Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org
After being inactive over the winter, worker ants emerge from colonies underground in search of food to feed the newly hatched larvae in the nest. The workers fan out in all directions looking for food and can become nuisance pests if the food is found inside the building. When a good food source is found, the ant leaves a chemical trail so the other workers can find the food source too.
Begin addressing an ant problem with proper identification. Carpenter ants are large black ants that can be destructive to buildings, whereas the many species of small household nuisance ants, such as pavement ants, tend to invade kitchen sinks, cabinets and other places with a variety of food sources, preferably sweets. Then use the steps of integrated pest management (IPM) to manage a nuisance ant problem before it gets out of hand. Key steps are provided below.
- Eliminate access to food, water and shelter. Clean up spills and crumbs. Keep food in sealed containers. Don't leave food (or pet food) out overnight. Fix leaky pipes, dripping faucets, and other sources of water. Caulk cracks and crevices. Repair screens.
- Report the pest problem to the facility's director and/or the pest management professional. Follow the ant trails to see how they are getting inside and what foods they are going after. Squish or vacuum up visible ants (be sure to seal and discard the vacuum bag!). Use vinegar and water or soapy water to wipe up chemical trails.
- If the prevention and control measures listed above do not solve the problem, talk with your director and/or pest management professional about using a less risky pesticide, such as enclosed, tamper-proof baits. Be sure they are kept out of the reach of children!