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Identifying Ants in Your Home

antAnts are one of the most common household pests in the U.S. They’re found in kitchens, bathrooms, and basements from Florida to Washington and everywhere in between but the good news is, they’re relatively easy to eradicate! Knowing a thing or two about the kind of ant infestations you’re likely to have and what to do when you see bugs can mean fewer bites, less stolen food, and a cleaner home.

Common Types of Ants

There are dozens of species of ants native to the U.S. but only a few of them are common household pests. The three most-often treated home invading ants are carpenter ants, odorous house ants, and pavement ants.

Carpenter Ants: Carpenter ants aren’t just unsightly, they can actually cause structural damage to your home as they feed on wood much like termites. They’re characterized by their smooth midsections although they come in many colors and sizes.

Odorous House Ants: Odorous house ants are tiny in size, usually brown or black, and they’re so named because they smell like rotten fruit when crushed. They’re difficult to spot unless they’re in a group.

Pavement Ants: Pavement ants are medium-sized, usually about 2-3mm long, and vary from light brown to black. They have miniature pincers attached to their head so if they bite you, you’ll feel it!


A Few Facts About Ants

ant colonyNo matter what the species of ant you’re dealing with they’re likely to be fast moving and highly-invasive. Here are a few more things to keep in mind about ants when you’re fighting an infestation:

  • Ants usually find their way inside when seeking water or sweet, grassy food sources
  • Ant colonies are huge, between 300,000-500,000 ants, and can uproot themselves quickly
  • The average colony ant lives 7 years while some queens can live up to 15 years!
  • By the time you see an ant indoors they’ve likely traveled hundreds of yards from their colony


Identifying Ants at Home

So, how do you tell if you’ve got ants? Well, the easiest way is to see the ants as they move throughout your home, typically in the kitchen area as they search for a snack. And don’t assume because you’ve killed the few ants you can see the problem is solved…in most cases there are tens or hundreds of thousands more ants back in the nearby colony.

Carpenter ant infestations leave other tell-tale signs behind. As the carpenter ants feed they leave small holes in wood and even wood shavings that are visible with the naked eye. In many cases people confuse a carpenter ant infestation with a termite problem and vice versa, so if you notice signs of wood-eating pests be sure to call an exterminator right away.

Lastly, in some cases people don’t realize they have an ant problem until they notice ant bites on their skin. Some species like fire ants leave huge red welts on the skin as well as a lot of pain, but other smaller types such as the moisture ant leave little more than a small red bump. If you notice unidentified bug bites on your skin, particularly after waking, call in a pest professional.


Getting Rid of Ants

If you suspect you have an ant problem it’s probably best to call in a professional. There are, of course, several home remedies you can try first to eliminate the issue but in all likelihood if you have continuous issues with ants, there’s a large colony in or under your home that will need to be dealt with professionally.

spray bottlesSome of the most common household treatments for ants include:

  1. First and foremost, pick up all food products from anywhere near the ground pantries and cabinets.
  2. Ants leave trails in your home for other ants to follow, so use a vinegar and water solution to erase said trails where you’ve found ants.
  3. You may put out a homemade “bait” for ants to take back to their colonies, but be sure you don’t concoct something so strong they don’t make it back!
  4. Finally, use a boric acid solution around doors and windows to create a barrier for entry for curious ants.

Of course, it’s usually easier and more effective to bring in a local ant control expert. Exterminators are equipped with large-grade tools and insecticides that are designed to kill whole colonies at once. If you have any doubt about identifying the ants in your home, call in a professional.