Many homeowners do not react with alarm when they see ants trekking across the kitchen. This is because they believe that they can wipe away the ants, spray some disinfectant and never worry about ants again.
Unfortunately, this rarely is the case. Ant infestations are not only common but also remarkably difficult to eradicate. Species commonly found throughout the Philadelphia area such as the acrobat ant, citronella ant, odorous ant, pavement ant and carpenter ant may be small, but they are adept at finding their way into buildings, and they will continue to do so until the colony is destroyed.
Additionally, it may be necessary to eliminate access points that ants and other pests are using to enter the building. Improvements around the property also may help with preventing future infestations. With the guidance of a pest management professional, it is possible to keep ants away.
When acrobat ants are bothered, they lift their abdomens up over their heads. They are black or brown and have heart-shaped abdomens. At a scant one-eighth of an inch long, acrobat ants are tiny.
Citronella ants are similarly sized, though some individuals may be a bit larger. They have yellowish bodies, and if they are crushed, they give off a distinctive citrus odor.
The odorous ant smells like rotting coconut when it gets crushed. Usually black or brown, this species measures about one-eighth of an inch.
The coloring and size of the ordinary pavement ant is similar to that of the odorous ant. It may be possible to identify this species by their legs, which are a lighter hue than their bodies.
Carpenter ants are the largest ants in the region at an average length of five-eighths of an inch. Brown, black or red, carpenter ants also are remarkably destructive.
Most ant species look for ground that has loose soil in which to build an underground nest. The entrances to these nests can be tiny, and they may be concealed beneath a rock or a fallen tree. Sometimes, nests are constructed using a crack in a driveway, or they may be found next to a paving stone or foundation.
Ants may use the same nest over several years. A successful colony has a growing population, necessitating continuous construction on the nest. Occasionally, a colony will become so large that satellite or independent nests need to be established. With two or more colonies now producing offspring, the ant infestation quickly gets out of hand.
While most ants prefer nesting in soil, carpenter ants look for wood that is wet and damaged in which to build a nest. These nests may be located in a fence, deck, piece of outdoor furniture or railing. However, when carpenter ants make their home in human habitations, they may cause damage to furniture, walls, ceilings, floors, support joists, building frames, doors and windows.
When ants seek food from natural sources, they obtain protein from eating other insects and sugar from consuming nectar and honeydew. Eating insects, many of which are considered pests, may be beneficial to gardens.
Still, ants do not restrict themselves to natural food sources. They become a nuisance at picnics and barbecues, and they forage in kitchens as well. Since protein and sugar are primary foods for ants, it follows that they eat any human or pet foods that contain these substances. This means that meat, vegetables, fruits, sodas, juice, candy and other desserts all may be vulnerable.
PROBLEMS WITH ANTS
Guided by an extraordinary sense of smell, ants are drawn to kitchens and pantries where they can forage for food to take back to the nest. To maximize efficiency, the ants lay down a powerful trail of pheromones to lead other colony members to the same destination. This trail must be obliterated before the infestation is stopped.
Most of the local ant species do not destroy property. In fact, they rarely cause significant damage except to things like paving stones, which may become destabilized by a large nest, or a crack or hole in a building exterior, which may be enlarged to allow the ants to enter the building.
Carpenter ants are an exception, however. With their ability to cause hundreds or thousands of dollars in property damage, carpenter ants are a major headache for home and business owners. Members of this species burrow their way through damp, damaged wood to create elaborate nesting chambers. The damage can become extensive and require costly repairs.
Living in large colonies with thousands or perhaps millions of individuals, ants generally are social insects. They work cooperatively to do everything from caring for young and building the nest to foraging for food.
Each individual colony member is part of one of three castes. Worker ants are those that are most frequently seen. They are always female, and they shoulder the majority of the responsibility for raising young, finding food and construction.
Colonies normally have one queen, a female that is slightly larger than the other individuals. Her job is to reproduce, and she is equipped with wings to help her fulfill this purpose.
The other caste is the colony's males. Like the queen, their only responsibility is to mate. They die soon after completing this task.
In general, ants are not known to transmit diseases to people. Nonetheless, they do represent a significant health risk. Incidents of food poisoning are far more common in homes where an ant infestation is underway. This is because of the species' habit of foraging everywhere for food. Using their keen sense of smell, they will march into garbage cans, sewers, drains, animal carcasses and a host of other unsavory places. They pick up all sorts of bacteria, dirt and germs along the way.
Once they reach a human habitation, they spread filth wherever they go. This includes floors where children play and kitchen counters where food is prepared. When packaged food is infiltrated by these pests, it similarly becomes contaminated. Contaminated food that is eaten or food that is prepared on a contaminated surface, may cause serious cases of food poisoning.
Another health problem is associated with carpenter ants. As this species burrows into wooden structures, they leave behind a considerable amount of wood shavings and dust. These tiny particles are captured by heating and ventilation systems and have a detrimental impact on indoor air quality.
SIGNS OF ANT INFESTATION
Signs of an ant infestation include:
• Sawdust, sand or soil piles on the property
• Floors, walls or ceilings that sag or buckle because of carpenter ant activity
• Swarms of ants over human or pet food
• Lines of ants anywhere in a house
To help prevents ant issues the following measures can be taken:
• Immediately clean up crumbs and spills
• Do not leave dirty dishes in sinks
• Store food in lidded glass or metal containers
• Repair water leaks
• Do not allow foliage to contact building exteriors
• Keep gutters clean
Effective ant control requires a thorough inspection of the building to locate all existing nests, identify the type of ant involved, locate entry points, and determine the best type of treatment.
SafeGuard Pest Control, LLC has been serving Philadelphia area home and business owners with successful ant eradication and control for over 20 years. Our trusted, licensed exterminators can identify the pest and implement immediate treatment so that everyone in the home or office can regain peace of mind.