“How can I get rid of ants in my house……?” is one of the most common homeowner complaints heard by ant control specialists. Ants invade the home to forage for food or seek shelter or both.
All ants live in colonies, consisting of an egg-laying female (queen), short-lived males, and workers (sterile females). The ants you see foraging in your garden or kitchen are workers. Workers that find food communicate with other workers by depositing a chemical message on the substrate as they crawl back to the nest. Although we cannot smell it, this “trail pheromone” sticks to the substrate for long periods of time; that helps other ants find the food at the end of the trail.
A good ant control technician will find out where that trail ends.
In spring, ants develop wings and fly to new locations, invading homes to forage for food or establishing a new nest.
They warm during the spring and look similar to flying ants. Examine them closely to make sure that you have the correct pest! Ants are thin-waisted with elbowed antennae; whereas termites have thicker waists and antennae that resemble strings of tiny beads. You may need a magnifying glass to examine antennal features.
As a group, ants have a wide food range, feeding on sweet foods, greasy materials, starchy substances, wood, and all kinds of plant and animal materials. Part of the reason ants become a nuisance in Pest Control Auckland homes is that they often like the same kinds of food that we do. This is a good reason to apply a good ant control treatment.
The control strategy that you should take depends on your type of infestation.
Ants that live outside and forage in the home.
Ants that live outside will travel inside the home to search for food. Some species may ultimately reside in houses, discussed later in this fact sheet. To prevent both of these scenarios, follow these basic ant control procedures:
- Firstly, seal cracks and crevices to eliminate passages into the home. If you do not seal entry points, ants will probably find their way into your house at some later time.
- Second, scrub around entry points with a detergent (to remove the trail pheromone) and spray a residual insecticide around entry points.
Bait treatments and insecticides can be used to control ants. To be effective, baits must be placed in areas where ants frequent, eat and be taken back to the nest. There are several different kinds of baits available, and you may have to do a little trial-and-error to find the proper bait. Because the ants must get back to the nest for satisfactory ant control this strategy may be incompatible with insecticide sprays which may kill worker ants before they ant can get back to the nest with the bait. The successful use of a bait may take several weeks or more.
Ant Control – ants that live (nest) inside your home.
Yes, there are some types of ants that actually establish a nest inside your home instead of merely entering to forage for food and returning outdoors. Ants in this category may be present year round, although they will be more active in the warmer months. All ants may infest food products. Spraying a residual insecticide to control foraging workers may provide only short-term control. Even if 99% of foraging workers are killed by insecticide sprays, ant colonies are able to quickly and easily rebuild to original numbers. Location and total destruction of the nest is the most direct way to eliminate this ant infestation.
Ant control baits, described above, can again be a useful tool in eradicating inside-the-home ant nests, although baits may not work as well with carpenter ants as the other species mentioned. Again, ant workers must eat the bait, take it back to the nest, and feed to the queen and larval ants. This type of ant control is incompatible with treatments that prevent workers from returning to the nest with the bait.
Unlike other home-inhabiting ants, carpenter ants cause structural damage to wood by tunnelling and nesting inside wood structures. However, they rarely nest in sound wood, but consistently invade wet wood that has begun to decay. Carpenter ants are large (about 3/8 to 1/2″ long) and black or red.
Ant Control Insecticide
The best way to control carpenter ants that inhabit a dwelling is to find the nest and destroy it. Insecticide sprays inside the home will kill some of the worker ants. However, unless the entire ant nest is treated, the queen continues to produce additional members of the colony. Locating a nest can be difficult, because nests may be in locations within the walls or roof rafters. At this point, some homeowners may prefer to work with a professional pest control company. The most likely places to find carpenter ant nests are where wood is wet and weathered; such as rotting timbers about the foundation, window sills, porches, around leaky plumbing, and in rafters under a leaky roof.
Carpenter ants are most active in the evening hours foraging for all kinds of food, both inside the house and outside. By following the ants, you may be able to tell where the nest is. Because carpenter ants keep the tunneled galleries very clean and push the sawdust and dead insect parts out small holes in the wood. A small, fresh pile of sawdust under the timber is the most common sign of an active carpenter ant nest. Once a nest is located, treatment is easy with either an insecticide dust or spray. Injection of insecticide into wall voids or the nest itself may be necessary to ensure complete ant control.
To prevent further carpenter ant infestations, trim all trees and bushes so branches. Therefore they do not touch the house and correct moisture problems such as leaky roofs and plumbing. Paint and/or seal exposed wood construction before it becomes wet. Replace previously ant-infested wood, rotted, or water-damaged wooden parts of the structure and eliminate wood/soil contacts. Remove dead stumps on the property and store firewood off the ground.
Ant Control Summary
Ants are a major annoyance to homeowners and can be quite difficult to control. Do not underestimate the importance of good sanitation to eliminate food sources. Although good sanitation alone, will not control an ant infestation.
Albeit we do not like sharing our homes with ants or other pests, they are beneficial organisms in the balance of nature. In nature, ants greatly reduce the amount of dead and decaying plant and animal organic matter. They also aerate the soil with their nests. Many ant species have a fondness for honeydew that aphids produce from feeding on plants. Large numbers of ants crawling on a plant may be a sign of serious aphid infestation.
Controlling ants with a combination of good sanitation, removing pheromone trails, caulking entry points and eliminating the active nests. Insecticide sprays and baits are used to kill foraging ants and destroy nests. Although strategies designed to prevent further infestations, should be used in conjunction with your chemical ant control treatment.
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