In many areas of the country, the warm summer months mean cookouts, picnics, lounging by the pool – and dealing with ants.
Those little critters seem to get everywhere! Then, once you have them, you HAVE them. They are the little houseguests that won’t leave. They can be quite difficult to get rid of completely (and for good).
So, let’s talk about ants a little.
Ants are social little creatures. They communicate with all of their little ant friends to warn of danger, inform of food and other important messages.
Food is the big thing and is what’s enticing the ants to invade your home. Typically, they come looking for carbohydrates (sugar,etc) or protein (meat, etc). Sometimes they want both, but usually it is one or the other.
So, when a forager (the food seeking ants in the colony) happens upon some tasty grub on your kitchen counter, living room floor, under the desk in your office or anywhere else, he begins the process of communicating to all of his ant buddies just where this food source is. This is accomplished through the release of pheromones.
In fact, when you see ants “trailing” and you think it looks as if they are walking on their own little ant superhighway, it is because they are. They are following a pheromone trail that leads from the colony to the food source (your kitchen, living room, office, etc.).
Now, the first thing you may be tempted to do is grab that can of bug spray (repellant) and zap those little pesky critters.
That is not such a wise move and I am going to tell you why.
See, when you spray repellant, you might kill a few ants and scatter the rest, BUT
• You only kill about 5% of the population that’s trailing
• You have not destroyed their pheromone trail on either side of the spray
• The ants will learn to go around the area where you sprayed, finding a different route to their food source
So the moral of the story is DON’T SPRAY REPELLANT – YOU WILL ONLY SCATTER THE ANTS.
Pharoah ants (yellow or light brown ants) are particularly interesting when they encounter repellant. They begin a process known as “budding.” When they are budding, they produce multiple queens and start multiple colonies so your ant problems can suddenly become way worse.
OK, so repellant is out of the question. What about ant traps you ask?
Well, ant traps may seem to work at first. You will see a decrease in ant activity. The problem, however, is happening where you can’t see it. See, when the queen realizes that her foragers have not returned to the colony, she is going to go into hyper-reproduction. She will produce even more foragers than she lost. Then you will have double or even triple the ant problem.
All is not lost, though. There are ways to get rid of ants. Your best bet is to put out bait. Ants will view the bait as a food source and take it back to the colony, wiping out the population (there are caveats to this, but we’ll get there in a moment).
If you have ants trailing, put the bait in their path. Don’t spray, don’t scatter the trail, just present them with a new food source. If, however, they are really bugging you, vacuum them up and put the bait near the colony where they can find it. You can destroy the pheromone trail by using a solution of bleach and water on the area. This will work for a while, but if you don’t put down bait and treat the area, they are likely to find the food source again and return.
Now for the caveat. You have to be careful of the kind of bait you use. While a bait may be accepted, if you want the ants to continue to carry the bait back to the colony it needs to work slow enough that the ants don’t make a connection between mortality and the bait. Interestingly enough, when a product works too rapidly they usually seem to figure it out and sound the alarms, ceasing consumption of the bait.
Professional pest control is the most effective way to eliminate ant problems. In the long run, it is often the most cost effective way as well. Pest control professionals have access to products that are not available to the public. They are trained and certified in safe application and they can advise you on ways to prevent future infestations.
But, if you like blowing your money on chasing bothersome little mass producing insects who wish to invade your home (and usually reproduce at a faster rate than you can kill them), at least use the information here.
Or you can just get a really big ant farm…