Summertime Pest: Ants

Summertime Pest: Ants

Ants are the most common household pest in the United States, especially during the summer months. As the weather warms up ants come indoors in search of food and water. While most ants are harmless, a few of them can cause problems for you and your home. Odorous ants can contaminate your food, carpenter ants can cause damage to wood structures, and fire ants will definitely sting if they feel threatened. When ants get into your home they can be found in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and even around air conditioning units. Ants can be one of the hardest pests to get rid of. One key to controlling ants is through prevention. What can you do to keep these pests from ruining your summer? Check out these 14 tips for summer ant prevention.

  1. Keep your food sealed in airtight containers, even pet food.
  2. Keep your pet’s food and water dishes clean and don’t leave them out overnight.
  3. Wipe up any crumbs or spills immediately.
  4. Thoroughly clean your counter tops, cupboards, cabinets and other kitchen surfaces regularly.
  5. Make sure to also clean under your sink, stove, and refrigerator.
  6. Sweep your kitchen and bathroom floors daily.
  7. Vacuum regularly to pick up any missed food crumbs.
  8. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.
  9. Dispose of your trash promptly.
  10. Inspect the outside of your home for cracks and holes and seal them with silicone caulk.
  11. Caulk around your windows and doors and repair any holes or gaps in them.
  12. Replace weatherstripping around windows and doors and repair loose mortar around your foundations.
  13. Keep tree branches and other shrubbery trimmed back from the sides of your house as ants can use these to access your home.
  14. If you have an ant problem, contact a professional pest control company who can identify the type of ants you have and recommend the appropriate treatment for them.
Ant Prevention In Your Home And Yard

Ant Prevention In Your Home And Yard

Ants have been named the #1 nuisance pest in the United States. Ants are social insects that live in colonies. They enter our homes looking for food and shelter. Ants primarily look for foods that are sugary and sweet or greasy and protein-based. Once they find food, they leave a pheromone trail behind that other ants will follow.

There are over 700 species of ants in the United States. At least 20 of these species are known to infect homes and other structures. There are several species of ants that are common to our area. The 5 most common are:

FIRE ANTS:

Fire Ant
Fire ants build large, raised mounds. They prefer to nest in open, disturbed areas. They commonly nest in yards, fields, and roadsides. Fire ants are known to devastate local insect populations and small wildlife. They are also known to eliminate ground nesting bird species because they attack their newly hatched nestlings. Fire ants cause painful stings when they bite and will bite humans when threatened.

CARPENTER ANTS:

Carpenter Ant
Carpenter ants are black in color. They are nocturnal and will exit their nests about 15 minutes after sunset in large numbers. Carpenter ants will invade kitchens in the summer months in search of food and water. They will invade structures if moisture is present. Carpenter ants can be very destructive to homes.

ARGENTINE (SUGAR) ANTS:

Argentine Ant
Argentine ants are light brown in color. They can easily squeeze through small cracks and holes. Argentine ants are known to set up colonies in the ground, in concrete walls, between boards and timbers, and among the belongings in your home. These ants are commonly seen in homes and will enter them in search of food and water. They are especially common during dry or hot weather or after a heavy rainfall. Argentine ants exhibit strong trailing behavior and can exist in high numbers. They move very quickly and are named among the world’s 100 worst animal invaders.

ACROBAT ANTS:

Acrobat Ant
Acrobat ants are dark colored with a heart shaped abdomen that they will hold up in the air like a flag when disturbed. They will nest inside decaying wood. Acrobat ants form single file trails and leave behind small sawdust piles that are similar to those of carpenter ants. These ants produce a mild sting when they bite. Acrobat ants may move into your attic to incubate their eggs and will tunnel into water damaged wood.

ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS:

Odorous House Ant
Odorous house ants are dark colored and give off a strong rotten coconut smell when they are crushed. They exist in large numbers where there is plenty of moisture. They form trails similar to Argentine ants. Odorous house ants are one of the most difficult pests to get rid of from structures. They will often establish their colonies in earth filled porches and block walls.

PREVENTION:

Since ants are one of the most difficult pests to get rid of, what can you do to keep them from invading your home in the first place? Check out these tips for keeping the ants out of your personal space.

LOCATION:

  • Learn where ants are common and routinely inspect those areas for activity.
  • Ants will frequently infest kitchens because of the ample supply of food and water.
  • Ants are also commonly found in bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, basements, attics, inside walls, and in and around HVAC units.

FOOD:

  • Ants will come into your home in search of food for themselves and their young.
  • Keep your kitchen clean and tidy.
  • Wipe down counters routinely.
  • Sweep on a regular basis.
  • Clean up crumbs and spills immediately.
  • Store your food in air-tight containers.
  • Keep ripe fruit in the fridge.
  • Wipe down sticky jars such as jelly or jam.
  • Use lids on trashcans and empty them regularly.
  • Make sure sink drains and filters are cleaned regularly.
  • Enclose mulch and compost heaps when possible.

WATER:

  • Reduce moisture and standing water around your home.
  • Repair leaky pipes and check under your sinks routinely for drips.
  • Use a dehumidifer in damp basements, crawlspaces, and attics.
  • Consider enclosing your crawlspace to eliminate moisture.
  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are clear and functional so water flows away from foundations.
  • Paint or seal any exposed wood before it gets wet.
  • Replace or remove any water damaged wood.

ACCESS POINTS:

  • Ants can squeeze through extremely small openings.
  • Inspect the outside of your  home for any easy access points and eliminate them.
  • If you are having trouble identifying the access point, follow the trail of ants.
  • Once you find the entry point, clean around it with detergent to remove the pheromone trail that attracts fellow ants.
  • Trim trees and bushes away from the exterior of your home.
  • Seal any cracks and crevices in the outside of your home with silicone-based caulk. Make sure to check around areas where utility pipes come into your home.
  • Remove dead stumps from your property.
  • Store firewood off the ground and at least 20 feet from your home.
  • Flying ant season begins in spring/summer. During this time of year keep doors and windows closed as much as possible.

PETS:

  • Pet food and water bowls also attract ants.
  • Keep pet food bowls clean and clean up any spilled food or water immediately.
  • Don’t leave pet food bowls out overnight.
  • Store dry pet food in sealed plastic containers instead of bags.
  • Inspect dog and cat doors to make sure pests can’t get through them.

CALL THE PROS:

Eliminating ants can be an uphill battle. If they aren’t properly treated, the infestation can continue to grow despite your best efforts. Some ants like carpenter ants can cause serious property damage. Other ants like fire ants can pose a serious health threat to your family. Other species, while not necessarily a threat to your family, can still contaminate your food. If you suspect you have an ant problem call a professional pest control company. A professional can identify what species of ant you have which is the first step in eliminating these nuisance pests. They can also find the entry points and provide you with a thorough and comprehensive treatment plan.

Preparing for Swarms

With Spring upon us, the temperature will start to get warmer, finally! This is great news for us, but it also means that insects are beginning to come out of hibernation. Two insects of great concern, particularly in the spring, are the ant and the termite.

Both of these insects, flying ants and termites, will begin to swarm soon, so it is important to know the differences between them so you can help out your Pest Management Professional. Should you catch one, there are three noticeable differences between a flying ant and a termite.

  1. Ants have bent antennae. They look like they have an elbow. Termites have straight antennae.
  2. Ants have a narrow waist. Have you seen the old pictures of women in corsets? That is what the waist of an ant swarmer will look like. The termite looks uniform from top to bottom.
  3.  Ants have wings that are two different lengths – the best analogy is a butterfly wing. The top wing is longer than the bottom one, similar to how a butterfly wing looks. Termites have wings that are the same length. (I caught one the other day, and it looked like one giant wing stacked together, not four individual parts.)

flying ants vs termites

If you see swarmers and are worried, call your local Northwest Exterminating Service Center. They will be happy to help you with all of your pest control needs, and can target problem insects as needed.

Katherine King
kking@callnorthwest.com

July Pest of the Month: Fire Ant

Fire Ant

Fire Ant

Brief description:

Fire ants get their name through their ability to inflict painful bites and stings.  They vary considerably in size and build large raised mounds in lawn areas.  One interesting fact about fire ants is they have been known to infest electrical boxes en masses, causing the equipment to malfunction.

Habits:

  • Build nests in soil near structural foundations or in landscaping.
  • Nests can be between 2 and 4 square feet in size.
  • Although they typically make their nests outside, they can enter structures through HVAC systems, electrical lines, and even under siding.

Different species:

  • Argentine ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Odorous house ants
  • Pavement ants
  • Crazy ants
  • Acrobat ants

Threats:

  • Produce a painful sting when they feel threatened.
  • Sting results in a painful, raised bump.
  • Often receive more than one sting at a time.
  • Devastates local insect populations and small wildlife when it invades an area.
  • Many grouse and ground nesting bird species have been eliminated by fire ants when they attack newly hatched nestlings.

Prevention:

  • Avoid fire ant mounds.
  • Seal all entry points into a structure.
  • Contact a licensed pest professional if you have fire ant nests in your lawn.

Other pests to look out for:

  • Other species of ants listed above

 

Mythical Origins of Insects

People love a good myth. These narratives contribute bright symbolism of interactions between higher powers, people, and nature. They assist in many relevant functions as well as further adding colorful stories. One valuable role of myths is to illustrate some angle of life.

Several myths describe the beginnings, morphology, and conduct of various insects. Here are just a few:

The origin of mosquitoes is revealed by The Tlingit Indians of North America.  The narration tells of a blood sucking carnivorous giant who dines on humans. This giant is eventually avenged after his horrific death by coming back to feed on humans in the appearance of blood sucking mosquitoes.

An Algonquin tale of North America justifies why bees, wasps, and hornets have stingers. This myth grants that the god Wakonda bestowed stingers to bees because the bees were industrious, but required a defense. Since wasps and hornets are linked to bees, The Great Spirit willingly endowed them with stinging weapons as well.

Ant actions are revealed in an African myth that reminds us of the everlasting punishments of Atlas, Prometheus, and Sisyphus of classical mythology. An infinite punishment of bearing a burden is handed down to ants by deception in the African myth. Accordingly, we see the outcome today in ants repeatedly transporting things in their everyday routine.

Atlas

And on an absolutely universal spectrum, the composition of our galaxy, The Milky Way, is translated in an insect myth of the Cochiti. This myth tells of an Eleodes Beetle that was in charge of depositing stars in the sky. The stars were dropped due to his ego and recklessness, thus forming the Milky Way. The beetle was so distraught at what he had done, that even today, the beetle hides his face in the dirt when approached – will lower its head, raise its abdomen, and emit a disagreeable odor probably for defense. This simple insect myth explains not only insect behavior, but also the start of our own galaxy.

Beetle

Who are your favorite mythological characters?

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