Household Ants

Ag Biz News Column
Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Smith County

 Household Ant Species

 In general, most ant species are considered beneficial insects.  However, when ants enter our homes, they become a nuisance or pests to the homeowner.  To manage these ant infestations, identification of the species is important to determine how to properly control these insects in our homes.  Once we identify them, the next step is to learn the biology of that species then determine where the colony may be nesting.

What species of ants are considered household ants?  Pharaoh ants, Argentine ants, carpenter ants, acrobat ants, bigheaded ants, crazy ants, odorous house ants, ghost ants, and little black ants are just some of the species of ants we see in our homes.  Worker ants forage for food and water resulting in them showing up indoors from time to time.

Pharaoh ants nest near heat and moisture sources indoors.  Some ants nest outdoors but can be found in buildings from time to time.  Acrobat ants nest in protected galleries in mortar and wood.  Carpenter ants usually nest in stumps and fences.  Odorous ants nest under stones, boards, in walls, and under floors.

Some ants nest outdoors in the soil.   Argentine Ants that nest in lawns, plants, beds, leaf litter, and trash piles.  Crazy ants nest in trash piles and in the soil neat trees.  Little black ants can be found nesting in lawns, under objects, and rotten wood.

To rid your home of these household ants, we must eliminate the colony.  Some treatments on the trails only control a few worker ants.  This can cause the problem worse by causing the colony to split into multiple colonies.   Proper identification is important to insure the proper control method to eliminate the colony and not to split the colony.

Sanitation around the home is one way to keep household ant colonies from establishing.  Spilled food or beverages can attract these tiny ant species.  Fix leaking faucets and other water leaks as this is another reason these ants come into our homes.  Calk cracks and crevices as well and replace weather stripping around doors and windows.  Trim trees and shrubs near the home as this gives the ants a bridge to gain access.  Check firewood to make sure it is not infested with these household ants as you bring it in the home this winter.

Baits work well for some species of household ants as the worker ants take a portion of the bait back to the colony as they forage for food and water.  Sometimes it may be necessary to fill bottle caps or small pieces of aluminum foil with sugar water, peanut butter, jelly or other sweet or greasy food to attract the ants from their colony.  The ants may then form a trail from the bottle cap or aluminum foil food source to their nest site.  Once a nest is located various control methods may come into play to control the ant species.

Insecticides for household ant species are available in liquid, dusts, fogs, aerosols, and various types of baits.  Some are labeled to control specific species of ants.  Also read and follow all label recommendations especially use such as indoor or outdoor use.  Professional pest control operators have equipment and skills to control the ant species as well.  The last thing you want to happen is the colony to relocate to another site that is harder to find.  Once disturbed, the ants may move.

Again, there are a number of household ant species and identification is important to insure proper control.  Indiscriminately spraying insecticides on foraging ants or around your home will do little good to actually control the colony.  With patience, time, and following the above mentioned practices, you can eliminate these nuisance insects from your home.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.


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