Ant Control

All ants live in colonies, consisting of an egg-laying female (queen), short-lived males, and workers (sterile females). The ants you see foraging in your garden or kitchen are workers. Workers that find food communicate with other workers by depositing a chemical message on the substrate as they crawl back to the nest. Although we cannot smell it, this "trail pheromone" sticks to the substrate for long periods of time and helps other ants find the food at the end of the trail. In the spring, ants develop wings and fly to new locations and invade homes to forage for food or to establish a new nest. Termites also develop wings and swarm during the spring and look similar to flying ants. Examine them closely to make sure that you have the correct pest! Ants are thin-waisted and have elbowed antennae. Termites have thicker waists and have antennae that resemble strings of tiny beads. You may need a magnifying glass to examine antennal features. As a group, ants have a wide food range, feeding on sweet foods, greasy materials, starchy substances, wood, and all kinds of plant and animal materials. Part of the reason that ants become a nuisance in our homes is that they often like the same kinds of food that we do.

Ant Control

There are two categories of ants that will be encountered with an ant problem. The control strategy that you should take depends on your type of infestation.
Ants that live outside will travel inside the home to search for food. Some species may ultimately reside in houses, discussed later in this fact sheet. To prevent both of these scenarios, follow these procedures:

First, cracks and crevices should be sealed to eliminate passages into the home. If you do not seal entry points, ants will probably find their way into your house at some later time.

Second, scrub around entry points with a detergent (to remove the trail pheromone) and spray a residual insecticide around entry points.

Bait treatments and insecticides can be used to control ants in the outside nest. To be effective baits must be placed in areas where ants frequent, eaten and be taken back to the nest. There are several different kinds of baits available, and you may have to do a little trial-and-error to find the proper bait. Because the ants must get back to the nest for satisfactory control this strategy may be incompatible with insecticide sprays which may kill worker ants before they can get back to the nest with the bait. The successful use of a bait may take several weeks or more.