Ants may be one of the most successful species on the planet. There are estimated to be as many as 20,000 different species of ants, and 1.5 million individual ants for every human. As a result, ants are an extremely common pest in homes and businesses. And while they may lack the ‘ick’ factor of bedbugs or cockroaches, ants can be a real nuisance. Some can even cause structural damage to buildings.
Do you have ants?
The most common indication that you have ants is the ants themselves. Ants are a tidy bunch; they don’t leave droppings everywhere they go like other pests. They are active in daylight, especially on warm, sunny days, and they forage for their food, meaning they wander around almost ceaselessly. It’s not uncommon on a sunny day to suddenly find anthills in your yard or ants in the house.
However, you may have ants without immediately realising it. For instance, carpenter ants are most active at night. They like to nest in wood, which often causes them to build nests inside walls and attics where they’re not as visible. In this case, small piles of fine sawdust may be the first clue of an ant problem. If the nest is large enough, you may even hear a rustling sound in a wall or ceiling.
How to get rid of ants
Because there are so many different species of ant, with different biology, habitats and behaviours, it is very important to identify which species of ant you are dealing with. What works for one ant may not work on another, and in some cases can even make the problem worse! Below is a list of some of the more common species of ant you may come across:
Carpenter ants are big ants – up to 1 inch long – and live both indoors and out. They like to nest in damp, rotting wood, but often also nest in sound wood. Their powerful jaws can carve out galleries in any type of wood in which they keep their eggs and larva. These ants will quite happily nest in the walls of a house! They will also nest in soil, and in other materials such as insulation. A colony has a single queen, but may have multiple nests, so destroying a single nest may not solve the problem. At certain times of the year, these ants will grow wings and swarm. Many people don’t realise they have a problem until they see these big black winged ants!
Carpenter ant nests can be difficult to locate, and may require professional treatment. Getting rid of ants can be tricky. Carpenter ants can be controlled with baiting, but a chemical spray is usually necessary to kill these ants.
Pavement ants are the familiar ants you can find almost anywhere on a sunny day in summer; around 2.5-4mm long and usually black in colour. Their name comes from their habit of carving out nests in the soil under paved areas. This can undermine and eventually crack paving slabs. Those little mounds of soil you see piled up on cracks in the sidewalk? That’s pavement ants. Sometimes these anthills can get very large, especially by the end of summer. These ants can be treated either with a chemical spray or through baiting.
These ants closely resemble pavement ants and share similar habitats, although moisture ants will also nest in rotting wood, especially wood in contact with soil. These ants are usually, though not always, black; their colour is affected by their food source. These can also become winged ants. Often on a calm sunny day, these flying ants will be seen swarming in entire neighbourhoods. Like pavement ants, they can be controlled using both baits and chemical sprays, which can quickly kill ants.
This is a very small species of ant, only 2mm in size. They are a yellowish colour and look almost transparent. These ants are a tropical species, but they thrive indoors throughout the world. Pharaoh ants are unusual in that their colonies can have multiple queens. This makes them extremely difficult to eliminate completely, since it is necessary to eliminate each and every queen to ensure success. NEVER SPRAY PHARAOH ANTS WITH PESTICIDE! This will cause them to scatter, and what was a single nest will become multiple nests spread throughout the area. Pharaoh ants are best controlled through the application of baits, and multiple visits are generally necessary. This species of ant is definitely best left to an ant control professional.