Getting Rid Of Ants
Getting rid of ants is one of the easier home pest control duties you can do. Just bear in mind that it’s not always straight forward. The common Garden or Black Ant (Lasius niger) can be a persistent nuisance for many, especially through the summer months. This species of ant does not bite or sting and is not associated with spreading pathogens. Therefore, having Garden Ants in your home will not present a risk to your health. Should you wish to practice your own ant control, you can do so with little cost.
Garden Ants live in colonies or “nests”. Each nest will have a Queen and several hundred workers. Large nests may have workers numbering into the thousands. The Queen is approximately 15mm in length and her sole purpose is to lay eggs. The workers are typically 4-5mm in length and their tasks are building/maintaining the nest and gathering food. It is their desire for sweet/sugary foods that bring these ants into contact with humans.
Worker ants will leave the nest each day to forage for food. When they find a suitable food source, the worker will return to the nest leaving a scent (pheromone) trail by tapping its abdomen on whatever surface it is travelling upon. Other workers will pick up on this scent trail and before long, you will have a constant stream of ants travelling between the nest and the food source.
Garden Ants like to build their nests in well-drained soil, typically with a high sand content. This explains why paved gardens are prone to Garden Ant activity. They can be quite intuitive and take advantage of other nesting places such as rotten timber, brickwork (tunneling into mortar) and even in large plant pots. Getting rid of ants successfully involves keeping an open mind when searching for the nest!
During mid to late summer, newly hatched queen and drone (male) ants will leave the nest en-mass. These ants are winged and are commonly called “Flying Ants”. Theses ants will mate whilst flying – show offs! And shortly afterwards the males will die, the queens will return to earth, shed their wings and look for a suitable place to start a new nest.
Killing ants in your garden can be a thankless task and, if they are not entering your home and causing a nuisance, are best left alone. If they are causing a nuisance, your first plan of your ant control action should be to try and locate the nests. It is quite common to have more than one nest in the average garden. Look for sandy deposits in cracks and gaps amongst any paving. Nest entrances look like mini volcanoes of sand with a small hole in the center.
There are likely to be several entrance holes for one nest. Check under plant pots, around the base of your walls and beneath any long-standing garden junk (old pieces of timber, planks, bags of waste/cuttings, etc). If you have a stream of ants marching to and from your kitchen, try and follow them (keep in step) to reveal where their nest is.
Ant Control With Insecticide
Using a low-pressure sprayer, like those used for applying weed killer, place the sprayer nozzle directly into the nest entrance hole and apply the spray. Be careful not to over-pressurize your sprayer. You just need a gentle flow of liquid and gravity will ensure the insecticide reaches the bottom of the nest. Too much pressure and you risk “blast-back” as the spray rebounds off the ground to drench your face. Make sure you are wearing the correct protective equipment indicated on the product label, usually a mask, goggles and gloves. You should see that the nest has been flooded when the insecticide starts to bubble out of the other entrance holes. Bare in mind that the nest can have many chambers and tunnels underground so wait for a few seconds and apply the spray again to make sure that as much of the nest as possible is flooded by the insecticide. Surface spraying in the garden is not advised as the insecticide is not discriminating in its action and will kill any insect that comes into contact with it (remember, this is ant control not bug armageddon). The insecticide will also be broken down at the molecular level by sunlight UV and rainwater and so will have no long lasting effect.
If you cannot locate any nest, the only ant control option available to you is to create a barrier along your building perimeter to deter the ants from entering. You can use the same water-based insecticide for this, or you can use an insecticide powder. The powders have a much longer life than the sprays but are unsightly and rather messy. Both the insecticide spray and powder will kill any ants that come into contact with them but the powders also create a physical barrier and most ants will detect the powder and choose not to cross it. To create your barrier, look for any possible entry points in your home, these could be under doors, around pipes, cracks in window frames/skirting and through ventilation bricks. Apply your insecticide (powder or spray) on the inside and outside at each point. Be aware that the external barrier will need to be replenished after any rain. If you are using a powder, try not to go over the top and just use a light dusting, as there will come a time when you will want to remove it.
Ant control can be an ongoing problem principally because they nest outdoors and any treatment is liable to be neutralized by adverse weather. With this in mind, be sure to check your local weather forecast before you start your treatment.