Discover everything you need to know about ants in our guide below.
What Are Ants?
Ants are tiny insects from the family Formicidae. There are tens of thousands of different species of ants worldwide and an estimated 20 quadrillion individual ants on earth – or about 2.5 million ants for every human.
Ants are notoriously social creatures who live in large groups known as colonies. While they’re an essential part of the outdoor ecosystem, they can cause problems when they infest homes, yards, or other developed areas.
The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Ants
Native ants exist everywhere except for Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, parts of Polynesia, and a few of the most remote islands in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Ants can live in virtually any habitat, from the desert to the beach to a stretch of abandoned plumbing line in an urban environment.
Ants stand out from many other pests due to their highly developed social system. In ant colonies, it’s common for at least two generations to coexist and for the adult ants to care for the young. Ants are also divided into castes, with highly differentiated social roles and reproductive purposes.
Like other social insects, ants have a four-stage life cycle: egg, large, pupae, and adult. For most ants, the process takes about 60 days from start to finish. How long ants live also depends on their species and social position. Drones, for example, whose purpose is to impregnate queens, die within a few weeks, while sterile, worker females can live for as long as seven years.
When it comes to diet, ants are omnivorous. They consume everything from honeydew to other insects, small living or dead invertebrates, and fruits and tree sap. Their dietary preferences change seasonally and depend primarily on the ant species in question.
What Damage Do Ants Cause?
Ants can be a significant cause of home damage, especially when they nest inside wall voids, in lumber, or beneath concrete slabs or sidewalks. Carpenter ants, for example, excavate wood to build nests. Like termites, these ants can bore through a home’s beams, timbers, and other wood elements, causing extensive rot and structural instability.
Ants can also destroy outdoor landscapes, build large, mounded nests, consume garden fruits and vegetables, and damage ornamental plants.
Finally, some ants (like fire ants) can cause painful, stinging bites, and some even carry and transmit bacterial disease pathogens when they infest pantries or food preparation and storage areas.
How to Get Rid of Ants
Getting rid of ants can be complicated. This is because you must match your control methods to the species of ant present and the food sources those ants are currently consuming.
Generally, effective ant control programs include efforts like baiting, insecticide application, habitat modification, and sanitization.
We recommend starting with baits since they’re safer and more effective than insecticides. For best results, use boric acid baits formulated with a food base ants like, like sweets, grease, or protein. Place the baits in areas you’ve noticed ant activity and check them at least once a week.
Increase the efficacy of your baiting efforts by applying residual insecticide around high-traffic ant areas, including windows, baseboards, and cracks or crevices in or around your home.
If you can identify ant nests, treat them directly with the same insecticide. If the nests are outdoors, smash them or scrape them down before spraying them.
If your ant problems remain severe or you can’t resolve them with DIY efforts, contact a professional pest management team for help.
For a complete guide on how to get rid of ants, click here.
Sudden ant infestations mean that there is a food source somewhere. If the infestation is indoors, the culprit is likely human food, in the form of pantry spills, a messy kitchen, or easily available pet food. If the infestation is outdoors, the food source may be grease from a grill or fruits and vegetables from a garden. Cleaning up and removing the food source is the best way to reverse the infestation.
Unfortunately, ants are unlikely to go away on their own. If ants have infested your home or yard, it’s because they found favorable conditions there, and they’ll likely stay until you remove the food, moisture, or shelter that they’re seeking.
Today, there are a variety of plant- or essential oil-based insecticides that can kill ants instantly and prevent infestation for a month or more.