What to Know About Ants
Ants are probably the most common household pest. Although most ant species establish their colonies outside homes and buildings, worker ants may invade the interiors of the structures in search of food or water during periods of environmental extremes (hot, dry summers or cold, wet winters). There are several ant species that we typically find in the Central Valley: argentine ants, odorous house ants, carpenter ants, thief ants, pharaoh ants, and pavement ants. While most of these ants are simply annoying and a nuisance, the carpenter ant is capable of causing structural damage as the worker ants hollow out wood timbers to create “galleries” for their colonies.
Control Inside the Home
Inside the home, good housekeeping is essential to limiting ant invasions. Food particles and grease need to be promptly cleaned up. Food that ants may find appealing (cookies, candy, crackers, chips, etc) should be kept in sealed containers (Tupperware, Zip-Lock, etc.). Trails of foraging ants can be cleaned up with household glass cleaners containing ammonia. Be sure and inspect potted plants as ants may infest them. Ant bait stations and ant bait gels can be used to control foraging ants inside structures. Baits should be placed where the ants are trailing, making sure to keep the bait away from pets and children. Baits are designed to be slow-acting so that the worker ants are able to transport the bait back to the nest where the entire colony can be killed.
Control Outside the Home
Outside the home, trim shrubs and tree limbs away from the home. Seal cracks in the foundation and other potential entry points with caulk. Keep garbage containers away from the structure. Make sure that all gutters are clean and free of leaf debris. Pet food bowls can be placed in a pie tin of water to create a “moat” and prevent ants from finding the food. An excellent ant control product Termidor can be applied by a pest control professional. Termidor is a “non-repellant” pesticide that is applied as a narrow barrier around the exterior of the home. Foraging ants come in contact with the product and unknowingly carry it back to the nest where it is transferred amongst other individuals.
Keeping outdoor ant populations to a minimum by reducing harborage areas, eliminating food and water sources, and sealing entry points will greatly reduce the likelihood of ants entering the structure.