Ants are nuisance pests around buildings. Indoors they feed on and contaminate human foods, infest structures by nesting in wall voids and/or underneath kitchen sinks and other places. Outdoors they can build unsightly mounds in lawns and other landscapes, they can damage electrical equipment. In some cases, ants are able to inflict painful bites or can have venomous stings. Ants do not attack or eat fabrics, leather or wood in homes or buildings. However, some species can establish nests in decaying wood, including wood in human structures.
Ants can be recognized from other insects because they have a narrow waist with one or two joints (nodes) between the thorax and abdomen. When identifying ant species, the first characteristic to look at is whether the ant has one or two nodes.
Ants have elbowed antennae. The antenna is the second most important structure in ant identification. The antenna is divided into segments starting with a long and thin segment called the scape, which is the first segment counted from the head of the ant. In some imported pest ant species, the antenna ends in a club that is formed when the last two or three segments of the antenna are significantly enlarged.
If ants are a problem in your home…
- Properly identify the ant – knowing the ant species helps with treatment
- The most common household sweet feeding ants
- Pharaoh ants
- Crazy ants
- Odorous house ants
- Argentine ants
- Sweep and vacuum regularly.
- Remove kitchen trash daily.
- Wash trash cans and waste baskets inside and out.
- Clean up spilled food and drink immediately.
- Rinse recyclable items before storing them, and clean the recycling containers often.
- Do not leave food out or dirty dishes in the sink overnight.
- Clean kitchen counters, tables and floors often.
- Store food (including pet food) in containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Use caulk or steel wool to seal around pipes.
- Replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows.
- Follow ant trails to see where ants are finding food and where they are entering your home.
- Seal cracks on the outside of the house where ants may enter.
- Before you buy or use any pesticide, read the label carefully. Be sure the product is labeled for the site and the insect you will treat.
- Apply the pesticide around the outside of the house and 1 to 2 feet up the foundation.
- If you can determine where the outside nest is, treat it directly with an insecticide.
- Use baits to control ants inside the house. There are different baits for different kinds of ants. Be sure to buy bait that will control the particular pest you have. Get help identifying the ants if necessary. Baits come in childproof, plastic stations. They are safe and easy to use. Worker ants carry the bait insecticide back to the nest where it will kill the other ants.
- Do not wipe away ant trails. Place a bait station in the middle of the ant trail so the ants will find it.
- Give baits time to work. They make take several days or longer.
- Do not spray insecticides when using baits. Sprays can contaminate the bait.
- If ants remain a problem, hire a professional pest control service,