Warm spring air makes us all want to get outside and move around more (even if we are under directives to stay away from our fellow man to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic). But while humans we are currently limited in what we can do, insects have no restrictions, and, just like us, the warm weather means that they are out looking for food and new places to call home.
That, in turn, means that, right now, you need to be vigilant for signs of insects mistaking your home for a buffet or new dwelling. And if you do see signs, you need to respond immediately, as waiting only makes it harder to evict the insects in the end.
This is especially true for ants in Georgia.
There numerous ant species in our state, and, while most of them carry very little immediate threat to your home or family (or wallet), there are also some very real nuisances that you should be aware of and know how to respond to should you see them in or around your residence.
Let’s take a look at each nuisance ant by species.
There is a good chance you already know a little about these destructive critters. If carpenter ants take up residence in your home, they are not only hard to eradicate but can do an expensive amount of damage to the very structure of your home.
In Georgia, there are two important pest species of carpenter ant: the black carpenter ant and the Florida carpenter ant. Black carpenter ants are dull black in color – and, if you look at them in an extreme close-up, their abdomens are covered with yellowish hairs. Meanwhile, the Florida carpenter ant has a deep reddish-colored head and thorax (middle section) and a shiny black abdomen.
Florida carpenter ants are most common in southern and southeastern Georgia. Here in north Georgia, we mainly see the black carpenter ant.
(It is also worth noting that size is not always an accurate indicator of ant species – this is because ants from a single carpenter ant colony may vary greatly in size.)
Carpenter ants are most active from late spring (May/June) to early fall (September/October). They most often emerge from their nests at night, about 15 minutes after sundown, traveling in large numbers up to hundreds of feet between nests. They construct and follow pathways to feeding sites.
Carpenter ants do not eat the wood they chew up to make nests, instead they can consume a wide range of things, including honeydew (which is secreted by aphids and scale insects) when outside or meats, fats and sweet foods when inside your home.
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These pests can establish nests inside and/or outside your home. And what they almost always look for is a water source, so be careful of continuously damp wood anywhere around or in your home – such as moisture-damaged wood around chimneys and skylights, under bathtubs, inside dishwasher walls, and in moisture-damaged eaves. They have also been known to nest in wall voids beneath windowsills, inside hollow doors and door frames, under fiberglass insulation in crawlspaces and in wall voids, in wooden porch supports and columns, under siding and wood shingles. All carpenter ant nests are notable for the sawdust that they produce and expunge, called “frass.” You will immediately notice it, as they push it out of the nest through holes, and it accumulates quite quickly.
If you do discover a carpenter ant nest, insecticidal baits are the preferred method for controlling carpenter ants. Place bait stations in areas where ants have been seen or where they are most likely to be encountered by foraging ants.
For outdoor nests, deploy gel baits in two or three quarter-sized areas where ants have been seen. The best time to do so is in the evening or at night so that other ant species (that are not nocturnal) do not eat the bait before the carpenter ants become active.
To discourage carpenter ants from taking up residence in your home eliminate sources of excess moisture: Repair leaks around attic vents, pipes, sinks, chimneys, and skylights. Replace water-damaged wood. Also, keep tree limbs away from your home. Foraging carpenter ants often enter structures by bridging to roofs and siding from tree branches in contact with these surfaces.
If you face an ongoing infestation of carpenter ants, it may best to hire a pest management professional, as they will have the experience and knowledge of where to locate the source of the infestation.
By far the most common nuisance ant in Georgia, fire ants aren’t native to Georgia (likely, they were imported from South America), but they have, unfortunately, made our state their home.
Anyone who has accidentally disturbed a fire ant nest knows how aggressive they are and how painful their bite is. That’s because they work as a collective group to attack and inflict as much harm as possible to invaders. Fire ants pose a significant threat to small pets, children, and people with fire ant venom allergies. Fire ant attacks can even prove deadly if the conditions are right and, therefore, should be taken very seriously.
Fire ant nests are distinctive by the red clay piles they excavate on top of them – which can be huge, sometimes measuring two feet in diameter and three feet in height. However, the majority of the nest is located underground.
Fire ants won’t typically build a nest in your home but may forage for food and water inside before returning outdoors to their nests if they find access points.
The most effective method of destroying a fire ant colony is through the two-step method of baiting and mound drench. Employing fire ant bait – available at any common hardware store – will serve to kill the queen in the colony, which effectively destroys the colony as a functioning unit. Bait will also kill many of the other ants in the colony but may take some time to come to full effect.
Meanwhile, the drench method will also kill an entire colony, and can do so within minutes, provided you follow the directions fully and properly. To do this you will need concentrated fire ant insecticide, that is also easily purchased at your local hardware store.
You may also utilize natural insecticides, such as boiling water, dish soap, diatomaceous earth, baking soda, white vinegar, peppermint essential oil or cayenne pepper. NOTE: Do not apply diatomaceous earth to counters, open or drafty areas or anywhere food is prepared. Apply in thin layers and wipe up any visible residue immediately. Always read and follow label directions for safe use of any pesticide.
If you experience a vast and multi-mound invasion of fire ants, it might be a good idea to call a professional pest control contractor to handle the job thoroughly and quickly.
These tiny pests actually carry a substantial threat, as they are common carriers of infectious disease.
Pharaoh ants are only around 1/16 of an inch in length, are light-yellow to red in color, are nearly transparent, and are most common in the southeast.
They are known for infesting many different types of structures.
They forage in search of food such as sugar, meat, dead insects, and grease. One of the leading causes of these ants in uncleanliness in and around your home.
If you suspect that pharaoh ants have infested your home, you should eliminate them immediately and take steps to ensure they do not return by maintaining a clean structure.
Baiting is the only effective method of exterminating pharaoh ants – residual sprays do not work – and baits must be placed systematically (not randomly). To do this locate pharaoh ant trails, which are typically made along the edges of door moldings and baseboards, and underneath carpet edges.
Effective baits may be purchased at a hardware store.
Please understand that, in buildings with a severe infestation, total elimination may take up to a year of consistent baiting.
If you are running out of patience, or do not have time to handle consistent baiting, it is best to call a pest control professional.
Crazy Ants or Rasberry Ants
Crazy ants, also referred to as Raspberry ants or tawny crazy ants, are twice as big as pharaoh ants at 1/8 of an inch. An up-close look reveals a brownish-red ant with light-colored bands on its abdomen. They also only have one node between their thorax and abdomen. They also have extremely long antennae and extra-long legs for their body size. They also display erratic and rapid movements, making them look “crazy” as compared to other ant species.
These ants are able to withstand the sting from fire ants and therefore invade and slowly take over fire ant mounds.
Crazy ants hurt the environment because they eat and reduce arthropods, such as spiders and centipedes, which are a primary food source for birds.
Crazy ants can get into anything. In fact, they are even attracted to electronics, which they can cause to short-circuit.
If you locate a crazy ant mound, utilize the drench method with insecticide. You may also utilize a preventative spray or granules around the perimeter of your home to keep them out of your home.
Argentine ants are light to dark brown and range from 1/8 to 1/12 of an inch. These ants have a single node between their abdomen and thorax and only a slight elbow in their antennae.
Argentine ants amass huge colonies with multiple queens and will split their colonies quickly in the face of a perceived threat.
Like many other ants, they love a moist area, and they can become quite a nuisance when they nest near a foundation wall and find an entry point to get inside. Therefore, make sure you seal them out. Fill any cracks or crevices in your foundation. Omnivorous, argentine ants can feed off a wide range of foods.
If you find an outdoor colony near your home, utilize the drenching method with an insecticide. However, if you find a colony inside your home it is better to utilize bait, as sprays may cause it to split into further colonies.
As with any and all ant colonies, the amount of time and energy you have to devote to the problem is the key. All of these pests can be treated in a do-it-yourself manner. However, time knowledge and experience are also key in permanently ridding yourself of these pests, which means that it may be best to contact a pest control professional.