Prevention techniques for battling ants

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:07

    Summer is on its way: What you need to know Ants are often referred to by scientists as “Earth’s most successful species” and with good reason. They have been thriving on this planet for more than 100 million years and inhabit every corner of the globe except Antarctica and a handful of isolated islands. The long-term survival of ants is attributed to sophisticated communication, teamwork, and strength in numbers. It is all well and good, as long as the ants stay outside, right? Not likely. Of the 12,517 known ant species on the planet, 1,015 call the United States home. Despite their tiny stature, ants represent 15 to 20 percent of terrestrial biomass in this country. With so many species, in such large concentrations, the question is not will your home be raided, but when and by which ant species? Ants invade countless homes every year to forage for food, hunker down in a warm place for the winter, or to build colonies in your rotting wood frames. (Yes, one American ant species can tunnel through moist wood.) So, how do you ensure your home remains ant-free all summer? There are some simple, on-going techniques you can employ to ensure your home stays ant free. Most ants build underground colonies, making it difficult to pinpoint their exact location. In order to keep ants out of your home, you need to prevent them from walking through the front door. An outdoor bait treatment such as AMDRO Ant Block is effective on most common American species. Simply sprinkle a one-foot-wide barrier around the perimeter of your house and reapply as necessary to keep ants out all season. Three common U.S. ant species: Pavement Ants Pavement ants are the most common household invader. Black or brown in color and measuring about an eighth of an inch, they get their name because they nest under sidewalks, driveways, and building foundations. This species is aggressive and fights neighboring colonies when trying to conquer new territory in the spring. Huge sidewalk battles are a common sight and can leave thousands of ants dead. They eat almost anything including meats, sweets, seeds, and other insects. Colonies are easy to spot in the late summer when the ants remove sand, dirt, and other debris in an effort to vent the nest. The result is a sandy mound in the middle of the sidewalk. Pavement ants invade homes year round. During warm months, you can find them foraging for food. In the winter, they move their colonies indoors and nest near heat sources. Carpenter Ants There are more than 1,000 subspecies of carpenter ants throughout the world. The black carpenter ant is the most common in the U.S. These ants are large (one fourth of an inch to half an inch long), poisonous, and get their name because they like to nest in dead and decaying trees or in building frames. Contrary to popular belief, they do not eat wood; they use their powerful mandibles to tunnel. The resulting “saw dust” is a good indicator of an invasion. The presence of carpenter ants means you most likely have a bigger problem because they can’t nest in wood unless its strength is compromised by water. Thus, if you have carpenter ants, you probably have a moisture problem, from leaking, flooding, or plumbing in need of repair Odorous House Ants Odorous house ants are a scavenger/predatory species. They eat most household foods and also dine on other insects. They are common household invaders and prefer to colonize near heat sources or in insulation. Nests are also found in household plants and even under toilet seats! They are dark brown in color and measure a scant one sixteenth of an inch. Colonies range in size from a few hundred to more than 10,000. They get their name from the odor they dispense when squashed, which smells like rotting coconuts. Aside from being pesky and a stinky nuisance, odorous house ants pose no health risks. The most effective way to prevent any of these ants from joining you for dinner, is to apply bait outside around the perimeter of your home. Ants believe the bait is food and collect it to take back to the colony. The other ants eat the bait, feed it to the queen, and within a few days, the queen dies - and because the colony cannot live without the queen - the colony is destroyed.