Often, the ants seen inside buildings originated in outdoor colonies. An insecticide barrier maintained around the exterior of structures can inhibit ant intrusions.
Correct identification of ant species can reduce painful stings and costly re-treatments. This article spotlights common ant species found in residential, commercial, and agricultural settings, including the shifty thief ants and the odorous house ants.
Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum) are dark brown to black, with parallel lines or furrows running across their head and thorax. They have elbowed antennas and a pair of segmented appendages on their abdomens containing stingers. These stingers are not strong enough to pierce human skin but are used for spreading pheromones to other ants that the colony is near a food source. Pavement ants are opportunistic scavengers who will enter homes searching for food, especially sugary or sweet items. They are also attracted to meat and grease. They will also eat seeds and fruit.
Pavement ant colonies can be large, with up to 10,000 workers. Colonies are found under outdoor paved areas such as sidewalks and driveways, in cracks in concrete slabs, or beneath the foundation of buildings. They are also attracted to high moisture areas, such as around hot water pipes or in wall voids. Pavement ants can also be found indoors, entering through cracks in floorboards, concrete slabs, and entry doors.
Pavement ants are very adaptable and will survive in a wide variety of climates. They can be very difficult to control in homes, especially if there are multiple colonies nearby. Eliminating their sources of food will reduce the population. Protein bait stations pre-filled with pesticides are particularly effective at controlling pavement ants. These ants are attracted to sugary foods, so sweet baits such as boric acid and protein baits like products containing fipronil or hydramethylnon will work well. Using slow-acting insecticides will help ensure the ants take the poison back to their nests, where it will kill them all. It is also a good idea to remove any debris or piles of dirt that might serve as a bridge to your home and to keep shrubs, creeper plants, and grasses well-trimmed away from the house.
With 12,000 species recognized, ants aren’t one single pest. While all share some common characteristics, such as segmented bodies and six legs, ant color, size, behavior, habitat, and nesting habits differ greatly. Identifying and controlling common nuisance ants is the key to protecting your property.
Carpenter ants (Camerona carpentera) are large, black ants with a distinct single bulge at their narrow waist. These ants are commonly found in California and range in size from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. Carpenter ants typically establish their colonies in wood that is moist or decaying. When the queen is ready to begin a new colony, she sheds her wings and finds a suitable nest site. Common nest sites include hollow porch posts, old logs, rotting tree stumps, and debris in landscaping. Carpenter ants can also be found nesting in walls, floor joists, and vents around crawlspaces.
Once inside, these ants can cause extensive wood damage. They forage for honeydew secreted by aphids and are attracted to moisture. This leads them to nest in crawlspaces and wall voids as well as to use a trail from the exterior of a structure to foraging arenas within.
A rustling sound heard from inside wall voids when carpenter ants are nearby is often the first sign of an infestation. Seal all cracks and crevices to prevent these ants from entering a home. Eliminate water sources such as leaky spigots, hoses, and gutters that aren’t funneling water away properly. Remove firewood and any vegetation that could provide a bridge to a home. You should also spray your home’s exterior foundation and any ant trailing spots with a general insecticide labeled for use against carpenter ants.
Crazy ants are another relatively new species of ant that have been causing a lot of trouble in homes and businesses. They were first identified in Texas in 2002 and have since spread to many areas in the US. As their name suggests, they move erratically and have no sense of direction when scavenging for food. Crazy ants nest in small cracks and crevices and tend to infest buildings. Like termites, they can cause damage to structures such as homes and businesses. The best way to deal with crazy ants is to keep them away from food sources by not leaving them out and keeping up with proper food storage.
Like most ants, crazy ants are predators, foragers, and scavengers. They feed on a wide variety of items such as protein, grease, dead insects, over-ripe fruits, and honeydew excreted by aphids. Crazy ants have also been known to infest gardens and disrupt natural environments. Their stings can be painful and dangerous to animals, humans, and pets.
Creating a barrier around the exterior of your property can be an effective method of prevention. Be sure to maintain a regular cleaning schedule and clean up food crumbs and spills as quickly as possible. Make sure all doors and windows are properly sealed to prevent ant access into the home. In addition, regularly trim shrubs and trees so they don’t serve as ant highways into the home. Keep your home’s interior clean and free of food particles as well. Lastly, if you do notice a problem with crazy ants in your home, contact Supreme IT immediately to get an inspection and treatment plan underway. This will help to eliminate the problem before it becomes out of control.
Little Black Ants
Little black ants (Macromium pharaonis) are a common problem in homes and gardens. They are small ants with a dark brown to black appearance and measure from 2.5 to 3 mm in length. They are often found foraging in kitchens and are particularly attracted to sweet foods, including honeydew, seeds, meats, and fruit. Outside, they nest in a wide range of locations, from rotted logs and stumps to cracks in walls, fence posts, and tree roots. They can also be found in the hollows of snags, dead trees, and piles of lumber, bricks, and rocks.
Little black ant colonies can be very large, containing 500,000 or more individuals. These ants have been known to attack crops and destroy garden plants. Although they don’t cause structural damage, their numbers can be very difficult to control. These ants are also known to contaminate food and are commonly found in homes where they may enter from the outside or follow plumbing pipes.
Winged swarms of these insects are common around homes and sometimes confused with termites. However, ants can be distinguished from termites by a narrow constriction between their thorax and abdomen (“wasp waist”), elbowed antennae, and hindwings that are smaller than the forewings.
The best way to prevent infestations of little black ants is to avoid providing them with the food sources they crave. This can be done by keeping counters and other surfaces clean of spilled food and crumbs and by regularly cleaning out pantry shelves and cupboards. Other helpful measures include storing food in sealed containers, and keeping wood stacks away from the house, and trimming branches of trees and shrubs so they don’t touch the structure. In addition, homeowners can help prevent ant invasions by using bait such as Maxforce Fleet Ant Bait Gel.
Pyramid ants are an extremely common pest throughout the southern United States. They are medium-sized and range in color from brown to reddish black, but their distinct thorax, which has a pyramid-shaped projection near the rear, gives this species its name. These ants are predacious and carnivorous, feeding on both live and dead insects, including fire ant colonies. Pyramid ants are also notorious for building cone-shaped mounds in lawns, which can interfere with mowing and ruin landscaping. While they are not a major nuisance, like many other ant species, they can forage inside homes in search of sweet foods and can bite when disturbed.
Infestations of pyramid ants are relatively easy to control, as these ants do not dig nearly as deep as pavement or termites and nest in open areas that make them easier to reach with treatments and baits. Because of this, they are often found in lawns but can also be seen in fields, pastures, roadsides, and other open areas.
The best way to prevent a pyramid ant infestation is to regularly inspect your yard for signs of these ants, including mounds and swarms of winged ants. Keeping your yard clean and free of debris, trash, and spills is also a good idea, as these items can attract pests. Regularly removing standing water, such as rainwater that collects in low areas or the spots where irrigation systems dump excess water, is another way to limit the chance of these pests settling on your property.
Pest control for ants may be needed in cases of severe ant infestations or those that cannot be dealt with using at-home remedies. A professional exterminator will be able to perform thorough inspections and provide treatments that are safe for your family, pets, and plants.