A lesson we learned as country raised kids is easily remembered. If you see one ant, you will always find more. These social insects may swarm you, or you may have to sit and wait patiently, but there will always be more.
We have also learned that all God’s creatures are beneficial in some way. Ants do their part by killing other insects, helping keep populations in balance.
We just kind of get along with ants, just as long as they don’t intrude in our world. We are happy to ignore them, until they bite or move into our place of residence.
When you see ants on the move, take a few minutes to learn where they are coming from and where they are going. If it involves any part of your home, you have an immediate problem to deal with. Fire Ants, Crazy Ants, Sugar Ants, Carpenter Ants (skinny ones and fat ones), tiny Ghost Ants and a few less well known forms need some fast pesticide intervention. You need to treat both their origin and destination.
If you have ants in your home, look for signs of problems and act to correct them. If you have trees and shrubs near your house, and if the branches rest on the roof, you have just provided a super-highway for the ants to move in. If you have leaves collecting on your roof, you probably have several insects and other multi-legged critters making a home in that organic gunk. Clean it off and try to not end up in the ER or mortuary. Full gutters are a favorite hideout.
It’s fascinating to watch ants traveling on shrubs and trees. As soon as you see ants on a plant, you know there is trouble. Some cavity in the plant may be their home, but more often they are Scale and Aphid Ranching. Ants will nurture herds of honeydew producing insects like Aphids and Scale Insects just to have ready access to their sugary, sticky excrement.
These insects suck sap from plants and excrete a concentrated sugary ‘poop’ that ants thrive on. If you play detective you can identify where these insects are doing their dirty work. Now you have the ants and the aphids/scale to kill, too.
Periodically, you just need to take time and carefully look around. Probe with a screwdriver or tap with a mallet to search for loose tree bark that is hiding a big ant or termite colony. Remove the loose bark and spray with a pesticide labeled for ant control. My favorites are water diluted solution containing Bifenthrin or Malathion, or Acephate. Read the Label carefully before using. The pesticide found in aerosol cans is seldom as effective as you need, and may damage plant tissues.
It is very important to use a pesticide that is specific for ant control. I hear folks claiming success with pesticides that are not designated for ants. I suspect that the ants just decided that they were not welcome and moved off elsewhere.
The most common ant invasion of your home is Fire Ants entering weep holes on brick walls. During rainy weather it is not uncommon to see mounds of Fire Ant nests built up against your exterior walls. It’s a good practice to spread a Fire Ant Bait or granular lawn pesticide on your property periodically. You just can’t relent on your battle with ants. If you have Tawny Crazy Ants, your battle is to remove boards, bricks and other items they can hide under, before you apply proper pesticides.
You will find several ant bait formulations at various stores. Baits are a smart purchase because they provide your only chance to control them where they and their queen hang out. After you deploy the bait, be observant. Watch to be sure that the ants stop to feed before they move on. My past experience is that I had to try 3 different baits before I found one that the Ghost Ants liked.
Keep your baits and pesticides fresh. Ants will just ignore old, stale bait.
– Leon Macha is a consulting certified Horticulturist/Arborist with 40 plus years of experience in our region.