When you were a child, did you ever sit on your front porch steps and watch ants running around? It may have seemed chaotic to you, but ants are one of the most organized insects in the world. Ever drop an M&M or a piece of an apple and see them work together to march away with their pieces? They are a cooperative community and an efficient one to boot.
There are more than 700 ant species in the United States alone, meaning at some point you will encounter these incredible insects in your home.
Ants live in underground colonies all huddled together having a grand old party (ants are social insects, after all). Don’t think it’s all fun and games — like feudal Europe, ant populations are made up of workers and queens. The non-queens are divided into reproductives, workers and foragers. Most of the time, homeowners and business owners only see the foragers because they’re the ones looking for the delicious food you have.
Ants aren’t particular about which of your foods they will eat, but (like many of us) they are especially attracted to sweets. Once they have found their way to the good food, they leave pheromone trails for their fellow foragers to follow. That’s why they always seem to find their way into your house — and ant swarms are disconcerting to say the least (although it’s important to note that ants are not known to spread disease).
The beautiful aspect of ant control is that if you kill the queen, you kill the colony. In many cases, that’s easier said than done — but it can be done if you have the proper training.
The three most-reported ant species reported by U.S. homeowners are:
Carpenter ants: These ants may be the most worrisome to homeowners because they can damage the structure of your home instead of just being an annoyance. Carpenter ants can’t fix the baseboard your dog chewed through, but they will excavate wood for nesting sites and trails to foraging areas as if they were digging for gold. Not surprisingly, this damages homes and businesses over time.
Odorous house ants (OHAs): On the level of nuisance, OHAs have turned it up to 11. They don’t have just one home, and they have multiple queens, which makes eradicating them difficult (except for experts who know how to find them). Keep your vegetation around your home well trimmed so that ants can’t use it as a superhighway to your home. Unlike carpenters, they don’t damage structures, but there are large numbers of them (what with all the workers for all the castles….er…..colonies). That’s why they’re often the most obnoxious ants for homeowners to handle.
Pavement ants: If you see soil and sand from under concrete slabs, patios, sidewalks, driveways or in basements, you may have a pavement ant issue. These ants do have stingers, but only use them when they are cornered by a resting arm or leg on an infested area. Like teenagers, they like to eat greasy and/or sweet foods. Pavement ants, like OHAs, can be difficult to control because of their underground nests and multiple queens.