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HomeHomes
Published: Thursday, 3/23/2006

How to Win the War on Ants

Every spring, homeowners across the U.S. take to the hills -- the ant hills.

Defending your home, yard, and the ones you love from a formidable enemy -- the ant -- can be like a grown up game of King of the Hill. It s you or the ant. Fortunately, homeowners everywhere can confidently do battle using modern, effective weaponry and the latest tactics against those pesky ants. Here is an easy-to-implement battle plan designed to defend your camp -- and ultimately win the war.

There are two basic ways to get rid of ants, says Stewart Clark, technical director of Senoret Chemical Company, makers of TERRO brands, the country s leading ant control treatments. Aerosol sprays will show immediate results, but the ants will quickly return because the colony has not been destroyed. Using liquid bait delivers a more long-term solution because you are using the ants as a delivery system to attack the queen in her nest.

Liquid baits are surprisingly simple in the way they work. As the ant foragers from the colony look for food, they are attracted to the sweet liquid in the baits. Unwittingly, they consume the liquid and carry it back to the colony to share. The result is the elimination of the colony -- and your ant problems.

There are more than 550 species of ant in the United States. Depending on the species and their age, ants will seek out a variety of sweets, grease, starch or protein. Some varieties even feed on other insects. Ants are usually just a nuisance, but there are some species that can create bigger problems, such as the destruction of wood or the painful sting of the fire ant.

Inspecting Your Barracks

Start an inspection in the area where the ants are first noticed. Common indoor locations of ant activity are the kitchen, laundry room and the bathroom. These rooms tend to cater directly to what the ant is looking for: moisture, food and warmth. Once an ant is found, the hunt is on. Instead of killing the ant, follow it. Since worker ants are sent out from the main colony in search of moisture and food to bring back, following an ant is a sure way to find out how they are entering the house. Look for ants that are carrying small bits of food, or ants that are leaving a placement of bait. For this, a bright flashlight and patience are needed.

During the search phase, make sure to store all food in airtight containers, wipe up crumbs and keep counters clean. Ants will find a way into your pet s food, so create a moat by putting the pet s bowl in a larger, shallow saucer of water to prevent the ants from gaining access to the food.

Set a Trap for the Enemy

The first, and sometimes the only, treatment step needed to control ants is to bait the ant with liquid ant bait, available at most hardware and home-improvement chains. The small plastic trays filled with sweet liquid attract ants quickly. This liquid is then distributed to other ants, including the queen. Baiting is the best way to control ants -- the ants do the work, and there is no need for exposure to harsh chemical sprays.

Place a liquid ant bait station close to where ants are located indoors. Using the bait station eliminates the problem of the bait drying out, and gives the ants a continuous supply of liquid, day and night. Liquid ant baits are specifically designed to kill the worker ant in two or three days. This slow kill is needed to allow time for the foraging ants to make several trips to the bait, and deliver enough bait to the rest of the colony. On days four and five, there should be a significant decrease in the number of ants visiting the bait.

Inspect Your Camp s Perimeter

It s important to eliminate easy, obvious places where ants can enter the home. Seal any noticeable cracks or holes where ants are entering the house, especially large carpenter ants. Remove any firewood, bricks, branches or other debris that are close to the foundation outside. These serve as harborage sites for ant colonies. Trim all trees or shrubs that are close to the house. Remove or repair all outside sources of moisture such as leaking gutters, hoses, faucets and faulty sprinklers.

When searching for ants outside the home, look for ant highways or foraging trails. These trails are simply a line of marching ants that leads from their home to yours. Often, these trails are most active during the morning or evening. Walk around the perimeter of the house and carefully check for ant trails. Pull back the garden mulch, turn over rocks, or look under pieces of wood in order to locate activity. Inspect around all potential entry points including windows, doors, exhaust vents, faucets, sliding glass doors and driveway cracks. Also check for ants trailing up the sides of the building or along gutters. Remember: leaves and tree limbs in contact with a house are always special hot spots for damaging carpenter ants.

Still Marching One by One?

Since most ant infestations are linked to a colony that is actually located underground outside the house, setting up a preventive barrier around a house may be needed to keep a home ant-free. Once a house has been baited inside for at least a week, begin applying an outdoor granular or ant dust product around the perimeter of the house.

Whatever you do, says Clark, try to minimize any disturbance to the nest itself. When there s an outside threat to a colony, the colony may split into several colonies, which can make the problem harder to resolve. Remember, also, that there are no immediate fixes for an ant problem, but patience and diligence can pay off.



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