Ants can invade homes seeking food, water, warmth, and shelter. They can cause structural damage like carpenter ants and pose health risks, such as contaminating foods with bacteria, including E. coli, staphylococcus, and streptococcus.
These tiny invaders typically do not bite or sting. The best ant control methods start with correctly identifying the species.
More than 12,000 different species of ant have been discovered worldwide. While they are all insects, each has its own unique characteristics that serve unique ecological functions. Those differences also affect how the pests are managed and treated.
Unlike bees and wasps, which can only sting during a mating ritual, ants can bite and sting at any time. The sting can cause pain, swelling, and an allergic reaction in some people. Ants are also a very important part of the ecosystem, performing many essential jobs like seed dispersal and soil aeration.
While they are often thought of as pests, ants play an important role in the environment and should not be killed. However, if an ant invades your home, you must take steps to remove them. Determining what kind of ant is invading can help you decide the best course of action for a quick and effective solution.
An ant’s size and color are usually the first clues to its species, but there are other distinctive characteristics that can be helpful. For example, some ants have one or two nodes, called humps, on the back of their thorax; this helps to distinguish them from other ant species. The type of ant that is invading your home may also be indicated by its behavior and the location where you have seen it.
Some ant species, such as the crimson-colored imported fire ant, are very aggressive and can bite and sting. These ants are most common in the Southwest and South. Other ants, such as black ant workers and acrobat ants, are not typically considered household pests. These ants are often found in damp wood, soggy foundations, and foam panel insulation. Acrobat ants can be identified by their ability to “fly” by lifting their abdomens into the air in a zigzagging motion, similar to a scorpion.
To combat ant invasions, you should seal cracks in walls and around doors, keep food in airtight containers, and clean up spills immediately. You can also use natural repellents to keep ants away. For instance, sprinkling some of the more common essential oils, such as peppermint or cinnamon oil, in strategic places can be very effective.
While there are more than 12,000 different species of ants around the world, only a small percentage become pests in homes. Ants are social insects living in large colonies containing thousands or even millions of other ants.
When ants are foraging for food, they leave a trail of pheromones (chemicals that mimic their own scents) behind. This trail leads back to the colony, where it alerts other ants to the location of the food source. The ants will then follow the trail until it leads them to their desired destination. This is why it is important to use proper storage techniques for food items in your home.
Ants are very resourceful creatures. They can enter your home through cracks and holes in the exterior of your house or through doors that aren’t properly sealed. Once inside, they can find their way around most types of furniture, cabinets, and appliances by following scented trails.
Most ants are not aggressive, but some have the ability to inflict painful stings. If a sting does occur, it should not be taken lightly, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
The stinging action of an ant is generated by a stinger located in the ant’s abdomen. The stinger can penetrate the skin and cause pain, swelling, and redness. Fortunately, ants only sting when they are disturbed or when their nest is threatened.
Many ants create nests outside the home in rotting wood, leaf litter, soil, brick, or patio stones, and under foundations. They also build nests in walls, roof eaves, and wall voids. Carpenter ants may also nest in wooden structures within your home, especially if moisture-damaged wood is nearby.
Winged ants, which are called alates, emerge from the colony to mate and begin new colonies. These ants can be identified by their light brown to dark green coloring, antennae, petiole length, and rear end. Alates typically do not bite or sting.
To help prevent ant infestation, regularly clean up spills and crumbs and keep food in closed containers. Regular yard maintenance, including trimming tree branches and bushes, can limit plant-sucking insect populations that supply ants with honeydew. Regularly checking for and sealing any entry points into the house can also prevent ant invasions.
The most important step in ant control is to identify what species are present. Once you know what type of ants are invading your home, you can prevent them from entering and nesting. Ants build colonies in a variety of outdoor habitats, including gardens, lawns, and shrubbery but can also nest inside homes, such as under bathtubs, water heaters, and refrigerators. Some species of ants are aggressive and may bite or sting humans. For example, the European fire ant (Formica pallidefulva) can produce painful stings.
Ants will typically enter homes from the outside through cracks and crevices, but some can penetrate a house through vents, electrical wires, and pipes. You can help prevent ants from invading your home by sealing all entrance points on your house’s exterior and interior walls. You can also trim bushes and trees away from the exterior of your home to reduce the likelihood of ant nests forming in or around them.
Once you’ve identified what kind of ant is infesting your home, you can begin to prevent them from entering by identifying the location of their ant colony. Look for ant mounds in lawns and sidewalk cracks, as well as rotting tree stumps and logs in the yard to locate ant colonies. It is important to note that ant mounds are often temporary and do not necessarily indicate an active ant infestation.
It is a good idea to keep children and pets away from any ant nests found near the home, as some ants are considered to be pests that carry germs and can spread disease-causing microbes. You can also try spraying an insecticide around ant trails to kill ants that you see, but you must be sure to target the entire trail for maximum effectiveness. Killing individual ants does not have much of an impact, as only a small percentage of the ant population is out foraging at any given time.
Some ant species spread their colonies by budding, a process where one or more queens leave the nest accompanied by workers that aid in the establishment of the new colony. This can be especially difficult to control. Pharaoh ants, some kinds of fire ants, and ghost ants are examples of ants that spread their colonies in this manner.
Ant Food Sources
Ants are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat almost anything if they can find it. For example, sugar ants devour all things sweet, while crazy / ghost / pavement ants are fond of meats, greasy foods, and other insects. Seed harvester ants spend much of their time harvesting seeds from native grasses and annual plants, which they then store in grain silo-like chambers for future use.
Ant nests are often found near rocks, soil, walkways, and foundations where they are protected. However, if they can’t find the food they need in nature, ant species like the black ant will invade houses looking for supplies.
Some ants, such as red imported fire ants, will aggressively defend their colony and even sting humans who enter their territory. Other ants, such as carpenter ants, can create tunnels and nests inside structures, such as homes, causing serious damage.
Despite being an important part of the natural ecosystem, ants can become pests when they invade our human-made habitats in search of food or shelter. They are known to contaminate food, equipment, and sterile environments in hospitals and other industries, and some species have painful stings that can be dangerous to humans.
The key to keeping ants out of your home is to eliminate their access to food and water sources. This can be done by regularly vacuuming and wiping down surfaces in your kitchen. Using food storage methods that are tight enough to seal your food is also very helpful.
In order to effectively treat ant infestations, pest control professionals need to understand the different species and their unique characteristics. This helps them design treatment plans that are specific to the species in question. Using a combination of physical traits and behavioral characteristics, professional ant exterminators can keep your home free of ants and prevent them from returning. Depending on the type of ant, the most effective treatment option will include both pre-emptive measures and targeted treatments. If you notice an ant invasion in your home, contact Pro Active Pest Control immediately to avoid an extensive problem.