Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.
An estimated 20 quadrillion ants roam this planet, with a collective biomass greater than all wild birds and mammals combined. And their numbers could grow if we don’t attack them at the source.
I remember learning this as a child. I’d place a speck of jelly or a dead beetle on our patio, and within minutes, one or more ants found it. Soon, hundreds were headed for the food source. I’d get in line behind them and they would lead me back to their nest. It’s a lesson that can help form the basis of successful ant treatments.
A successful way to eliminate an invading ant colony is to locate trails and bait with a slow-acting attractant material they can bring back to the nest. Here are tips for locating nests:
- Look for raised trails on the exterior
- Examples: series of roots and raised perimeter border
- On the interior, look for food and water sources, including straight lines leading to them
- Examples: pet dishes, floor/wall junction and potted plants
- On a sunny day, place a few granules of brightly colored bait near an ant, and follow it to see if it transports it back to the nest
- Record the location of ant trails and nests
Sometimes there are no ant trails in sight. A little trick I use outdoors is checking where any grass has grown up against a home. Bend grass away from the structure to look at the soil. Ants may be running to and from a food source. Try this in five or six locations along a 50-foot strip.
An interesting carpenter ant story
A church in Connecticut received an expensive, historic organ from Europe, which was kept on a raised platform in a room with fixed humidity. When the organ player used it, small, white, cocoon-like objects hit his forehead. They were carpenter ant pupae, and upon inspecting the ceiling beams, I found a carpenter ant satellite nest. You couldn’t dust or spray the area. Pupae don’t eat, so bait wouldn’t work. The way the nest was built, vacuuming wouldn’t work either.
The main nest originated from a tree on the exterior. Control and elimination of the indoor nest was accomplished by:
- Placing sticky traps with honey near the nest, which caught all the ants within two weeks
- The carpenter ant nest outdoors was treated with dust
- Keeping branches from touching the sides and roof of the structure, as hardwood trees are natural nesting sites for carpenter ants
- Making residual treatments with baits in the early spring
- Puffing air from an empty duster under the bottom row of exterior shingles
Here are 15 steps that can help reduce ant problems. Share them with your clients:
- Keep tight-fitting lids on trash cans stored in kitchens, garages and outdoors
- Don't leave pet and human food out overnight
- Repair leaks
- Caulk openings of structures where wires and pipes enter
- Keep rain gutters clean and properly drained
- Trim shrubbery and plants touching structures
- Don’t let the grass that touches the exterior foundation grow
- Check potted plants before bringing them indoors or onto a patio
- Clean the outdoor grill
- Seal hollow openings on lawn chairs
- Remove dead tree stumps
- Keep aphids and other insects off plants
- Pick up pet waste
- Don't use thick layers of mulch near the structure
- Avoid storing firewood, debris and other material outdoors near a structure
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