There are 14 common ant species that are pests in the United States. Many ants do not bite; however fire ants and harvester ants are noted for their painful stinging bites. Most ants live in mounds in the ground. Others make their nests inside buildings or in wood or mulch. Sometimes we recognize having ants by noticing their habit of making trails to their favorite food. Controlling their invasions both indoors and out is an ongoing struggle.
Ants have useful functions in the environment: they feed on fleas, caterpillars, termites, dead insects and decomposing dead animals. Ants also can help plants - they disperse seeds, aid in pollination, defend against attacks by herbivores, and help enrich the soil through soil turning. Go after the ants causing damage; leave the good ones to do their job!The 14 common ant species and their attractants:
|Acrobat ant (Crematogaster spp.)||Sweets; insects|
|Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)||Sweets; sometimes protein|
|Big-Headed ant (Pheidole megacephala)||Sweets, fats, and proteins|
|Carpenter ant (Camponotus spp.)||Sweets|
|Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis)||Sweets spring and fall; proteins, summer|
|Ghost ant (Tapinoma melanocephalum)||Sweets and proteins|
|Leaf-cutter ant (Atta spp.)||Leaves|
|Odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile)||Sweets; sometimes protein|
|Pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum)||Sweets, fats, and proteins|
|Pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis)||Sweets, fats, and proteins|
|Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)||Sweets and proteins|
|Southern fire ant (Solenopsis xyloni)||Sweets and proteins|
|Thief ant (Solenopsis molesta)||Fats, and proteins and sometimes sweets|
|Velvety tree ant (Liometopum occidentale)||Sweets; insects|
Indoor Ant Control
Baits are a key for control. Boric acid or diatomaceous earth may be mixed with an attractant to make your own. Ants carry it back to the nest and feed it to others in the colony.
Most ants follow trails left by the first foragers. Follow the trails backwards to find the entry point; outside, place the bait near the entry point (this should keep the ants outside). Monitor whether bait is being eaten; if not, move it to another location.
Interrupt the ant trail by cleaning it; remove all food sources by cleaning or storing items in closed containers. Most baits take time to work; keep cleaning up the trails as they reappear.
If the ant colony is somewhere inside the house, go ahead and bait inside. Monitor to see that bait is being eaten; if not, move it to another location.
If the ant nest is in a potted plant, use insecticidal soap. Remove the plant from the building. Mix insecticidal soap 1-2 T per quart of water in a pail large enough to hold the plant, and keeping the plant in the pot, immerse the plant so that the soil is just covered. Leave for 20 minutes.
Outdoor nests may be associated with plants that may be prone to attacks by aphids, soft scale, mealybugs or whitefly. Avoid planting such trees and shrubs next to buildings, or keep a watch for these infestations. If you plant next to a building, keep plants, grass, and mulch several inches away from foundations so nests do not form.
Outdoor Ant Control
Ants may be on plants due to the presence of aphids, soft scale, mealybugs or whitefly, or the presence of ripening fruit or floral nectar. Provide a barrier around the tree trunk to keep the ants out. Use Tanglefoot and keep branches from touching structures or plants so that the ants have to use the trunk. Obviously, control the insect infestation if the ants are after their honeydew. Also, make sure the kind of mulch you use around your trees does not attract ants.
Treat fire ant mounds with Orange Guard Fire Ant Control.
Ring other problematic ant mounds with Diatomaceous Earth and drench with nematodes.
Leaf cutter ants may be treated as above, but you can also ring your plants with Diatomaceous Earth or your potted plants with Diatomaceous Earth or Orange Guard to protect them from attack. If you know what plant they are attacking, you can spray that plant with a natural fungicide. Once leaves are taken back to their fungus farm, they will soon discover that it is not a good source and leave your plants alone.
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