Controlling ants

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The rainy season can bring unwelcome visitors to your house…. Ants! Many ant species are actually beneficial; they improve the soil and are important natural enemies of insect pests, as well as recycle dead animal and plant material.

Pest species of ants can tunnel in wood, chew bark or plant parts, but are primarily landscape pests when protecting aphids, mealybugs, soft scale and whiteflies from predators and parasites.

Most ants are wingless workers that spend their time digging tunnels, foraging for food outside the nest, defending the colony and caring for the young. An important aspect of ant biology is food sharing (trophallaxis). As each ant meets another from the nest, they exchange a tiny droplet containing food and colony communication chemicals. Trophallaxis transports nutrients to nest-bound ants and directs workers to nearby food sources. Ant Baits take advantage of this food-sharing behavior to spread insecticide throughout the colony and poison ants in their nests.

Ants are sometimes confused with termites. Ants have a narrow waist, their antennae are elbowed and winged. Ants have hind wings that are much shorter than the forewings. Termites have a broad waist, antennae that are not elbowed and wings of equal length.

Argentine Ants are the most common in the bay area. They nest in moist soils and can quickly relocate nests in response to changes in food and weather. Each colony may have many queens that contribute to this species’ high reproductive capability.

Argentine populations increase greatly in mid-summer and early fall. They are most attracted to sweet baits. They also change their food preferences frequently so several different baits should be kept on hand. We carry Grant’s Ant Stakes, Bonide Ant Traps, Concern Diatomaceous Earth, Tanglefoot (and Tape) and Terro Ant Killer as solutions.

We have wonderful free handouts on “Controlling Ants in Your House” from “Our Water Our World”. This is a Water Pollution Prevention Program sponsored by the SFPUC and Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program that will help you prevent pests and diseases, and when you do have pests, etc., suggest environmentally friendly ways to handle those problems. Ask to see all the free handouts we carry.

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