When ants become a nuisance a.k.a. pest to a home or business, identification is the key to a successful eradication program. Identification will ultimately determine the control measures and strategies required to be effective in controlling ant colonies. Wrong identification yields wrong results and usually leads to colony increases. Identification is critical because it will reveal the environmental conditions conducive to the variety of ant that has become a pest. According to (antmaps.org), the Seattle/Everett area has 103 native species of ants. Proper identification of the ants also helps to support the proper use of Green Pest Control by your Seattle and Everett EPE professional exterminator.
Let’s start by looking at ants as a species.
All ants go through a complete life cycle and are from the Family Formicidae. Ants are eusocial, and operate at the highest degree of any socialized organization. Seattle pest control operators use specimens to determine if ants are Monomorphic (all one size) or Polymorphic (multiple sizes). Nodes and Antennal segments (scape/club) act as identifiers. Here is brief overview of common ants by type:
Monogyne(one queen): carpenter (most), pavement, big head (most), rover, velvet tree, corn field,andpyramid.
Polygyne (multi-queen): pharaoh, o.h.a., argentine, crazy, and ghost.
Integrated Pest Control (IPC), or integrated pest management (IPM) is the most effective method of controlling ant colonies long term. In order to achieve an ant free environment, a thorough environmental inspection is required.
The following are clues and evidence to use when inspecting Seattle/Everett homes and business for ants and their sources:
- Look for long trails of ants, perhaps numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Ants assemble in long trails along structural elements, such as wires and pipes, and frequently use them to enter and travel within a structure to their destination. Follow the trail to locate their nest or their entry point, such as an electrical outlet, or gap along a baseboard or around a water pipe.
- Straggler ants are scouts in search of food and nesting sites. They too, may be followed back to the nest.
- Holes or cracks in the walls or foundations, especially where pipes enter the building and around windows and doors. Theses can provide entry points for ants and other insects. Kitchens or other food storage and preparation areas are particular problem areas.
- Look for frass deposits. Frass is the fine sawdust produced after galleries are carved out of the wood. If you suspect that a piece of wood hosts a gallery, you can tap it with a screwdriver tip and see if dust falls out.
- Listen for a distinctive sound, similar to the crinkling of cellophane. Ants are small, but nests are large enough to produce perceptible noise.
- Inspect outside for nests in mulch and vegetation next to the foundation. Check under potted plants, patio blocks, and stepping stones, in piles of rocks, lumber and firewood.
Eagle Pest Eliminators and their professional staff of technicians consistently practice green pest control methods and first look at small environmental changes that can immediately reduce ant populations. One technique can involve removing or replacing damp and rotting wood which will force carpenter ants find a different environment. There are a number of steps that can be taken by Seattle/Everett homeowners to reduce the potential for ant problems. These practices will prevent infestations:
- Store food items that attract ants, such as sugar, syrup, honey, and pet food in closed containers. Wash them to remove residues from the outer surface.
- Rinse out empty soft drink containers or remove them from the building.
- Thoroughly clean up grease spills.
- Remove garbage from the building daily and change liners frequently. Correct roof and plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that will attract ants.
- Eliminate wood-to-ground contact, such as where landscaping has pushed soil or mulch up against the wood siding of a home.
- Clip back tree limbs and vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house. Limbs and branches serve as bridges between tree limb nests and the structure.
- Seal cracks and openings in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
- Stack firewood away from the foundation, and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home, as firewood is a major ant nesting area.
To illustrate the importance of identification in the control of ants I will provide a real life example of what happens when identification is skipped and the wrong control method is implemented.
Early in my career with Eagle Pest Eliminators, I took over monthly pest services for a local eatery in Seattle. This particular restaurant chain has multiple locations in the Seattle/Everett area. One manager called our office and reported that ants were out of control in his establishment. He reported the problem as getting worse rather than better. The same service was being provided at all 10 of the chainslocations, however, only this particular location was infested with ants. Upon inspection, I found that ants were in fact everywhere. Ants were in the ceiling, the dining room, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and in equipment. It was starting to negatively impact his business.
I was able to identify the ants as Odorous House Ants (O.H.A.’s). Upon further investigation, I found that this particular location has been on a General Pest prevention program for nearly 15 years. Over the years, there had been several different companies and over a dozen different Seattle Pest Control Operators maintaining the property. All companies and technicians were performing the exact same service with the exact same chemical. A General Prevention program is intended to eliminate insects (including ants) exposed to the spray. Residual chemicals left behind are intended be fatal to most insects (including ants) that come into contact with the residual left behind. At first the treatments were working, but as time went by the effectiveness began to only last for weeks rather than months. When the ants did return, they seemed to grow in numbers exponentially and were coming in from every crack and crevice. As a pest control specialist with Eagle Pest Eliminators, it was overwhelming. There was an abundance of food sources and the ants were thriving. OHA were listed as targets on the label of the product being used, the product was being applied according to specifications. Why was it not working?
O.H.A.’s are Polygyne (Multi-Queen) ants. Control of these ants, like all ants, includes correction of the attractions that drew them to the property in the first place. What had happened in this case was that ants were being treated on and around the property, when the source was actually elsewhere. The ants being affected by the treatments were only the workers and typically represent about 10% of the colony. The chemicals being used repeatedly over the years were doing no more than killing the workers that were foraging for food.
O.H.A.’s are polygyne ants (Multi-Queen). Here is what happens when polygyne ants are treated with residual pesticides. After each spray, the colony detects the loss of their workers and become adverse to the residual left by the chemical. To ensure survival, small groups of ants break off and create new queens. Over years of this process being repeated by multiple Seattle Pest Control Operators, the antswere inadvertently spread in a fashion similar to using water on a grease fire.
Using the wrong approach is counterproductive. In this case chemicals were making the problem worse. Proper Identification and inspection allows the Seattle Pest Control exterminators to implement effective programs that control ants and at the same time minimize chemical use, which helps protect our environment. It is the duty of the Seattle Pest Control exterminators to implement green pest control techniques. Eagle Pest Eliminators Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is the most effective form of pest control and is adhered to at all times.
In order to illustrate how proper identification and inspection could have prevented this particularinfestation at a local Seattle eatery, it is necessary to discuss Integrated Pest Management (I.P.M.). I.P.M. is the cornerstone of all pest control today. I.P.M. focuses on manipulating environmental conditions to achieve control rather than relying chemicals for results. I.P.M. treats the cause of the problem rather than the symptom. I.P.M. approach will lead the Seattle Pest Control exterminators to the source of the problem that yields more effective results. I recently attended a professional training seminar in which a distinguished Seattle Pest Control Operator was lecturing. The instructor compared I.P.M. to a three leg stool. The I.P.M. “stool” has three legs (1) water (2) Food (3) Shelter. Remove a leg of the stool and what happens to the stool?
In the case of the Seattle eatery, insanity was ultimately being used as pest control, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. All the while, being overlooked was a green pest control alternativenot being implemented.
Odorous House Ants diet consists 70% of aphids. Aphids eat honeydew created by certain plants. Look at aphids as one of the legs of the I.P.M. stool (Food). Imagine what would happen to an ant colony if you remove 70% of their food source. The “stool” or colony will collapse.
Aphids can be controlled throughout the year by Seattle Pest Control exterminators educated in dormant oil application and knowledge of indicator plants that produce honeydew. In the case of the Seattle eatery, the area surrounding the restaurant was full of honeydew producing plants. Once the aphids were controlled, and the residual chemical was stopped, minimal amounts of strategicallyplaced bait was enough to regain control of the restaurant.
As a Seattle/Everett business owner, home owner or pest control operator, it is Eagle Pest Eliminators responsibility to care for the environment. The intention of this article is to raise awareness. In this example alone, there was over a decade of chemical being used ineffectively when an effective chemical free solution was available. Proper identification and Inspection will almost always lead to a green solution. If you are interested in the history or impact of pesticides on our environment, read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, it is regarded as the birth of environmental science.