DEEP: Ant Management

Ant Management

Once established, ants can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Not only are they a nuisance, but some ants—particularly the carpenter ant—can be destructive to your home.

Carpenter ants are the largest of our local ants and may excavate areas of moist wood for nests. Carpenter ants are either all black or have a reddish-brown area in the middle of their bodies. Workers are 1/4–1/2 inches long. The winged reproductives or swarmers are 1/2–3/4 inches long. Their presence indicates a colony that is at least three years old.

Frequently Carpenter ants will wander away from their nest, sometimes as far away as 100 yards, in search of food. Their nests are most often found in moist wood such as rotting tree stumps, fences or piles of wood. They will also nest in water damaged walls, cabinets, etc..

Often Carpenter ants are seen foraging for food in homes, however, their nest may not be within the structure.

Get the Ants Out

Here are some things you can do to get rid of ants in your home.

Find the Source. Locate the nest, vacuum it, and destroy the vacuumed debris.

Identify and remove possible nesting sites in and around the home by finding sources of moist or rotting wood. Replace water damaged wood within the structure and make repairs to eliminate the moisture source. You can even follow the ants back to their nest.

Prevent Access. Keep vegetation away from the building by pruning nearby tree limbs, bushes, and other vegetation. Leave a 2-ft. strip of gravel around the house for inspection. Store firewood away from the house and, if possible, off the ground. Seal cracks and pipe and electrical chases with caulk or use sticky barriers. Replace/install door sweeps and weather-strip to exclude ants.

Reduce Moisture. Eliminate excess moisture and wet wood. Fix leaks in the roof, pipes, and sinks. Insulate sweating pipes. Use vapor barriers when insulating outside walls. Clean gutters regularly and adjust drain spouts so that water flows away from the building.

Remove Food Sources. Make sure food is stored in well-sealed containers. Clean up spills and crumbs immediately. Regularly clean floors and kitchen appliances to eliminate grease and crumbs. (grease residue can reduce the effectiveness of some pesticides) Promptly remove trash. Do not leave pet food dishes out for extended periods.

Pesticide Applications. Pesticides with the lowest hazard should be your first choice when pesticide applications are necessary, whether doing your own application or hiring a commercial applicator. Granular and containerized baits are very effective. Baits take time to work because they must be carried back to the nest and consumed by the other ants within the colony. Insecticide dust applications made by commercial pesticide applicators directly to a nest within a wall void can also be very effective. Note: Frequent or monthly pesticide applications are often unnecessary. The key to long term control is to locate and eliminate the nest and reduce sources of food, moisture and shelter as much as possible.

What to Look For

In addition to the presence of live ants, look for the following signs of ant infestation.

Sawdust. Inside the house, look for small piles of sawdust and moisture-damaged wood. Check corners, inside walls from attic to basement, windows, skylights.

Nests. Search for nests in wall voids where water has leaked (ex; windows, dishwasher, washing machine, garbage disposal, ground level sill plate/siding, eaves, etc.)

Trails. Ants will generally travel the same path once a food or moisture source has been identified. They are most active at night. By observing them carefully, you can locate their nesting location and food or moisture source.