Rid home of pesky ant invasions

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

There are approximately 10,000 different known species of ants living on our planet.

There are about 750 ant species commonly found in North America, but only less than 30 are commonly found in homes and structures. Some of them are public health threats and potentially dangerous to humans and animals.

Ants bite and sting, posting risk to human health, especially fire ants. Another rarely known fact is some ant species can also be the potential source of food-borne illness.

Several years ago, the University of Florida recovered pathogen bacteria from Pharaoh ants and fire ants after allowing them to eat dead roaches infested by the bacteria.

Ants do not eat wood, not a common concern of property damage. But the destructiveness of carpenter ants is well known. They nest in wood and damage lawns and defoliate leaves.

As for fire ants, they can actually undermine pavement on driveways, causing settling and cracking and consequential water damage.

The complexity of the variety of ant species, and different biology associated with each, make controlling them difficult. Therefore, correct identification is a must before considering control methods. Homeowners can fix ant problems if they are knowledgeable.

Unlike most household pests, ants are active 24 hours a day. They have specific food requirements and need water. They follow chemical trails in food searching. Most sources of ants are outside, so spray inside homes is not a good practice.

First know your target species and figure out where they are located. Then look for the bridges and tunnels they enter homes. Place ant baits (sugar–based or protein–based, depending on ant species) on or in the bridges and tunnels, let ants feed and be intoxicated. You may also destroy the bridges and tunnels to cut off the routes ants use to invade homes.

Information based on a article by Dr. Xing Ping Hu of Alabama Cooperative Extension System.