Ants are the number one pest problem in Canada because of the sheer number of invasive species around homes, and summer is the time of year when these pests come out in full force.
Ant control can be difficult, but there are some things you should know about how ants’ behavior can lead to big headaches for you and your home:
- Entry: Ants can enter through even the tiniest cracks, seeking water and sweet or greasy food substances in the kitchen pantry or storeroom areas.
- Scent trails: Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.
- Nest locations: They can nest about anywhere in and around your house; in lawns, walls, stumps, even under foundations.
- Colony size: Can number up to 300,000 to 500,000 and whole colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
- Colony Lifetime: A colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
- Do-it-yourself ineffectiveness: Most do-it-yourself ant control approaches only kill the ants you see. Some truly effective treatments can penetrate and destroy nests to help prevent these pests from returning. Also, home remedies don’t account for the fact that different kinds of ant infestations require different treatments.
Ants in the House
As the name indicates, structure-infesting ants belong to the general category of ant that commonly invades homes and other building structures in search of food or nesting sites. In Canada, several different ant species are popularly regarded as structure-infesting ants. The most common species often encountered include carpenter ants, little black ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, pharaoh ants, and thief ants. Because these ants are social, their colonies tend to be large ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand. Therefore, when they infest a home, controlling them may prove to be challenging. Furthermore, as ants often send only scouts and workers to forage for food, the precise size of the existing colony can be difficult to pinpoint. Actually, less than 5% of the colony population forages, so 95% stay back in the colony, not visible. Besides being nuisance, some species of structure-infesting ants such as carpenter ants can cause structural damage to homes and buildings.
In many cases, structure-infesting ants actually live and nest outdoors; they invade homes temporarily to search for sources of food or water. Consequently, ants observed indoors are frequently encountered in kitchens, pantries, and other areas where food is stored or spilled. Ants are attracted to moisture sources indoors such as faucets and standing moisture in traditionally damp places like laundry rooms, basements, and bathrooms. Occasionally, when freshly mated queens begin to form new colonies or when outdoor conditions are inhospitable, house ants will establish nests indoors. Because developing ants require sufficient moisture to survive, they often set up indoor nesting sites in the wet or rotting wood around old door and window frames as well as beneath aging porches and within crawl spaces or wall voids. While many house ants maintain outdoor nests and merely forage for food inside, the pharaoh ant lives exclusively indoors, because being a tropical ant species, it cannot survive the colder Canadian winters.
Structure-infesting ants take advantage of their small size to gain indoor access to buildings. The pest insects regularly come indoors through tiny cracks and crevices that form along the exterior of houses and that are often overlooked by homeowners. Pavement ants, for instance, commonly build outdoor nests beneath the foundation of a home and then enter the structure through cracks in the concrete slab. Ants may also gain entry into the home by following utility lines or tree branches touching buildings directly. Once inside, the ants produce a scented trail enabling the other ants in the colony to use the same access point and locate the newly discovered food source.
- Clean up food and drink spills immediately.
- Rinse out cans before putting them into the recycling bin.
- Keep food stored tightly. Pick up pets’ food at night and don’t feed them outdoors.
- Seal cracks around doors and windows, and keep gutters and downspouts clean.
- Keep plants away from your home’s foundation.
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