By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services
Ants are one of the most common summer pests. Though small, ants can cause big problems for property managers. In addition to being a turnoff to residents, some ants can cause property damage, contaminate food or even be a health threat.
These tiny intruders appear in multitudes as the weather warms up and are drawn inside looking for food, water and shelter. The hotter, drier and longer the days are outside, the more likely they are to find a way inside. Rainy weather can also cause ants to come inside.
Two areas of apartments that tend to attract ants are kitchens and bathrooms. These areas provide ants with everything they need – moisture and plenty of food.
Ants are social pests, so if you see one, there are likely more to come. When an ant finds a food or water source, it can leave a pheromone trail for the rest of the colony to follow, which is why you see ant trails. Ants also have strong survival skills and their colonies can be very difficult to control once established. Sometimes it can take weeks to fully treat and clear an area of ants once they are discovered.
Three of the most common summertime ants are odorous house ants, carpenter ants and pavement ants. Here’s a look at each species and the IPM tactics you can implement inside and outside your property to help prevent an infestation.
As their name suggests, odorous house ants can be distinguished by the strong, rotten coconut odor they give off when crushed. They are brown or black in color and nest indoors and outdoors. Indoors they can be found nesting in walls, beneath the floor, under sinks, near heaters and in insulation, while outdoors they prefer to nest under rocks and in potted plants and garbage bins.
Odorous house ants do not sting or bite, but they can contaminate food and be persistent pests. These ants have an extreme sweet tooth and forage for food day and night, making the kitchen a prime target.
Their colonies can contain over 100,000 ants, so once a colony is established, they can be incredibly difficult to control.
Carpenter ants are most commonly black, but can also be red. They are one of the largest ants in the United States, ranging in size from 3.4 to 13 mm long (for comparison, odorous house ants are only 2.4 to 3.3 mm). If left undiscovered for an extended period of time, carpenter ants can cause serious structural damage. They reside in moist, decaying or hollow wood, and cut galleries to form passageways, which can threaten the structural integrity of the wood.
There are several conducive conditions that can put a property at risk of carpenter ants, including:
It’s important to identify and treat carpenter ants as early as possible. Be on the lookout for the following tell-tale signs of carpenter ants:
Pavement ants are light brown to black in color. Their name comes from this ant’s nest location of choice – pavement. If you’ve ever seen a little mound of dirt near the cracks in a patio, sidewalk or even a pool deck, it could be a sign of pavement ants. They create and use these mounds to access their colonies.
Pavement ants also build nests indoors in walls and under floors. Sometimes very large groups infest kitchens and patios.
The best way to reduce the likelihood of an infestation is with Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which helps eliminates the root causes of ants. Below are a few IPM tips to help prevent ant infestations on your property this summer:
IPM tactics go a long way in reducing the likelihood of ants, but sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep them out, ants can still find their way inside. If you do suspect an infestation, call a pest management professional. A professional can inspect your property, properly identify the species and determine the best treatment options. Do-it-yourself tactics may be tempting, but keep in mind that baits and sprays available in stores for consumers may not be effective, especially if misused.
Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and Board-Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.