Guidelines for The Prevention of Ant Infestations

 

Why Do I Have Ants and Why Do They Constantly Reappear?

Ants are the most common pests in and around the home. Ants, like all other insects, (and humans) need food, shelter, and water to survive. When the weather is dry, ants come inside in search of water.
Scout Ant

Lone Scout

When the weather is wet and the ground floods, ants come in to get dry, when it’s hot out, they come inside in search of water, when they are just plain hungry, ants will send in their scouts to seek out food. Often you’ll see ants in the bathroom where water from the tub and sink are readily available. In the kitchen, ants can find not only water but food as well. Food Sources Ants feed on different types of food, including starches, meats, fats, and sweets. Knowledge of ant species, their food and nesting preferences, is very important in controlling ant colonies.  Scouts are sent out from the colony to search for food and water.
Fire Ants on Popsicle Stick

Fire Ants Marching on Popsicle Stick

Role of the Scout Once a scout has found a good source of food and water, she (workers are all female) will leave a trail of pheromones on her way back to the colony for other ants to follow and partake in the new found food and water supply. Ant Infestations Most ants live in colonies below the soil; although some ant species such as Carpenter ants build their nest inside walls.   There are a number of areas around the home that may result in ant infestations of other common species such as the Odorous House ant or Pavement ant.  Landscaping is one area where certain plants and trees provide shelter and food for ants.
Entomologist Examining an Ant Mound

USDA Entomologist Examing a Fire Ant Mound

Other areas of ant infestation are trash cans placed in close proximity to the home or in the garage, excessive mulching and moisture, overhanging branches touching the house; food left on counters, kitchen tables, and bits of food left in children’s bedrooms. How do we stop this cycle of ants appearing indoors, disturbing our lifestyle, productivity and contentment, without overdoing it, causing more harm than good?

Monitoring for Potential Ant Infestations

The first step is monitoring for ants. Organizations like schools, affordable low-income housing complexes and sensitive facilities, such as food storage plants, hospitals or your average hotel and hospitality center should consider serious charting of pest levels indoors and outside. When contracting for pest control services it is important to ask if the pest control company has the resources and orientation to provide true monitor reports and charts that can track increases and decreases in pest activity. You too can monitor for ants, even if you do not go to the extent that a formal organization might. Begin outdoors, where the ants originate. Start with what you know. Perhaps the ants tend to locate themselves on certain plants or heavily fertilized plants. Have you noticed that they tend to gather around water sources, such as a pond, fountain, irrigation line or leaky pipe? Consider the status of roadways, concrete walkways and foundations. Have you let the repair of cracks lapse? These are excellent protective hiding places for ants, where they find adequate safe shelter and easy access to food sources. Are trees overgrown? What happened to that landscape plan that you never implemented? Where you of the type to DIY, but then never actually did it yourself? Consider hiring a landscaper or a pest control company that will trim trees and shrubs to provide adequate protection of your interior space from ants and other pests. If you are the handyman, get about your business and start sealing those joints around the windows, doors, tubs and sinks. It’s worth the money to hire a good all purpose handyman to get then never-ending jobs done.

Identify the Ant Species for Proper Prevention

Ant species each occupy their own natural and select habitat and range. It’s essential that you identify the ant in order to prevent it. The resource requirements and capabilities of argentine ants are completely different from carpenter ants, RIFA (red imported fire ants), or pharoah ants. There is an abundance of information on how to target these specific ants for extermination, but there is also information available for targeting these species for prevention as well.
Camponotus sp.

Carpenter Ant

Try this article on the prevention and control of carpenter ants from the Dept of Illinois Public Health.

Create a List of Priorities to Stop Ant Entry

You are serious about stopping the entry of ants, but where do you begin. Set a budget and list of priorities. Determine realistically what tasks you will actually complete and search out resources to do the rests. The vast majority of items can be accomplished at little cost, such as trimming trees and shrubs and caulking around doors and windows. Also, just look at that underperforming lawn of yours. The grasses and plants are yellow, wilted, patchy and burned out. Did you ever consider that you are watering too much rather than too little? Take a look at the foundation around your house. If it is wet or moldy, that is a sure sign that you are over-watering. These problems have a direct effect on pest levels. The proper balance of outdoor water supply will greatly assist you in controlling ants – not to mention your water bill! The expenses will run higher if remediation requires heavy duty landscape tree removal or if wood framing has rotted. Structural repairs and relocation of physical structures on your property can get pricy, but consider the advantages. Locating water sources, such as fountains further from the house is one example.

Landscape Nurseries, Landscape Architecture and Pest Prevention

Don’t just buy randomly from any landscape nursery. You are generally an educated shopper. So be an educated shopper when buying landscape plants, trees, mulches and grasses. Most quality nurseries will have staff that are passionate about what they do. They are not in it for the money! Prepare a list of questions about the pest impact of your plant choices. What practices are they using to control pests? One of the easiest ways to prevent ant infestations is to not bring home an ant infestation with your new purchases from your local nursery. Never buy sick plants. Your home is not going to make them better. Purchase plants when they are first arriving rather than the leftover stock at the end of the season. Do not purchase soil when the bags have been torn. Examine the plants and potted soil for ants and other pests.
Ants Eating a Grasshopper

Ants Eating a Grasshopper

Speak with a landscape architect about creating a low-water use and pest resistant garden plan. If you are in the process of redesigning your landscape, you should absolutely ask your landscape architect about ways to reduce water consumption and keep pests away. The plants you choose have a high impact on pest and specifically ant activity. High sap producing plants are a definie attraction to ants as are fruiting trees and any plants or trees prone to aphid infestations as ants love to harvest aphid honeydews.

The Role of Sanitation in Preventing Ants

One cannot over-emphasize the role of good sanitation in preventing ant infestations. Most of us are marvelous consumers but some of us are not so good at sanitizing and cleaning afterwards. No pest control company can control ants in an environment with sub-standard sanitation. The level of sanitation must rise above the level at which ant infestations are likely to occur. This means setting firm rules for house cleaning, especial in the kitchen and other food consumption and food storage areas. Firm chores should be assigned and executed by family members – washing the dishes, properly sealing trash bags, removing trash daily, washing the dishes, etc. Some people treat their pets like perpetual children. They will do anything for them, including spoil them. Leaving food out for pets is a very common problem. And why wouldn’t ants be attracted to the food and water dishes that sits out all day? Pet food bins need to be sturdy and sealed. What you would not allow in your kitchen, do not allow in your garage. If you allow poor sanitation in the garage, how soon will it be before the ants attracted into your garage invade your home?

The Role of a Good Pest Control Company in Preventing Ant Invasions

A good pest control company will provide advice on ant prevention, as well as treatment. While many pest control companies attempt to minimize the number of services, others believe in a more frequent service plan so as to assist the customer in monitoring pest levels considered acceptable outside of the home. By implementing preventative methods, it helps decrease the potential for ant invasions when weather conditions or sanitation habits change. At Hearts Pest Management, we help you decide the frequency of service based on your needs and locality. Please visit our pages on Ant Control and Green / Organic Pest Control for more information on how we prevent and control ants.

Resources to Guide in Preventing Ant Invasions

Organizations such as the Bio-Integral Resource Center, in Berkeley, CA, is an excellent resource for information on Integrated Pest Management, including this manual for IPM in Schools. Chapter 5 contains every bit of inforamtion you’d ever want to know about IPM for Ants in Schools, containing in-depth ideas that could be applied to any home infestation of ants. You will be much closer to the prevention of ant infestations with each step you take to implementation of these guidelines. Call today at 1-800-986-1006 for help with an ant infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.
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