Ant Control - know what you are dealing with
Ant control is a major problem for US households.
Ants are everywhere and there are hundreds of native ant species in the US. Most stay well clear of humans and their property but there are a number of types of ant that do regularly cause problems.
The most common types of ant
This is the most common type found in urban areas like the Bay area. This ant originates in the jungle of South America and has rapidly colonized the USA after stowing away on cargo ships and goods trains carrying imported goods.
They spread rapidly because, unlike other ant species, each colony has multiple queens allowing them to create new satellite colonies when they find a source of food and water.
They do not pose a direct health threat but they do contaminate food and are unhygienic and unsightly. Definitely a nuisance you don’t want in your house
These large black ants build their nest by tunneling through wood. Fine if it’s in a fallen tree in the forest but definitely NOT OK if the wood in question forms the support structure for your porch.
Again, they don’t pose a direct health threat (unless you fall through your porch floor!) but they can be a nuisance and they will contaminate any food that they can get access to.
You’ve probably seen these tiny ants around cracks in the sidewalk. And you might also have noticed how they have a tendency to swarm all over anything that disturbs them. (Try not to step on them).
Not a problem if they choose to stay out there on the street but a real nuisance if they’ve found their way into your house through a crack in the wall. As with other ants the biggest problem is their habit of hunting out and spoiling any available food
Problems ants cause
There are many different types of ants and the problems they create can vary quite a bit depending on which species of ant is present.
All ants in your house are probably searching for food and water and they often spoil food that they find in your cupboards and pantry including dried and packaged items.
Not all ants bite or sting but some such as Fire Ants do have a painful bite which can be very dangerous to some sensitive people.
Some such as Carpenter ants will cause structural damage where they hollow out the wood to create their nests. You can sometimes spot where the nests are by the piles of what looks like sawdust. While the sawdust can be a tell-tale sign it isn’t always visible because sometimes it is hidden in the wall space.
Odorous house ants have a very distinctive odour which is sometimes said to smell like rotten coconuts.
What to look for
The most obvious sign of an ant problem is seeing a long trail of ants heading to and from their nest. Sometimes you will see hundreds other times just a few individuals. Most often these trails will be along lines and edges such as between the floor and the wall.
Follow the trail to identify where they are getting in. Usually this is on a window sill, beneath a door, or through a crack in the exterior wall.
It also pays to continue to trace the trail outside your house to find the nest. This will often be located in the ground, marked by a mound or anthill. Sometimes however the nest won’t be immediately obvious because they can be concealed under mulch, gravel, stones, landscaping timbers or beneath the grass.
Ant colonies also produce swarms of winged individuals at certain times of the year. If you find lots of these individuals in your house it’s probably a good indicator that you have a nest somewhere inside the property.
How to deal with ants
The best way is to avoid them getting into your house in the first place. Best tips for this:
- Seal any cracks that they can use to get access
- Fix door and window screens
- Keep tree branches trimmed away from the house
- Keep food in sealed containers
- Wipe crumbs from counter tops and clear all food remains immediately
- Create a moat of water around your pet’s food bowl
If a few of them do get in, wipe them up with a soapy sponge and look for where they got access and seal it up.
If you get a lot of ants or suspect you have an infestation – and remember the few you see are probably just be the scouts for the main nest – call a professional exterminator.
They will be able to identify the type of ant and will understand its behavior. That allows them to choose the best method to get rid of them safely and efficiently.
Learn more about local pests: