Ants are social insects, that is, they live and work together in colonies. A typical colony consist of an egg-laying queen, eggs, larvae, pupae, soldier ants and worker ants. On the other hand, ants are one of the most commonly encountered household pests and can potentially become a nightmare for a homeowner. They infest buildings and its surroundings and feed on human foodstuff. Dealing with a particular ant species can be challenging because of their own sets of unique habits, tendencies and characteristics.
There are 4 key steps a professionally-trained pest controller undertakes when dealing with nuisance ants.
In reality, any ants inside your home are coming from outside, so it is important that the inspection begins outside for signs of ant activity.
Ant trails are one of the key signs. The ants will trail from the ground up, looking for entry points in cracks, crevices and utility openings. Any trees, shrubs or foliage that come in direct contact with the building provides a bridge for the ants to get inside.
Pay attention to the trails and look closely at the ants as they make their way back to point of origin which is their nest. Many ant species prefer to nest in dark and well covered areas such as under stones, pavements, mulch, flower pots and other materials that provide a haven from predators or the environment. Some ant species are mound-builders so inspect the lawn or base of plants for noticeable ant mounds.
Armed with the information gathered from the outside, you can proceed with the inspection inside the home or building. Keep in mind that ants come inside in search of food or moisture available in kitchens and bathrooms. Inspect door frames, under sinks, along pipes, cabinets, trash bins and appliances.
In some cases, you will encounter some ant species that forage and nest inside because the environment is conducive.
Did you know that there are over 10,000 different ant species in the world? They share similar characteristics including antennae and 6 legs while their size, colour, distribution and food preference may differ across species.
Identifying the correct species is important in order to devise an effective treatment plan. Here are the 5 common household ant pest species.
Black House Ants (Ochetellus glaber)
The black house ants are black in colour and shiny. They prefer sweet foods and will forage indoors but will normally nest in the ground, under stones or dry fallen logs and occasionally in wall cavities and roof voids.
White Footed Ants (Technomyrmex albipes)
The white-footed ants are dull and black in colour with white pale legs. They nest indoors and outdoors and will eat a range of food types but prefers sweet materials.
Odorous Ants (Tapinoma minutum)
The odorous ants got their name from the unpleasant odour they give off when crushed. Indoors, they nest near moist areas. They can also be found outdoors under stacks of food. The odorous ants prefer protein but will feed on sugars mainly for the moisture content.
Pharaoh Ants (Monomorium pharaonis)
The pharaoh ants are light brown or orange-yellow in colour with a dark brown to black ball-like abdomen. They will thrive indoors well in narrow crevices, voids and electrical outlets. Pharaoh ants are particularly troublesome in hospitals because they are attracted to wound dressings or body fluids of patients.
Red Imported Fire Ants (Selenopsis invicta)
Red Imported Fire Ants are invasive species that typically nest in soil and you will notice their nests by large soil mounds in or around lawns and close to the foundation of buildings. When they are disturbed, they swarm aggressively and sting the intruder repeatedly. They are scavengers and prefer high-protein foods.
Effective management and control of ants always involve a combination of non-chemical and chemical methods of which the latter is elaborated in step 4.
Non-chemical methods are primarily focused on structural and environmental modifications by way of:
Eliminating sanitation concerns
Remember, ants are attracted to food and moisture sources. Proper sanitation practices such as removing food scraps from kitchen counters, storing food in tightly sealed containers, emptying trash regularly, cleaning spills and fixing leaky taps and pipes will keep the ants away.
Eliminating entry points
From the exterior, seal off entry points where plumbing lines run from the foundation as well as any cracks on the exterior walls and check windows and doors to ensure they are adequately sealed. Because ants are very small, eliminating entry points may be unrealistic however the goal here is to eliminate the areas that ants will most likely gain entry from.
Eliminate environmental conditions
Make the environment outside as unattractive as much as possible by means of minimizing mulch, eliminating standing or excessive water, maintaining lawns properly and trimming foliage and branches that come in direct contact with the building.
4. Scopes of Works (Treatment)
Engaging a professionally-trained pest controller is an advantage over DIY methods because a trained pest controller has a better understanding on the biology and characteristics of ant species, safe handling of correct pesticides depending on their mode of action, the right equipment to use and the best time to treat to control the infestation level. As indoor ant infestations originate from outside, exterior treatment is a must.
Liquid repellent pesticides can be applied as sprays around the foundation of the building to create a chemical barrier to drive the ants away. Alternatively, non-repellent sprays can be used whereby the ants unknowingly pick up the poison from the chemical residue and pass on to other ants and eventually eliminating them.
Additionally, pesticide powders can be used and placed into cracks and crevices and entry points around plumbing lines to eliminate or drive them out.
Ant baits are slow-acting pesticides that come in granular or gel form. The baits are made up of an active poison combined with either a sugar-based food or protein-based food. The food attracts the ants while the poison kills them.
The baits are placed in close proximity to the target ant species’ nests or trails. The worker ants pick up the baits and transport them back to the nest to feed the queen and larvae and in doing so eliminate the population.
Having covered all areas outside, treatment continues indoors to areas where target ant species were found to be frequenting the most at the time of inspection. Appropriate pesticides are used on the target ant species taking into account the practicality of each application method with respect to the internal environment.
A recurring treatment, together with proper sanitation is the best way to keep ants from becoming a nuisance.
Want to know more about how to prevent ants or have a professional inspect your property for ants? Contact our expert team today!