Fun Friday has now been moved to Fun Monday (just for this week) because we have a situation on our hands. ANTS.

We have ants at my house. Ugh. On our dark countertops you don’t know they’re there until your hand lands on top of a line of them–or better yet, when you open the dishwasher to find a swarm of feasting little creatures. Gross.

So what now? Well, management is easiest when you can identify what species of ant is present in your home, since you can then determine the nesting site, food preference, and the best method to rid them from your home. For help doing this, check out this lovely article. The most effective treatment includes killing the queen ant.

Before we jump into abrasive methods, let’s touch on some nonchemical solutions. Proper food storage and waste management will reduce the food that initially attracts ants into your home (uh oh, I think I know where my first problem is). Cleaning kitchen surfaces, vacuuming regularly, and rinsing recyclable containers before storing them will make a huge difference in your home. To temporarily disrupt ant activity, try a mild solution of vinegar and water on ant trails that you find. To prevent ants from reaching plants or other items, try commercially available materials for sticky barriers such as Tanglefoot or Stickem (or make a water moat with soapy water). Also be sure to caulk cracks that ants are entering the home from.

Many ants base their nests outside, so if you can find a way to follow them to their nests, you are golden. Sounds complicated? Try setting out a food to attract them and then follow them. Can’t find the nest? Apply an insecticide barrier around the exterior of your home. If you can tell which area of the house through which they are entering, then spot treating will suffice.

If the nest is inside but concealed, one solution may be to try baits (hmm, sounds like my next step). The advantage of using baits is that they reach inaccessible areas of the house. The downside: they can take several weeks to eradicate the nest. Again, knowing what kind of ant you have makes a world of difference with choosing your bait.

Here are some common household ants and the best way to manage them:

Carpenter ants: The best treatment is to apply an insecticide directly into the nest. It is also important to replace damaged or decayed wood, and if possible to eliminate any moisture problems. Baits may also be effective if applied where ant activity is seen.

Cornfield ants: Check for and treat nests in the lawn and other nearby areas. If nests are not obvious, treat the building perimeter with a residual spray. Commercial baits available to the public may be effective.

Larger yellow ants: Eliminate winged yellow ants by physical means, e.g. with a vacuum, or by hand. Large numbers can be treated with an application of an insecticide that is labeled for flying insects, such as pyrethrins; these products are found in aerosol ready to use containers. Detection of yellow ants nesting under concrete slabs is difficult and control is rarely practical or justified.

Pharaoh ants: Elimination of Pharaoh ants is difficult and the service of an experienced pest management service is recommended. Insecticides can cause Pharaoh ants to bud, creating new colonies. The use of baits is strongly recommended. Baits available to the public usually are not effective against Pharaoh ants. Professional pest management services have the experience and access to effective baits needed to successfully eliminate Pharaoh ants.

Thief ants: Thief ants are especially common during mid to late summer when they enter homes from outside nests. Locating and treating nests is not practical. Treat the building perimeter when thief ants are foraging into buildings from outside nests. When nests are located indoors, baiting is the most effective management method. Use commercially available baits effective against grease-feeding ants.

Pavement ants: Look for and treat outdoor nests. When the nest is not found, treat the building perimeter with a residual spray. When pavement ants are nesting under heated concrete slabs, baiting is the most effective control tactic. Use commercially available baits effective against grease-feeding ants.

Sandy Hayden

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