Pests: Household Ants
Few insects aggravate us as much as ants. They are social, and exploit our forgetfulness to put away food leftovers in a timely fashion. New queens and males, both winged, erupt from nests in swarms. Here is a guide to some common ants.
Members of the genus Camponotus are among our largest ants. Most species nest underground, or in rotten logs, but a few make “satellite nests” in woodpiles or our homes. Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but chew cavities where the colony can place eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Odorous House Ants
People have profane and regional names for the tiny Tapinoma sessile. These are the “sugar ants” in the kitchen, as they like sweets. They may nest indoors near heat sources, inside insulation or elsewhere, or nest outdoors.
Tiny but overwhelmingly numerous ants in the genus Tetramorium nest outdoors, but stage inter-colony battles that result in ant pile-ups on sidewalks. Normally, they are inconspicuous, but enter homes for sugary, fatty, and oily foods they can take back to the nest.
Linepithema humile is an accidental immigrant from South America. These are also “sugar ants,” found mostly in coastal California and the Gulf coast states where they are at home in the humidity. They venture indoors during cold, dry, or wet spells, and in search of food. It is known to exterminate native ant species it competes with in a given locality. A mature colony can number in the millions.
Coping With Ants
There are ways to combat ants effectively, without poisons:
- Store vulnerable foodstuffs, including pet food, in metal, glass, or durable plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep a clean kitchen, mop up spills promptly.
- Seal cracks and crevices to prevent ants from entering your home.
- Spread fine powder like cinnamon or cornstarch where you see ants entering. The powder will gum-up the hairs on their bodies and repulse them.
- A termite inspection will also reveal whether you have carpenter ants.
Find more articles on how to deal with bugs and pest around the home in our Common Household Pest Series.