Ants

Ants are generally considered to be the most common household pest problem in America. In many cases, ants are classified as “nuisance” pests, with minor food spoilage the most frequently reported domestic impact. Each year, numerous infestations take place and some are so severe that they threaten human health.

Common Types

There are many types of ants. The most common are:

Pharaoh Ants (Monomorium Pharoanis)

These ants prefer protein as a food source and can pose a significant health risk by transmitting pathogens which cause infections in hospitals, nursing homes, day centers, and other public facilities.

Fire Ants (Solenopsis, multiple species)

Fire ants can inflict painful venomous stings (often many in one onslaught) with serious health implications.

“Nuisance Ants” Literally dozens of common household invading ant species are considered nuisance pests causing minor food spoilage.

Biology

Fire ants and pharoah ants have a great impact on human health.

Considered “social” insects because they usually live in large colonies, individual ant colony members are called either “reproductives” or “workers.”

Reproductives, known as queens and kings, produce all the eggs from which the colony obtains its new members. Some ant species have only one queen per colony while others can have multiple queens. New colonies are produced through a process known as “swarming,” which occurs when a mature colony produces winged kings and queens. These fly out and mate to begin the new colony.

Worker ants forage for food, tend to the queen and the young, and defend the colony from outside enemies. Although most ant species are rather adaptable, they generally have preferred food source, such as sweets, rather than protein or oils.

Ants are unique organisms in that they trail one another once they find a food source. On finding the bait, they will keep feeding on it and will communicate with others to feed on the same source.

Health issues

Fire ants and pharoah ants have a great impact on human health.

Fire ants are a widespread and growing problem in the U.S. – from North Carolina through Texas to Southern California. Millions of people receive painful bites each year and tens of thousands visit emergency rooms or seek other medical assistance. An estimated 1-3% of people are allergic to fire ant bites. In severe cases death can result from anaphylactic shock response-a massive physiological reaction of loss of blood pressure and depression of vital processes due to hypersensitivity to a substance.

Fire ants are aggressive colonizers infesting some 250-400 million acres in the South. Many colonies have multiple queens or more, each capable of laying 2,000 eggs a day. Fire ants survive by eating almost anything. They defend their nests very aggressively and are known to move queens and young when the nest is in danger.

Small children, especially toddlers, are most at risk from fire ant attacks, since they can stumble onto active mound and receive numerous bites before escaping. Each year a number of serious hospitalizations and deaths are reported from fire ant infested areas.

Pharaoh ants are not as visible or dramatic as fire ants, but where they occur, they are troublesome and difficult to control. Pharaoh ants are excellent foragers, prolific breeders, spread rapidly, feed on a wide variety of food sources, adapt well to changing environments and often have well-established colonies before being detected.

Ant control

There are many ways to control ants.

Indoors control

A good start to controlling ants indoors at home is to remove and clean up the food that is attracting ants, spray areas where ants have been seen entering the home (on thresholds, windows and foundations) using an ant and roach aerosol or liquid, and place ant baits in several locations, at the sites of ant trails.

Ants can be controlled with a variety of products, some in combination as ant and roach products and some as specifically ant products. These include ant and roach aerosol sprays, which usually give a quick kill and provide residual activity. Ant and roach liquids have a trigger dispensing mechanism which will basically do the same thing as the aerosol. Ant baits are available for spot placement where ants are seen to be trailing. Ant dust products can be spread around ant trails, usually outdoors, if a consumer can spot where ants are entering into the building. Ant traps are similar to ant baits, usually with some type of food material inside which will encourage the ant to feed on the material and then die from the active ingredient.

Take steps to exclude ants from the home by reducing their access by caulking, sealing, structural repair, screening, and other maintenance steps.

Outdoors control

For outdoor and building or other structure perimeters, apply treatments according to label instructions to reduce overall populations. Remove or treat nests if they can be located.

Traps and monitors can be used for large buildings such as hospitals and other structures.

Fire Ants – Control of fire ants is challenging. Often avoidance is the only practical way to assure safety. Insect repellents offer little help since fire ants normally attack en masse as a result of physical disruption of their nests. A number of insecticide products are available for area-wide treatment programs. Baits and individual mound treatments can also be used. In all cases, instructions must be carefully followed in order to obtain acceptable control and ensure safety to users and the environment.

Pharaoh Ants – Control of Pharaoh ants requires a comprehensive program of exclusion, inspection, sanitation, maintenance, harborage removal, trapping, baiting and carefully managed chemical application.