Have you noticed a sudden surge of ants in and around your property this summer? You’re not alone!
When summer arrives, we can always count on sweltering heat, no school, and the resurgence of ants. The major comeback of ants is a problem we must all face during the warmer months of the year – and they certainly can be a major problem.
Ants can not only cause unpleasant bites and severe allergic reactions, but they can also cause considerable damage to your home and lawn.
Some species will burrow through wood. Other ant species are attracted to vibrations and electrical currents. These ants can short circuit your electronics like appliances and air conditioning units (and in the Texas summertime – that is a BIG problem).
Although battling ants may seem like a never-ending issue, there are ways to eradicate them from your life. In this article, we’re providing you with the tips and know-how to kick ants to the curb.
What are ants?
You may be wondering why you should bother learning anything about ants (other than how to get rid of them). After all, most people probably nodded off during the ant portion of Biology class.
The truth is, you will be much better prepared to go into battle with an army of ants if you understand some of their habits, preferences, and characteristics.
Identification is the first key. Ants can vary in color from black to beige to candy apple red. However, they are all characterized by having six legs and antennae. All ants also have three distinct body segments; the head, the thorax, and the abdomen segments.
Ants wear their skeletal system on their exterior as a protective coating, called an exoskeleton. Many ant colonies also contain flying ants as well, for reproductive purposes. So don’t be shocked if you see a few wings in the mix of your ant problems – as if thousands of crawling ants weren’t bad enough!
Ants are insects of the Formicidae family and live socially in colonies. Colony populations can range from just a few ants to millions. These colonies will contain at least one egg-bearing queen and many worker ants.
What do you need to know about common ants in Texas?
Texans enjoy a very diverse round-up of ant species – wait, did we say enjoy? We meant despise – In Texas you’ll find many species of ants varying from biting fire ants to nosey house ants. If you are encountering ants in or around your home, it's essential to know more about them to get rid of them.
Identification is always the first step to eradicating ants. Different ant species have different tastes and preferences; therefore, there are various methods for removing them.
1. Invasive red fire ant
One of the most common and most pesky pests you’ll encounter in the summertime is the invasive red fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.
Fire ants are a terrible problem in Texas. They are notorious for their painful sting and their vibrant reddish-brown color. You can usually find this species of ant living outside in a decent-sized mound, and they are known to protect their mounds very aggressively if disturbed.
Although these ants typically live outside, it’s not unlikely that you may see some entering buildings in the summer months as they hunt for food and water. Fire ants eat other insects like larvae, ticks, and cockroach eggs. Their appetite for other insect pests is one way (and pretty much the only way) in which their presence can be beneficial.
2. Pharaoh ant
The pharaoh ant, Monomorium pharaonis, is the most commonly occurring indoor ant in Texas. These ants are relatively small and are beige or soft red in color.
These ants are often referenced to as "sugar ants" because of their love of sweets. However, they also enjoy fatty and greasy foods – basically, the diet we'd all love to live on if we could also stay tiny. Although these ants don't usually sting or bite, having them around is still a significant nuisance.
Pharaoh ants nest primarily indoors wherever they can find a comfy spot near water and warmth – this could mean anywhere from an attic to a plant to a light socket.
3. Carpenter ant
Another common ant species in Texas is the carpenter ant, of the Camponotus species. Believe it or not, fourteen species of carpenter ants occur in Texas. There are larger black carpenter ants that primarily remain outdoors in wooded areas, but there are also carpenter ants that you’ll commonly find inside.
These indoor carpenter ants are usually dull red and black. Their preferred diet consists of eating other insects and sweet foods. These ants don't sting, but they can bite.
However, that's not the main reason you'll want to keep your eye out for carpenter ants. They can cause worrisome damage to structures by weakening wood. Although the carpenter ants don't eat the wood, they do burrow through dead wood to create nests.
They can be found nesting in the cracks and crevices of just about any dead, moist, or decaying wood – which, unfortunately for us, can include spots like wood siding, beams, and shingles. If you notice small piles of wood shavings that look like sawdust, then carpenter ants may be your culprits.
4. Acrobat ant
One local species that is often confused with the carpenter ant is the acrobat ant, of the Crematogaster species. In addition to having similar coloring to the carpenter ant, the acrobat ant also has a habit of using buildings as an alternative for its usual outdoor wooded habitat.
A close examination is necessary to identify them accurately. Acrobat ants enjoy feasting on insects as well as the sweet liquid byproduct of the aphid insect. That translates into them hunting for sweets and meats when they invade your home.
5. Crazy ant
In Texas, you may also encounter the crazy ant, Paratrechina longicornis. This aptly named species of ant is well known for its fast, erratic, and – you guessed it – crazy movements. Crazy ants are small, dark grey/black in color, and have extremely long antennae.
Although crazy ants nest in the soil under outdoor items like logs and rocks, they will trespass in your home to hunt for food. These ants have a broad diet and will feed on most things from insect larvae to sweets to grease and more.
While there are many other species of ant in Texas, these are typically the most prevalent. If you are having trouble determining exactly which species of ant you are encountering, then call a professional pest specialist before you take any action.
How do you get rid of them?
To get started on solving your ant problem, you must first identify which ant is your problem. Determining which species of ant you are up against is critical for treatment and removal. As we discussed above, different species of ants nest in different habitats and eat different foods.
If at all possible, try to collect a specimen or two safely. Keep them stored in a sealed baggie while you examine their physical characteristics. Our strong recommendation is that you enlist the help of a professional in identifying the ant species.
2. Follow the Trail
You may have noticed that ants are fond of walking in straight lines as if they were following a trail. Well, in fact, they more or less are following a trail – a scent trail.
These lines help the ants hunt for food without losing their way back to the nest. While not all ant species exhibit this behavior if you see an ant trail…follow it! The ants will eventually lead you to their source – either where they are permeating your home, or they may lead you to their nest.
If you can’t find any trail, you’ll have to search as best you can for the source. If your ant problem is in your yard, search for a visible mound or check under rocks, logs, or yard items. Without a trail to follow, your best bet is calling in a professional pest control specialist.
PLEASE be cautious while following ants and searching for nests!
3. Solving the Problem
Bravo! If you've made it this far, that means you successfully found the source of your ant problem, and you're on the right path to the solution. That part isn’t easy! It is now imperative to properly treat problem areas so that, ideally, the ants do not return.
If you discovered where the ants are entering your house, then you need to close off the entry point. You may need to caulk a crack or close a hole, but be sure to seal the entry point tightly and properly. You want to ensure the ants can't ever enter your home that way again.
If you also found the nest of the colony, your best option is to use bait. Choosing the correct bait can be difficult because different species eat different foods, and the diets of ants change year-round based on the activity of the colony. When winter's cold lets up, ants become more active and try to increase their population numbers.
During this time of expansion, ants will eat more and change what they eat to boost growth. Ants are much less active in cold temperatures, and they eat only to sustain themselves. All of this means that, without expert help, it can be challenging to know which bait to use at the right time.
Our recommendation is to do your research on your specific ant problem to find the best bait for the situation.
Otherwise, to try to cover all your bases, it can be helpful to use a bait that has a blend of different foods for different species and different seasons.
While baiting, try not to go overboard; your goal should be a light powdering, not a blizzard. Using too much bait is not good for the local environment and will not make a difference to the ants. It is also a good idea to team up with your neighbors and time your treatments together.
If you all treat simultaneously, the odds improve that the ants will be eradicated from the area and not keep relocating around.
4. Recheck and Prevent
Be sure to keep an eye on old nesting grounds that you have previously unearthed. The best way to prevent a major recurrence in the future is to monitor old nests for any returning ants. You should also be careful to avoid creating situations on your property that attract ants.
Avoid leaving open food sources out, don’t over mulch, keep your trees trimmed, remove dead or decaying wood from your yard, and check your home and foundation for cracks or holes.
The best form of prevention is working with a certified pest control specialist to protect your family and your property from future infestations.
How Gecko Green can help
At Gecko Green, we can expertly handle your ant problems from start to finish. We are equipped with the best products and powered by the best certified pest control specialists in the industry. Ant nests can be hidden just about anywhere, so take the guesswork out of solving your ant problem.
Get it solved right with our guaranteed services. Call us today for a free quote!
“Gecko Green can keep the ants out of your plants so call us today!”
Chief Security Officer