slit-like openings in the wood. These windows are actually "garbage chutes," which carpenter ants make and use to dispose of sawdust.
- Clicking or rustling sounds inside your walls can sometimes be heard coming from carpenter ant nests. If you identify a potential nest site, try tapping against it with a screwdriver. You may hear a response -- the clicking of alarmed ants.
- Wood damaged by carpenter ants contains galleries that are very clean and smooth.
Pavement Ants: (Tetramorium caespitum)
Also called "cookie ants", "sugar ants" and "tiny, small ants" are dark brown to blackish in color and about 2.5–4 mm long. Like other ants species there are the workers, reproducers, and a queen. Alates or drones, have wings and are twice as large as the workers. The drone's only job is to mate with the queen, and reproduction is at its highest in spring and summer but have been known to emerge any time of the year in heated structures.
It is not uncommon to see them swarming in late fall and into February even in colder climates. Tetramorium, like many other ants have nuptial flights where drones fly high up in the air and mate with new queens. The queen finds a suitable nesting location and digs a founding chamber. As the eggs hatch and the ants develop they will spend that time, about two to three months, tending to the queen of their colony. They will continue helping in the colony until they are a month old.
Where To Find Them
Most colonies are located under sidewalks, building slabs, and large rocks. Ants enter buildings through cracks in foundation walls and interior slabs. It is common to see sand piles and small soil particles in structures near cracks in concrete slabs or at the top of foundation walls where the ants deposit debris from excavated nests. Similar piles are seen in the warmer months at the cracks in sidewalks.
What They Feed On
Pavement ants feed on a wide variety of food. Sweets, including sugar, nectar, fruits, and syrups are readily taken. Grease, dead insects, and small seeds also are collected and stored in the nest. Nearly any morsel of food that falls to the floor will be consumed. Older workers hunt and defend the colony. They will eat almost anything, including insects, seeds, honeydew, honey, bread, meats, nuts, ice cream and cheese.
Crazy Ants: (Paratrechina longicornis)
Nest site/characteristics: Crazy ants are noted for their erratic movements. They appear to be lost and confused. Colonies tend to be small, with up to 2,000 workers and 8-40 queens. The presence of numerous interconnected colonies may result in larger infestations. Colonies may spontaneously abandon one nest site and move to another. Inside, crazy ants usually nest under floors and in wall voids, frequently near hot-water pipes and heaters. Workers follow trails of up to 100 feet to forage for food. Outside, nests are shallow and in soil under objects or in plant cavities, trees, trash, refuse, mulch and potted plants. Crazy ants enter homes in the fall or after rain when honeydew supplies are reduced.
Feeding Preferences: Crazy ants prefer insects and sweets, but will feed on any household food. Outside, their preferred diet includes insects, seeds, fruits and honeydew from aphids, mealybugs and scale insects.
Control: Locate the nest by following the trail of foraging workers from their food source and then thoroughly treat each nest with a residual insecticide.
- In infested interior walls or in the voids of outside ground-floor walls, drill and inject insecticide dust. Access wall voids via electrical outlets and plumbing installation holes.
- For perimeter treatments, use a liquid in conjunction with a granule product.
- Use Maxforce baits in combination (gel, granular and stations) to help ensure bait acceptance.
- Apply bait(s) along foraging trails, near suspected nest sites and in cracks and crevices around the perimeter.
Odorous House Ants: (Tapinoma sessile)
Nest Site Characteristics
Odorous house ants (also known as stink ants) live in colonies that may contain up to 100,000 ants with many queens. Super colonies may exist where food, water and brood are exchanged between satellite locations. Indoors, odorous house ants nest in wall voids, especially around hot-water pipes and heaters, and in crevices around sinks and cupboards. Outdoors, nests are often found in soil, usually under objects. Odorous house ants are most likely to enter buildings when colonies become very large and natural food and water sources become scarce and when climate conditions are extreme (drought or ﬂood).
When indoors, odorous house ants prefer sweets during most of the warm season, but will eat high-protein foods and greasy meats and cheese as dictated by colony requirements. Outdoors, they feed on honeydew, plant secretions and sometimes seeds and insects.
There are various strategies to controlling ants. Locating the nests is crucial step in the process. Follow the trail of foraging workers back from their food source. Thoroughly treat exposed colonies using a liquid in conjunction with a granule product.
- Dust voids of outside ground-floor walls and infested interior walls with insecticide dust. Access wall voids via cracks and crevices, electrical outlets and pipe chases.
- A perimeter treatment will keep odorous house ants from entering buildings. Spot treat entry point (e.g., window and door frames & utility entries).
- Bait with Maxforce ant bait stations, Maxforce FC Ant Killer Bait Gel and/or Maxforce Granular Insect Bait. Apply bait along trails, close to water sources and around entry points. Odorous house ants’ feeding preferences may change quickly, without warning, so be prepared to use multiple bait formulations. Bait in sufficient amounts to ensure adequate exposure of the active ingredient to the extended colony. If odorous house ants are feeding on protein foods, apply Maxforce Granular Insect Bait as a broadcast application in the yard.
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