BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR Ants are social insects that produce a colony made of various specialized types of individual ants. Most ants are known as workers, they are wingless, do most of the food foraging, rearing of young, and defend the colony. Eggs are produced by the large queens that have wings until after they have mated. Smaller winged ants are the males. Ants are characterized by having a very narrow, pinched waist and antennae that are bent or elbowed. They are sometimes confused with termites, especially when swarms are produced. However, termites have a broad waist and beaded antennae.
Development of ants involves complete metamorphosis. Eggs are extremely small. The developing larvae are fed by the worker ants and pass through several molts before pupation. The pupae do not feed and are immobile, soft, and white.
Ant nests are usually underground and colonies can contain tens of thousands of workers. The large carpenter ants build nests in wood, usually wood that is partially decayed. Relatively few ants in Utah form a nest indoors. Winged Ant Termite
Ants feed on a wide variety of different foods. Sugary materials are preferred by some species while others feed on fatty or protein rich foods. Some ants are important predators of insect pests. Problems with ants often occur when they forage for food indoors during the warmer months. Carpenter ants can cause structural damage. House infesting species can move disease organisms around. The following are descriptions of some common species of ants.
Pavement Ant The pavement ant can be one of the most frequent nuisance ants in areas of the state where they are established. They are small, blackish-brown ants with pale legs and antennae. As the name might suggest, pavement ants commonly nest under pavement slabs, especially next to lawn areas. Rocks and areas under slab construction homes are commonly used as nest sites. Foraging in the home commonly occurs during summer, but nests adjacent to homes can allow foraging to occur year round.
Field Ant There are a great many species of field ants. These ants are medium sized, and they may be brown, red, black, or any combination of these colors. Nesting occurs outdoors, often near pavement. The ants are attracted to sweets.
ANT CONTROL METHODS Sanitation is an important aspect of any ant control program. Crumbs, grease, food scraps, and other foods should be eliminated. Heavy infestations of ants in buildings are rarely found where thorough sanitation is practiced. Sanitation is also important to increase the effectiveness of ant baiting. Most species of nuisance ants nest outdoors. Perimeter treatments with residual sprays applied around foundations can prevent many ants from foraging indoors.
For more permanent control nests can be located and treated. Dusts are usually more effective for this than sprays since the dusts are more readily tracked into the colony. Slow acting insecticides are more effective because they allow the forager to return to the nest and feed the poison to the queens and young.
Carpenter Ant Carpenter ants are the largest ants, reaching 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length. They are often black or dark brown, although some eastern plains species are lighter in color. The most distinctive habit of carpenter ants is their nesting in wood. The ants excavate galleries and pile coarse sawdust at the nest openings. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Instead, they scavenge on dead insects, insect honeydew, and other materials.
Carpenter ants almost always nest in wood that is softened from water and decay damage. Rarely, nests originating in damaged wood will extend into sound wood, causing structural damage. Carpenter ants do not sting, but they can produce a mildly painful pinch from their jaws.
CARPENTER ANT CONTROL METHODS Effective control of carpenter ants requires finding the nest. Carpenter ants do not readily accept baits and residual spray treatments fail to kill colonies. When carpenter ants are found in a building, they are either nesting inside the building or nesting outside the building and entering to forage for food. In some circumstances, an entire colony may migrate from one nesting site to another, so it is important to eliminate indoor and outdoor nests.
The indoor inspection should concentrate on looking for areas of wood associated with high moisture. Critical areas include plugged drain gutters, poorly fitted or damaged siding and flashing, wood shingle roofs, hollow porch posts and columns, and leaking doors and window frames. Look for wood in contact with soil, wood in crawl spaces, or wood under concrete slabs.
Wood debris ejected from a carpenter ant colony has a shredded quality that looks like shavings in pencil sharpeners. Debris is similar to that produced by some wood boring beetles common in firewood. Sometimes this debris is deposited in the voids of the wall and is not visible. Windows or small openings to the nest may not be present since the ants may use existing cracks. Carpenter ants often forage in kitchen pantries, garbage, and other areas for food.
These ants are more active at night and few ants may be seen during the day. Swarmers are sometimes found trapped in spider webs. The surface of wood and timbers may appear solid, but by sounding, the damaged areas can be located. An active carpenter ant colony at times produces a distinct dry, rustling sound that may be heard from outside the nest. Sometimes the noise is very loud, but generally it can only be heard when conditions are very still and outside noises are at a minimum.
Control of carpenter ants indoors should involve the elimination of high moisture conditions suitable for carpenter ant nesting. Insecticide application must be made to nests and nest areas. Dusts are especially effective in treating nest galleries. Nest treatments may be used with dusts or in conjunction with sprays. Spraying or dusting infested areas with residual insecticides without locating or treating the nest itself usually does not provide complete control. Insecticides should be applied to areas inhabited or traveled by the ants.
If you need assistance, please call us: 801-732-7176