Category Archives for "Ants"

Have Black Ants in Your House? Do This…

Black house ants are tiny black ants that are among the most common types of insects you can find in a household. Many types of ants can invade a home: carpenter, pharaoh, odorous, sugar and black. There are three casts into which ants are divided: worker, males and queens. Like all ants, black ants are very intelligent and they can be problematic when your house becomes infested. People can have a hard time dealing with a black ant infestation because these insects do not give up easily. Along with red ants, black ants are the dominant species of ants in the United States.

Identify Black House Ants

The average individual may have difficulties differentiating between different species of ants. The workers are small, having a size of a sixteenth part of an inch and the queens are double the side of the workers. These insects have two nodes on the petiole and are made of twelve segments, with a club of three segments. Black ants are two to three millimeters long and they usually build their nests underground, in decaying wood or under bark. They can often build nests in the roof of a house, but also in wall spaces. Their trails can go up to the trunk of the trees as they can also feed honey-dew from certain insects. Black ants have a black shiny appearance.

What Attracts Black Ants into Your Home?

Just like other creatures in this world, black house ants are attracted to your home because they are looking for shelter, food and water. For this reason, the first targets will be your kitchen and your bathroom. Black ants are attracted to the meats, the vegetables and especially the sweets in your kitchen. When they rest, ants can withdraw in wall spaces and in the roof of the house.

What Do Black Ants Eat and How Do They Behave?

Black ants enjoy the food spills that you may have in the kitchen, but they mostly feed on sweet foods. Ant queens live longer than workers and they have a period of time that is dedicated to mating and producing offspring. Once this happens, they do not mate again. Females and males leave the nest when they mate and this can expose them to predators. Black ants are not only very smart, but also very hard-working. Black ants seem to be more docile than red ants. They are social creatures and live in colonies.

Do Black Ants Bite Humans?

Black house ants can bite and the feeling you have when you are bitten is like a small pinch. Because the insects are very small, you may not even feel them crawling over you and you may not be aware of their presence until they bite. No mark is left on the skin after the bite. It seems that workers gathering food are not biting, but the ones that do guarding work are. Black ants are not as aggressive as red ants.

How to Deal with a Black Ant Infestation?

The first thing that you can do is to remove any possible source of food, shelter and water from the areas that are exposed to ants. Black ants often build their nests near food sources. If you want to prevent an infestation, you should always keep your home clean and dry. You may even have to move the furniture from time to time, for properly cleaning your entire house and minimizing the probability of black ants to establish their colony inside your home. Sealing your home is needed, because ants can use doors and windows to enter your home. Check your house entrances for cracks and seal them. The house becomes an unfavorable place for black ants as soon as you remove food sources.

Natural Solutions for Black Ant Control

Before you start to take control measures, make sure that you know exactly where the ants come from, then fill all the cracks and remove all the debris that could be used by ants to take shelter.  A natural and very cheap way to get rid of black ants can be the use of bay leaves. Place bay leaves where you see ants: corners, windows, cabinets and entry points. Mint is another natural solution and is very effective. You can use live mint (planted strategically), gathered mint or mint oil. A third solution can be red chili pepper in dust form. It can also work if you make a paste from it using water.

Using Baits Against Black Ants

Black ants have a specific track that they move on when they gather food and store it. Their movement is very predictable, so you can use baits successfully. Baits are easy to find in stores and they are effective methods of repelling ants. Baits do not eliminate ants instantly, but this can be used to your advantage. The infected ants return to the colony, where they infect other ants. In the end, the whole colony may die. The baits are used on the scent trails (tracks).

The Use of Ant Sprays

Spray use can be another convenient method of dealing with a black ant infestation. All you need to do is mix the substance, put in a sprayer and spray the insects until they are gone. You can use the spray directly on colonies and nests, even in your yard.  Many of the sprays you get from stores can be good for residual control over the insects once the spraying is over.

The Use of Poisons for Black Ants

Because black house ant infestations are so common, finding the right type of poison for these insects is easy. You can find poisons in store or online. Poison can be used in the cracks that black ants use as entry points to your house. There are aerosols and insecticides that can be poisonous to black house ants.

Using Heat and Water for Black Ants Population Control

Did you know that there is a simple method for getting rid of black house ants easily? This method involves heat, but not directly. If you try to burn the ants, you could end up burning items from the home and you may start a fire. Instead, you can boil water and pour it while it is still very hot inside the colony. Ants are hydrophobic animals, meaning that they are afraid of water and especially of floods. You will use a deadly combination in this way: heat and water (boiled water). Entire colonies can be eliminated using this method, including the queens.

Using Residential Pest Control Services Against Black House Ants

In the case that you don’t want to deal with the problem on your own, the best approach is to call an ant exterminator. This is a company that provides pest control services and ant extermination services for residences where there are ant infestations. Such a company can use more powerful solutions than the ones you can have at home or that you can find in stores. It can help you to permanently get rid of black house ants. When you deal with the problem yourself, sometimes you can achieve the opposite: ant colonies relocate but still get into your home.

Learn the Differences Between Flying Ants & Flying Termites

Flying ants and flying termites can look very much alike, but knowing the difference between flying ants and flying termites is important. When you correctly identify the pest that you have, you will be one step closer to getting rid of your problem.

Looks

Look closely at the pest you have on hand; While the two have similar wings, flying ants actually have a larger pair of wings in the front than they do in the back. The wings on the termite are actually longer than their bodies. Flying ants have wings that are more proportionate to their body size. This type of ant will actually shed its wings once they swarm.

 

When checking out their antennae, notice that termites have antennae that are straight. Flying ants have antennae that are bent.

Flying ants have a thin waist (making them appear segmented) but termites have a broad waist, making their entire bodies uniform.

Termite Swarming vs. Ant Swarming

Flying termites tend to swarm in the early spring; they like weather that is warm and rainy. Flying ants, on the other hand, can swarm at different times of the year: they have no set pattern. Again, after they have swarmed, they lose their wings.

Preventing Termites

To really protect your home from termites, start with some prevention tips. Get rid of moisture: repair leaky pipes and faucets. If your air condition leaks, fix it! Make sure to divert water away from the foundation of your home.

Keep your gutters clean of debris and don’t use wood mulch in your yard or garden if you can help it. If you have a fireplace, do not keep a stockpile of firewood near your home’s foundation. You know termites love wood, so why entice them? And if you have dead shrubs or trees on your property, remove them immediately.

Eliminating Termites

If you do end up with termites, those awful things that can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home, you can call a professional to get rid of them, or you can try some do-it-yourself tricks.

When you first see flying termites outside your home, invest in a bug zapper. Flying insecticide spray works, too.

If you see an active colony on your property, you have to attack the colony. Simply getting them in the air won’t do it. Sprays and traps that are dedicated to termites are your best bet. Once you see the colony, use insecticide spray all the way around your home’s foundation. A baiting system will starve the colony, so you can place baiting stations all around your home, spacing them out about a foot.

Preventing Flying Ants

Flying ants love food! To prevent them, simply get rid of food waste. Don’t leave food lying around; deal with leftovers immediately, keep your counters free of crumbs, lock your food up tightly, and take out the garbage right away if you have food waste in it (or find a secure garbage can).

Eliminating Flying Ants

If you have seen flying ants in or around your home, you must first locate the nest. They may be coming in from the outside, and you will most likely find their nest outdoors. Once you find it, pour boiling water down it or use a spray that is designed for flying ants. If the nest is indoors, bait is the perfect solution. Place bait stations around your home.

If there is no nest in your house, make sure to seal up all cracks and crevices around windows and doors, as this is probably how they are entering.

 

Additional Resources for Ant & Termite Identification:

  1. Swarming Indoor Insects – Texas A&M
  2. Differences Between Ants & Termites – Never Pest
  3. Winged Ants & Termites in Houses – Kansas State University Department of Entomology

Argentine Ant Infestation Control & Prevention Tips

Not all ant species are the same. The small, black ants that march along your kitchen counter in early spring may be easily remedied with a few traps and natural pesticides. But look closely at the ant problem in your home or garden. You could be dealing with one of the most stubborn and annoying pest problems in the world: argentine ants.

Are the ants all about the same size (about 1.5 to 3 mm in length), dark or light brown in color, and have a single section of body in their middle? You can check out pictures from sources like Clemson Univeristy to be sure, but chances are you have an infestation of argentine ants. If this is the case, know controlling argentine ants requires a different strategy than defeating other ant species.

What Are Argentine Ants?

Argentine ants are a kind of ant originating in Brazil; they are now found all over the world, including the US. They favor consistently warm climates and as a result have become a particular problem in areas like southern California. They prefer nesting in damp and covered places. Argentine ants can easily find places to live in around your house like near the foundation or in the basement, and their need for water attracts them to dark, damp places in your kitchen.

Unlike some ants who have a particular food preference, argentine ants will eat almost anything from animal products to all manner of vegetation. This puts you at risk for sickness since the ants can carry contaminants from one food source to another (i.e. they bring along bacteria from the rotten meat they fed on into your fruit bowl).

Why Are They An Especially Difficult Pest?

The behavior patterns of argentine ants makes them particularly difficult to get rid of once they invade your space. Other ant populations tend to keep each other under control when one colony fights for territory with another. Argentine ants are much more cooperative – they do not discriminate between colony members and merge their populations instead of squeezing each other out. This results in massive supercolonies of argentine ants.

The news for gardeners is even worse. Aphids are a persistent problem in most gardens, and the argentine ant actually protects and cultivates aphid populations because they eat what the aphids leave behind. If you have argentine ants in your home or garden, expect the problem to worsen from March to October since these ants continue to breed through the warm weather.

How Can I Control Argentine Ants?

You have a number of options for controlling and eliminating the argentine ant population in your home. Once you are sure you are dealing with argentine ants and not another ant species, lay out your plan of action. An integrated pest control plan that includes several strategies is usually more effective than a single approach, and understanding the habits and behaviors of the pests you are experiencing problems with will increase your chances of effectively eradicating them.

Your first step toward eliminating argentine ants: make environmental changes.

See if you can follow the ants back to their nest and locate where they are living. Then you can work to make conditions less favorable by reducing moisture or uncovering areas where they are nesting. Remove potential food sources by sealing garbage cans, keeping spoiled food out of the kitchen, and thoroughly and frequently cleaning areas where food debris tends to collect.

Next, you can set out bait for the argentine ants. The University of California recommends homemade traps made with sugar and boric acid. Mix 8 teaspoons sugar with 1 teaspoon boric acid, dissolve in hot tap water, pour into a jar with cotton balls, and cover with a lid poked with a few holes. The argentine ants crawl in to eat the bait and cannot escape. You can also purchase ant bait traps— just make sure argentine ants are among the species that particular trap can lure in and poison.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension recommends pesticide sprays for argentine ant infestations in your yard. You can keep the ants off trees and out of your house by spraying pesticides containing ingredients like bifenthrin, permethrin, and carbaryl. This should act as a barrier around the area you are trying to keep ant-free.

Since you cannot spray these pesticides inside your home, gel insecticide is a common solution for stubborn, indoor argentine ant issues. Again, make sure the product you use is designed to control argentine ants in particular. Always use these products carefully and keep out of reach from children and pets.

What If I Still Can’t Manage an Argentine Ant Problem?

Sometimes an argentine ant problem is so persistent you cannot handle it even with all of these measures and methods combined. In that case, you may need to contact a pest control professional. An exterminator who has treated argentine ant infestations in the past will be able to locate their nests, apply all necessary pesticides, lay out the right traps in strategic locations, and let you know what kind of environmental changes you can make in your house or on your property. Your local extension office may also be able to guide you on how to manage argentine ants.

Hopefully, you are now a step closer to confronting the argentine ant problem in your house or garden, not to mention reducing any aphid problems and cross-contamination in your kitchen along with them. Even though they are a stubborn and dreaded pest problem, argentine ants can be eradicated from your living area with a little know-how, the right pest control methods, and perhaps the assistance of a trained professional.

Leaf Cutter Ants – Facts About Them and Control Tips

There are surprisingly over a 1,000 known species of ants currently residing within the United States. The term “leaf cutter ants” accounts for about 39 of these ant species, of whom have become troublesome pests in landscapes of homeowners and commercial businesses alike. So let’s first take a closer look at these well-equipped tiny soldiers and get to know the in’s and out’s of the leaf cutter ant.

Basic Description

Leaf cutter ants have three body parts – the head, thorax and abdomen, with jointed legs, antennae and an exoskeleton, similar to the hardness of an adult human’s fingernails. These ants belong to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex, with exterior colors ranging from orange, brown, red or black (typically depending on geographical area).

Their sharp mandibles (or jaws) allow the ants to cut pieces of leaves from plants and trees. Leaf cutter ants have long legs, with the worker ants in this group ranging from .1 to .5 inches long. The queen is always larger than the worker ants and can grow as big as one inch long.

Ant Colony Roles

  • Minim Ants- are gardener-nurse ants; they tend to the fungus farm and feeding ant larvae.
  • Minor Ants- guard the colony’s nest and trails.
  • Mediae Ants- are foragers of food that can carry heavy loads to the nest.
  • Major Ants: are larger soldier ants that defend the nest from predators and rival colonies.

“Fungus Farmers”

Over the years, leaf cutter ants have gained the nickname of “fungus farmers” from the scientist who have closely studied them. This is due to the fact that the ants do not actually eat the leaves they gather into their nest; they ‘farm’ with them and grow mushroom-type fungus to feed on. If you have leaf cutter ants in your yard and were to discover part of the fungus farm above ground, upon closer examination, you would be able to see the pieces of chewed up leaves in the mass that are being tended by the gardener ants in the colony. This farming provides complete sustenance for these ants, that is why typical baits and poisons are completely ineffective on these ants, as they only eat the food they grow.

Leaf Cutter Ant Temperament

Typically leaf cutter ants are non-aggressive when left alone to continue their work. However, they can pierce human flesh and draw blood, due to their large size and powerful jaws.

Leaf Cutter Ant Control

To begin with, make sure you have properly identified your landscape pest as leaf cutter ants using the physical descriptors above and by looking at the type of damage that can be found on your plants. Large cut out patterns from leaves should be easily seen, and if you see a trail of ants carrying leaves away, then there is no mistake in what type they are.

These ants typically reside in the southern United States (though countries further south have huge issues with this pest too) and have been known to damage fruit trees (citrus, plum, peach, etc.), nut trees/plants, ornamental plants, pine tree seedlings and some forage crops. Leaf cutter ants generally target one plant at a time, allowing you time to trace the ant’s path back to the nest entrance.

Methods of leaf cutter ant control may include: use of a sprayed insecticide (for chewing insects) in and around the nest area and ant trails; sprinkling of a powder agent such as Sevin Dust on the target plant, ant trail and nest; other methods include spreading the ant waste (looks like a typical, granular ant hill near nest) around your targeted plants or wrapping the base of your trees in plastic wrap (questionable method).

It is NEVER recommended to gas and burn ant nests; this is not safe in any situation. 

Call Leaf Cutting Ant Experts

If you are a homeowner or business owner experiencing issues with leaf cutter ants in your landscape, do not hesitate to call your local pest control expert to learn more control methods for these unusual pests. Time is of the essence with these swift-moving insects, so be sure to contact an expert immediately to prevent sizable damage from occurring to your plants and trees.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants: Home & Garden Control

The fire ant is very aggressive and when bitten their reactions range from irritation to nausea and worse. They will attack both animals and humans if they feel threatened and often attack as a colony so it’s not always just one ant you’ll be fighting off. Besides causing a threat to humans and animals they also pose a threat to structures. The fire ant appears to be drawn to electrical currents.

When the fire ant nests in structures they go for the electrical boxes, air conditioners and telephone wires causing a lot of damage. They will often look for inside areas to winter and can be found near hot water heaters or under bathtubs if it sits on a slab. In the south they will locate their nest under houses, boards or inside stones and cracks in concrete. If you notice these feisty little red creatures setting up home near you, it’s time to get rid of them.

Hopefully you’ll see the fire ant before it sees you because if you accidentally step on their mound you are at risk for bites that will hurt for weeks. You will need to destroy or remove the nest; however, you don’t need to use toxic chemicals to accomplish this. A researcher for the USDA-ARS Center in Gainesville, FL says there are many non-toxic methods to use.

The Use of Buckets

One of the simplest methods to deal with one or two colonies is to rapidly dig the mound up and dump it into a large bucket. Begin with sprinkling baby powder or cornstarch on your shovel and in the bucket and then dig at least one foot under the mound. The powder will keep the ants from climbing out. Make sure you have tucked your pants legs into your socks before you reach the mound to ensure no stray ants can climb under your clothing.

Once you have placed the ants in the bucket you can drown them by squirting a generous amount of dish washing liquid in the bucket followed with water from a hose. Stir them all up to make sure the soap is dispensed throughout the mud. The soap will break the surface tension in the water and drown the ants a lot faster. If it is hot outside the ants will drown much quicker, cool days it can take several hours or overnight for them to drown. When you place the ants in the bucket make sure you have left enough room to add this soap mixture and make sure whatever tool you use to stir is long enough to keep your hand far enough away from the ants.

Pour Hot Water on Mound

Hot water poured onto the fire ant mound is quite effective and environmentally friendly. The water will have to be at a scalding temperature so you will need to exercise extreme care when handling. Apply about three to four gallons of the water directly into mound entrance. You may have to repeat the process three to four times to be completely sure they have all drowned. The hot water is also going to kill any grass or shrubs you have in the area.

Corn Grits and Rice

There is a theory that if you can get the fire ants to eat corn grits or rice they will die when the product expands in their system. This is an unproved and unlikely solution as the fire ant does not eat solid foods. The fire ant larvae will eat solid foods but digests them much like humans do by chewing and mixing with salvia. The adult fire ant workers only drink liquids and is unable to eat or digest a solid food product.

Mixing Two Colonies Together

This is another unproven and unlikely method of getting rid of fire ants. Some believe that if two colonies of fire ants are thrown together they will fight each other to the death. While it is true they are a territorial species and will fight if mixed; it’s unlikely that even one colony will be completely killed off.

Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Fire Ants

Most of the home remedies for getting rid of fire ants are ineffective as they do not kill the entire colony. To completely kill off a colony you have to destroy the egg-laying queen. A lot of the home remedies include; baking soda, club soda, molasses, plaster of Paris and vinegar and have been found to not be effective in killing colonies. Other home solutions include gasoline, diesel oil, drain cleaners, acids, chlorine bleach or ammonia but these products cause dangers to children, pets, livestock and their runoff can contaminate water. They are also illegal to use in many areas. The Extension Office in San Antonio Texas suggests a Two-Step Method that will remove the ants without environmental damage.

The Two-Step Method

  1. Spread fire ant bait once or twice a year.
  2. Treat any colonies or mounds that appear.

This is said to be the most cost-effective and environmentally safe method to preventing medium to large landscapes from getting infested with the fire ant. The fast acting bait products work quickly on foraging ants but may take longer if the mound has been built. The different baits can be:

  • Indoxacarb
  • Metaflumizone
  • Hydramethylon
  • Spinosad

These different baits work at different speeds for different situations so read the labels to make sure you are applying the bait that will be most effective for your situation. The ingredients will vary in how fast they can kill the ants and how long they will remain effective on an area.

To get the bait spread evenly and productively use a hand-held spreader or seeder. The spreader should be set at a very low rate so one to five pounds of the bait is spread per acre. If you are treating a large area use a vehicle mounted spreader and apply at the same rate.

Chemical Control of Fire Ants

Using insecticides to control your fire ant problems is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. You can only use certain products and must be administered as directed on label. In the case of the fire ant control; the label must specifically state it is intended for that purpose. You have to use extreme care when using these products especially if there is a vegetable garden or other food site in the area. Some products such as those used to treat electrical or utility boxes can only be done by professional pest control operators.

The fire ant probably tops everyone’s list as the worst insect pest and is definitely the one most wanted to be rid of. When choosing how to remove or destroy your colony use extreme caution and follow one of the above tips to ensure you are using an effective and legal method.

 

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