What to do this week By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening” on 970WFLA
Sugar Ants, Crazy Ants, and Household Ants
One of the most frequent calls made to our company revolves around ants infesting the home. Some people describe these invaders in many different ways, “they are everywhere,” “there is a trail of them walking right up the counter,” and “these ants are driving me crazy.” In this article, I will go over several of the most common ants we see in the home, the ways to collect and properly identify them, and the control measure homeowners can take to alleviate their problems. Let us get started!
Ants affect humans by contaminating food, nesting in walls and voids, and sometimes can even sting the homeowner, including children and pets. Although some people confuse ants with termites, you can easily identify them by their three distinct body parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen. Termites only have two body parts. Ants also live in colonies which can be very large because some have multiple queens laying eggs constantly. When the ant colony gets too big, they divide or swarm.
Swarming happens when colonies grow too large for the queen to maintain control of the workers. This is when my company receives frantic calls from homeowners seeing thousands of flying ants emerging from the walls. Another way these colonies divide is through a process called “budding.” Budding occurs when one or more queens leave the colony with a mass of workers seeking a new home. Sometimes, budding is initiated by a homeowner who sprays products like “Raid” over a trail of ants. Ants can recognize that they are being killed and may divide their colony into two or more. Killing foraging ants quickly is one of the primary reasons you may see multiple colonies in a structure.
The preferred way to control most ant problems is to identify the ants you have and eliminate any conditions, which may be giving the ants’ access to the structure. Next, you must apply the proper products necessary to alleviate the problem. Finally, you must give the materials applied time to work without disturbing the ants feeding habits. That is the hard part! What kind of ants do you have?
The most common ant I hear about is called the Sugar Ant. Unfortunately, the true Sugar ant, Camponotus consobrinus does not live in Florida; rather they are endemic to Australia. This fact does not stop homeowners from calling the ants they see, sugar ants. Regrettably, this is not the case. Most of the ants we see in our homes are Pharaoh ants, Crazy ants, Acrobat ants, Argentine ants, Ghost ants, and Odorous house ants. All of these home infesting ants have specific dietary requirements and food preferences. If you know what type of ant you have, then you will be able to select the right product to control them.
Collecting a sample of ants for identification is easy. Find a small jar and remove the lid. Bait the center of the lid with a little jelly and peanut butter and place it near where you are seeing the ants. When the ants start to feed on the bait, pick up the lid and put it back on the jar. You can also use a piece of scotch tape to collect some of the ants. Just lightly press the tape on a few of the ants you are seeing and be sure not to squish them. Secure the tape in an envelope and take them to your local pest-control company or your county extension office to have them identified. Once you know what type of ant you have, selecting the proper control is easy.
Because most ants either feed on sugar or protein exclusively, you will need bait that is both palatable to the ant and contains the proper food. The old-fashioned square baits you may have used in the past are not as effective as the new gel baits such as Advion Ant Gel. Advion Ant Gel contains both sugar and protein and is superior to most of the products on the market. This gel comes in a small tube, and applications are made by squeezing BB sized placements or lines up to two inches in length, into areas where ants are foraging. Do not apply to surfaces where food is prepared or where children can come into contact with the product. Because this bait is a non-repellant, the ants will feed on the gel and return it to the colony where they share the bait with each other through a process called “trophallaxis.” Because the ants are not killed immediately, you can achieve control of the entire colony within four to seven days.
Be sure to monitor the bait consumption, and if you notice the ants have eaten all of it, then you may have to apply additional product. An average-sized home will only require one small tube containing one point six ounces. Because Advion Ant Gel is so attractive to ants, you will not have to put the bait directly in the path of the ants. Foraging ants will find the bait as long as it is applied in areas where you see them. Please be sure you have removed any other food source such as scraps of food, grease, or dead insects from the areas being treated. Advion will eliminate most all the ants I have listed above.
I also recommend that in order to eliminate any future infestations, you should apply a product called Niban granules under your refrigerator and washing machine to kill any ants looking for a water source. Ants must have water, and these are key sources of moisture. I do not like to apply Advion in potentially wet areas. Niban can also be used on the exterior on the home over mulch and in flower beds to prevent ants from gaining access to the structure. If you cannot find Niban granules, then you may also use Wizdom or Bifenthrin granules applied with a hand-held rotary spreader.
Please prune all tree or shrub growth touching the home. These are considered runways for ants and could have been where they gained original access to your home. Tree limbs’ overhanging the home is ok as long as they do not touch the roof. Gutters should be cleaned periodically to remove any buildup of debris, which could be a nesting site for ants. You may also want to check landscape plants for insect problems like aphids, scales, or whiteflies. These sap-sucking insects secrete “honeydew” which the ants feed upon. If you find that any of your plants have these insects, then you can spray them with a liquid Bifenthrin spray.
Ant control has become much easier with the advent of the new products listed herein. Make sure you properly identify the ants you are trying to control. Most of the ants listed in this article can be controlled if you follow the directions I have laid out here. Please make sure to give the products applied time to work. Do not spray contact insecticides like “Raid” while baiting for ants. Although, Raid may give you immediate relief, pretty soon the ants will come back, and your infestation will be prolonged. Good luck and remember, without plants, we would not be here.