The Ultimate Guide to Ants & Ant Control in NYC & NJ
Ants can become nuisances when they invade homes, and negatively impact a business’s reputation when they are present in a commercial business. Beyond that certain types of ants, like carpenter ants, should be promptly addressed and controlled as they are wood destroying and can compromise a building structure.
Pest professionals control ants using insecticide baits, in either granule or liquid form. Bait is gathered by the ants as food and brought back to the nest where the poison is spread to other colony members through trophallaxis. Boric acid and borax are often used as insecticides that are relatively safe for humans. Bait may be broadcast over a large area to control ant species.
Below is a look at the most common types of ant problems to impact us here in the New York and New Jersey area.
Carpenter Ants become active in the spring, which leads to many carpenter ant control services. When the weather is still chilly outside, your building offers them the same comforts as it does to you – Shelter from the elements, Warmth, Bedroom, Dining Room, and Kitchen. They have babies, feed them, and protect them until they are old enough to move out on their own – sound familiar! Since carpenter ants may forage as far as 200 yards or further, the main colony may be located on a neighboring property. Carpenter Ants are of great concern because they are a wood destroying insect. Carpenter ants will damage the wood within and around your home by hollowing out the inside to build their nest. They can nest in wood that is dry or moist but tend to prefer the moist wood. In fact, carpenter ant infestations most typically occur near areas of moisture around a home like a bathroom or kitchen.
Carpenter ants swarm in the spring, although they can be spotted at any time of the year. They are very large, black ants. Finding sawdust or excavated wood with insect parts in it or discovering hollowed out wood is a sign that carpenter ants may be present. Carpenter ants are best identified by a pest professional and one should definitely be called in to address an infestation from any wood destroying insect.
These are some of the most common areas that Carpenter Ants can be found – and remember, Carpenter Ants are nocturnal, so they move around mainly at night.
- Dead limbs of living trees
- Under attic insulation
- Hollow trees
- Interior wall voids
- Under exterior siding
- Supports in crawl space
- Exterior wall voids
- Wood pile
- Sill plates
- Between insulation and sub flooring
- Roots of dead trees
Almost all pest and rodent infestations begin outside buildings. Pests enter through holes and cracks in the home’s exterior. How a home is constructed can greatly affect which pest problems you experience. Here are some tips for “pest-proofing” your house.
- Reduce shelters such as piles of bricks or lumber and leaf litter.
- Keep ground cover at least 18″ from the home’s foundation.
- Trim trees and shrubs so they do not touch the home.
- Use yellow “bug lights” to attract fewer insects.
- Ventilate the spaces under decks and sheds.
- Don’t keep pet food outside on patios or decks.
- Keep pets either in or out. Dogs and cats that run in and out are more likely to carry fleas into the house.
- Keep gutters unclogged and repair any areas that get poor drainage.
- Ventilate the attic and basement crawlspace to minimize excess moisture and humidity.
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Argentine ants are light brown to brown in color and range in size from 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch in length. Argentine ants generally are not antagonistic toward each other but when they move into new territory, they drive out and/or kill all of the native ants.
Argentine ants usually nest outside human habitats. Sometimes they will set up a colony on the inside, often in the soil of a plant, and have often been found in parked cars. Outside, they travel quickly in distinctive trails along side walks, up the sides of structures, along branches of trees, baseboards, and under carpets. Workers sometimes emit a musty smell when crushed or stepped on.
Argentine ants live in rather large colonies, with hundreds of thousands of workers and multiple queens. They often live in smaller sub-colonies which they often combine to form one huge colony that can span several properties and contain millions and millions of ants. Outdoors, they live in soil, under wood, slabs, debris, mulch, or in branches and cavities of trees, or in shallow, 2” deep mounds in open, often disturbed habitats.
Argentine ants are extremely fond of sugar, especially from the sweet honeydew secreted from insects like aphids. The Argentine ants often protect them on the plant they eat, killing any nearby predators in an effort to secure a constant supply of the precious honeydew. It helps to keep sheets of plywood, stones and other debris from piling up to lessen the chance of nesting. Using caulk or any other sealant to fix cracks or holes in the buildings exterior helps keep ants from entering, as well as keeping lawns and shrubs maintained and away from buildings. Repair leaks to lessen excess moisture and adjust any sprinklers that come in contact with your home.
Odorous House Ants
If you live in a wooded area you are at risk of an Odorous House Ant infestation and these species of ants are known to re-infest year after year. Just as their name suggests, odorous house ants will give off a strong odor when they are crushed. This ant is small, about 1/8 inch in size, dark in color and form distinct trails. They are one of the most difficult ant species to control, a pest professional is most always needed for long-term solutions.
Odorous house ants are often confused with the common pavement ant. Differentiating between the two is best left to a pest professional, however, one way of telling the difference is to note an offensive pine or coconut odor when the ants are crushed. They will nest just about anywhere and relocate quickly when necessary. If an infestation occurs indoors you will often find your kitchen counter quickly covered with this type of ant, they feed on most any kitchen matter.
Professional grade baits are most effective as is understanding this type of ant’s biology and habits. A pest professional will save you a lot of aggravation in trying to deal with the sheer number of ants often present in an odorous house ant infestation.
Pavement ants are a common household pest, whose name derives from the fact that they generally make their homes in pavement. Distinguishing physical characteristics include one spine on the back, two nodes on the petiole and grooves on the head and thorax. During early spring, pavement ant colonies try to conquer new areas and often attack nearby enemy colonies.
These attacks often result in massive side walk battles, which can sometimes leave thousands of ants dead. In summer, they dig out the sand in between the pavements to ventilate their nests. The pavement ant is dark brown to blackish in color, and usually 2.5–4 mm in length. Similar to other ants, there are workers, drones, and a queen. The drone’s only job is to mate with the queen, and reproduction peaks during the spring and summer. Workers continue helping in the colony until they are about one month old.
Older workers hunt and defend the colony. Pavement ants will eat almost anything, including insects, seeds, honey, bread, meats, nuts, cheese and ice cream. This ant species does not pose a public health risk, but can contaminate food and all efforts should be made to avoid them. Professional grade pesticides prove to be most effective when managing a pavement ant infestation.
Acrobat ants vary from 1/8-inch to more than a 1/4-inch in length and have very shiny bodies that vary in color from light red to dark brown or black. They have a heart-shaped abdomen, and get their name from the odd habit of running with it bent up and over their thorax when agitated, and as a result, they may sting or bite.
Acrobat ants eat a wide variety of foods, including sweets, especially those contained in the honeydew produced by sap-feeding insects. They sometimes feed on termites or other ants. Acrobat ants will trail along tree limbs, utility lines, and fences and they can enter structures by simply crawling through cracks or open windows. They are found both indoors and outdoors, and will often emit a foul odor when disturbed.
Acrobat ants prefer nesting in dead or decaying wood. They are rarely found in above ground mounds. They are exceedingly territorial, and only one colony will exist in a tree. When nesting in structures, acrobat ants live in moist or rotting wood. Acrobat ants have a curious habit of bending their heart-shaped abdomen up over their body when disturbed, giving the impression of an acrobat walking on his hands.
Pharaoh ants have become a serious pest control problem in hospitals, rest homes, apartment dwellings, hotels, grocery stores, food establishments and other buildings. They feed on a wide variety of foods including jellies, honey, shortening, peanut butter, corn syrup, fruit juices, baked goods, soft drinks, greases, dead insects and even shoe polish. They can also gnaw holes in silk, rayon and rubber goods. Extermination of Pharaoh ants is made difficult because multiple colonies often consolidate into smaller colonies and “ride out the storm” of a baiting programs, only to repopulate when baiting is eventually withdrawn.
Pharaoh ants are a serious hazard in hospitals, where their very small size allows them to access patient wounds, drip-lines, and other medical instrumentation, which can cause infections to spread as well as interference with the electronic devices. Pharaoh workers are about 1/16-inch in length. They are light yellow to reddish brown with a darker abdomen. They do have astinger. The narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen has two nodes and the thorax has no spine. Pharaoh ant eyesight is poor. The Pharaoh ant queen can lay hundreds of eggs in her lifetime. Most lay about 10 eggs per batch in the early days of egg production. Their eggs usually hatch in five to seven days.
The larval period is 18 to 19 days, pre-pupal period three days and pupal period nine days. About four more days are required to produce sexual female and male forms. From egg to maturity takes about 38 to 45 days depending on temperature and relative humidity. They breed continuously throughout the year in heated buildings and mating occurs in the nest. Mature colonies contain several queens, winged males, workers, eggs, larvae, pre-pupae and pupae.
Pharaoh ants engage in a behavior pattern known as “satelliting”, or more commonly, “budding”, and use pheromones as their primary form of communication. Pharaoh nests can be very small, located between sheets of clothing, furniture, foods, etc. Nests usually occur in wall spaces, under floors, behind baseboards, in trash containers, under stones, in stone wall voids, light fixtures, etc. Pharaohs prefer dark, warm areas near hot water pipes, in bathrooms, kitchens, intensive care units, operating rooms, etc. They are “trail-making” ants and often are found rummaging in drains, toilets, bedpans and other unsanitary sites. Pharaoh ants have been exterminated by placing baits, using a mixture of ground liver mixed with boric acid, in places where the ants forage. Renewing the baits up to twice a year may be necessary. It is not recommended to exterminate Pharaoh ants using sprays and dusts since they will only cause the ants to scatter.
Ghost ants are about 1/16-inch long and have a dark brown head and thorax, with a opaque or milky white abdomen and legs. The Ghost ant is highly adaptable in its nesting habits, nesting readily outdoors or indoors. Colonies are sometimes moderate to large in size and contain multiple reproducing females (the queens). Ghost ants have a habit of running rapidly and rather erratically when disturbed. They are small enough to enter houses through the smallest holes in caulking or even cracks in foundations, or from plants that touch the sides of a home. Once they get inside, they can be seen in kitchens and bathrooms, often nearby sinks in search of moisture.
They love honeydew and are similar to Argentine ants in that they protect honeydew-producing insects. They feed on both live and dead insects, but once inside they will eat anything sweet (hence why they are sometimes called “sugar ant”). The Ghost ant is a nuisance ant that is very common in southern Florida. It likes to nest inside the aluminum supports around omnipresent screen porches in Florida. Once inside your home, it will nest in potted plants and any other moist area, as well as wall spaces between cabinetry or baseboards. Colonies are broken into sub-colonies that live in different nest sites. These sites include damp grass, stems from plants and alcoves beneath debris in open, rapidly changing environments. Ghost ants are opportunistic nesters and are often found in places that may remain habitable for only a few days or weeks (therefore, they are often call “tramp” ants).
When they move around on light surfaces, the Ghost ant’s transparent abdomens and legs appear to vanish, leaving just the dark head and thorax visible. On darker surfaces, all that is visible are pale patches, giving them their “ghostly” appearance. It is best to disperse piles of wood, rocks and other debris to discourage ghost ant nesting sites. Trim limbs to keep them from touching the outside of homes and eliminate excess moisture by repairing any household leaks. Targeting the colonies and sub-colonies directly is usually required since ghost ants generally do not respond to bait.
The fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is native to South America, but has become a widespread pest in the United States. There pests are known to have a surprisingly strong, painful, and persistently irritating sting that often leaves pustules on human skin. Fire ants are more aggressive than most other ant species.
Humans typically encounter these ants by inadvertently stepping on one of their mounds, which causes the ants to scurry up the individual’s legs, in an all-out attack. They respond to pheromones which are released by the first ant to attack. The ants tend to sting in unison, which often leads to death in small animals by overloading their immune systems. Red imported fire ants are very resilient and adapt well to deal with both flooding and drought conditions.
If the ants encounter increase in water levels, they will join together and form a large ball that is able to float on the water (with the workers on the outside and the queen inside). Once the ball hits a stationary object (such as a tree), the ants swarm onto it and wait for the water levels to recede. To deal with drought conditions, these ants structure their nests to includes a network of underground tunnels that extend down to the water underground. Despite the fact that these fire ants do not hibernate during the winter, colonies can survive temperatures as cold as 16 °F. Researchers have been experimenting with extreme temperature change to exterminate red imported fire ants, such as injecting liquid nitrogen or pressurized steam into their nests. Pouring boiling water into mounds has been found to be somewhat effective in eradicating their nests. Burning of the nests is almost always ineffective since queens tend to be several feet under the earth.
Crazy ants range in length from 1/12-inch to 1/8-inch and they vary from red-brown to greyish, and even black in color. Crazy ants are very easy to identify due to their fast, excited movements. Workers are omnivorous, feeding on live and dead insects, seeds, honeydew, fruits, plant sap, and many household foods.
The Crazy ant is extremely adaptable and can live in both very dry and moist habitats. Their colonies are often large, and can become massive under the right circumstances. On warm and humid evenings, large numbers of males gather outside nest entrances and often mill about excitedly. The Crazy ant thrives in places such as gasoline stations, convenience stores, and side-walk cafes where workers may be seen transporting crumbs.
They typically nest outdoors in the soil and in the cavities of trees and shrubs, but frequently enter homes in the fall or after rain. Once inside your home, they will nest in wall and floor voids, especially near hot water pipes and heaters.
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