Ant Control: How to Get Rid of Ants

Ants (Formicidae: Insecta)

Ants are an easily recognized group of social insects. Ants are one of our most common and abundant insects. Ants are also one of the most widely distributed of all insect groups. They are the most abundant of all social insects. Ants infest buildings, feed on human foods, and even cause structural damage.

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General Biology

Most ant colonies are started by a single inseminated female or queen. From this single individual ant, ant colonies can grow to obtain anywhere from several hundred to several thousand individual ants. On average, most ant colonies probably fall within the range of 300 to 50,000 individual ants and some ant colonies grow into the millions. Ants normally have three distinct castes in their social group: queens, workers, and males. The queen is the largest member of the colony.

Ants produce reproductive forms usually at one time of the year (spring or fall, depending on the ant species and colony disposition). Colony activity at the time of reproductive swarming is high, with winged males and queens and workers in a very active state. Colonies may persist for 20 years or more. Today, most ants that cause annoyance to homeowners and/or your place of business are omnivorous and feed on a variety of foodstuffs. These include most of the food materials used by humans. Ants are such a diverse group, it is essential to identify the species before attempting control. The importance of working with an expert pest control operator like Pest Fighter is in our ability, knowledge and understanding of the ants life-style, identity, and habits.

Identification

Ants have been troublesome and problematic for Washington state residence for many years. One major ant group is of concern to a majority of pest control operators (PCO): Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants, because of their habit of nesting in houses, are a problem to humans. Carpenter ants cause structural damage. They do not eat wood, but they remove quantities of it to expand their nests, resulting in damage to your home and/or buildings. Since many houses in Washington are being built in forested areas, well-established, vigorous colonies are readily available in the immediate vicinity to attack and infest these dwellings. This is especially true when the home is built with a minimal removal of trees.

Ant nests are often located in a tree, stump, or stacked wood within 100 meters of the house. Ants usually maintain a trail between their parent and satellite colonies. Traffic on these trails may be noticeable during the day, but peak traffic occurs between sunset and sunrise. Ants create an invisible "scent" trail through the use of pheromones or chemical cues to allow other ants to follow. Washington has several species of carpenter ants that vary in color from black to reddish.

During the first warm days of spring — May to June (emergence from indoor nests may occur as early as January), depending on locality — the the reproductives emerge from the nest for their mating flights. The queen does not leave the nest to forage for food during the entire time she feeds and raises this first brood. It is important to note, the queen's primary function from this point onward is to lay eggs. As this colony continues to grow in size, so does the damage to your home and/or buildings structure.

The natural food for these ants are insects and other arthropods and sweet exudates from aphids and other insects. They are also attracted to other sweet material such as decaying fruits and sugars.

Inspecting

Carpenter ants may enter a house while foraging or new queens may enter homes after nuptial (or mating) flights and thus may only be a nuisance. Remember — while one technique may be useful in one situation, it may not be useful in others. The following provides a brief list of indicators and methods of being able to recognize an infestation of carpenter ants with our helpful tips for inspecting your home and/or business:

  1. Sawdust. Ants extrude sawdust from their galleries and runways. Carpenter ant sawdust sometimes contains insect parts from their food and parts of the dead ants.
  2. Presence of Workers. Occasionally, an ant or two may wander into your home and/or business, frequent sightings of one or more on the premises indicates a possibility of an infestation in or near the structure.
  3. Rustling Noises. Ants produce rustling noises in wall voids and ceilings, particularly if they are disturbed. These sounds are useful in locating nests by stethoscope or other listening devices.
  4. Trails. Another clue is the presence of foraging trails, easiest to locate at night between sunset and sunrise when foragers are most active. Carpenter ants also have a regular network of trails for traveling about the house and/or structure.
  5. Crawl Space and Attic Areas. Locating Carpenter ant nests is a job you should reserve for a pest fighter or pest control operator to inspect for help in locating an infestation.

Other Ant pests of Washington

Moisture Ants. These ants have frequently been associated with rotting wood in houses. The obvious remedy is to remove the decayed wood and replace it with sound material. The presence of these ants should alert you to search for a wood decay problem in or under your home and/or business.

Thatching Ants. These ants are found to occur in lawns, rockeries, picnic areas, and other locations of human habitation. Thatching ants are often injurious to seedling trees or plants near their nests, and they have been known to damage the buds of apple, pear, and plum in the spring.

Other Ants in Washington that can become pests: Harvester Ant, Odorous House Ant, Pavement Ant, Pharaoh Ant, Velvety Tree Ant and Argentine Ant.

Pest Fighter pest control company is a professional, licensed and insured pest control operator (PCO) located in the Greater Seattle area, serving King County, Pierce County and Snohomish County. Pest Fighter not only prevents pest problems, but we offer an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solution for both treating pest problems and monitoring for the presence of pests and pest damage. For help in controlling ants in your area of Washington, contact your local Pest Fighter or pest control operator (or PCO).