House Ant Control
How to safely control ant pests -
Summary: Certain ants commonly invade homes looking for food
and water. These ants are generally small
and can be a nuisance but cause little other damage.
Use sanitation and insecticidal baits to keep them
under control. Don't use aerosol ("spray can")
insecticides because they can cause the
infestation to spread to other areas.
House-infesting nuisance ants
There are a few different species of
small brown ants that invade homes looking for food
and water. These so-called house-infesting
ants include odorous house ants, Argentine
ants, pharaoh ants, and a few others.
Small ants like these are difficult for homeowners to
tell apart but fortunately exact
identification is not necessary for effective
control. And, none of these ants cause significant
damage nor do they pose any health risk.
All ants live in colonies that are
dominated by an egg-laying queen. Worker ants (all
females) forage outside the colony for food, they also
expand and defend the nest. Ants feed on a wide
variety of foods including carbohydrates (sugars),
and oils. Colonies, or "nests", are usually located in
protected places in walls, under floors, under
cabinets, and individual colonies can be quite large
with thousands of worker ants
Worker ants feeding on liquid
ant bait. Ants consume bait and take it
back to their nest where it disrupts the
colony. Photo by E.A. DeAngelis.
House ant control
Your first step should always be sanitation. Clean up
crumbs, cooking oil, and all sources of water. This alone will go a long way
toward reducing ant problems by depriving foraging ants of food and water. Also,
patch holes around pipes and wires that pass into the living space. Ants use
these "highways" to gain entry from colonies located in walls, the crawlspace,
and so forth.
Next, use ant bait to suppress or eliminate colonies. Do not use
conventional aerosol insecticides as these can be messy and ineffective.
Insecticidal sprays can actually make matters worse by causing colonies to
disperse and by blocking access to bait placements.
Effective ant baits are available commercially (see below) as liquids, gels
and granules. Liquid baits can even be homemade (see Using Homemade Ant Baits). Place liquid and gel baits
near ant activity and trails, granular baits can be used outside around the
perimeter of structures and in similar places.
Baits work better than sprays
Baits work much better than conventional
insecticides because of the unique way worker ants
feed their colony, including the queen. When a
foraging worker locates food she returns to the colony
and recruits other workers to the food source. The
recruited workers collect food (see photo above) in a
special pouch called a crop and return to the colony
where they feed other ants, a process called
"trophallaxis". Because of this the most
effective baits are slow acting, giving the worker
enough time to get back to the nest and pass the
poisoned bait to other colony members, and eventually
the queen. Conventional insecticides disrupt this
behavior and can render baits ineffective.
Many small infestations can be
controlled with inexpensive liquid baits that are
available commercially and can even be homemade.
Larger, difficult-to-control infestations should be
treated with granular baits on the outside and gel
baits inside homes. Granular
baits can be used to treat large outdoor areas such as
the perimeter of a building. Gel baits can be used
indoors as spot treatments. See the package
instructions that come with each product for use
Every situation will be a little
different but if you notice ants outside that seem to
be moving toward the house then treating the outside
perimeter with a granular bait such as Advance
Granular or Maxforce Granular may be needed. These
baits can also be used for general ant control
outdoors. If you've tried liquid bait indoors and
still have a problem then gel baits like Maxforce Gel,
Advion Gel or Optigard Gel may be the answer. Each gel
has a different active ingredient and food component
so a little experimentation on your part may be
Control of Common Nuisance House Ants With
(1) Place baits near ant activity, do not contaminate area
with insecticide. You can initially place a plain, sugary bait (no insecticide)
to train workers to the placement. If ants appear to be feeding on bait, as in
photo above, replace plain bait with one laced with insecticide. For small
infestations use ready-made, or home-made, liquid boric acid baits. But, for
large, stubborn infestations use commercial gel or granular baits, both
are available here (DoMyOwn.com).
(2) Replace individual
stations when they are exhausted or completely consumed.
(3) Within a
week the number of ants should be significantly reduced.
Don't forget to bookmark
us for next time - press ctrl-D in most browsers.
Mission: To provide accurate, up-to-date and
unbiased information for solving common insect and
mite problems around your home, business and landscape
using least-toxic methods.
Please see the Disclaimer
statements as well.
Copyright © 2004-...
LivingWithBugs, LLC. All rights reserved.