What are ants?
Ants are one of the most common pests found living inside homes. Ants are social insects that live and work together in large groups. Within an ant colony, there are three different castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductives. Only the reproductive members of the ant colony are winged. Ants vary in color and size depending on their specific species. However, they are typically yellow, red, brown, or black in color, or sometimes a combination of several different colors. They range in size from very small to large.
The carpenter ant is the largest species of household-invading ant in our area, and the queens can grow from ¾ of an inch to 1 inch in length. All ants have three distinct body parts, a head, thorax, and abdomen and are all equipped with a pair of bent antennae. Ants are considered to be nuisance pests, but species like fire ants are actually quite dangerous. Others, such as carpenter ants, can be very destructive.
Unique physical characteristics or behaviors may help you to distinguish between different ant species.
Crazy ants move about in a frantic and disorganized manner.
Odorous house ants emit a very unpleasant, rotten coconut odor when threatened or crushed.
Fire ants attack perceived threats aggressively and in large numbers.
Are ants dangerous?
Ants have the potential to be dangerous in many different ways, depending on the species. They can be destructive to property, introduce diseases and bacteria into a home, and cause physical harm to people and pets. Carpenter ants are considered destructive pests due to the significant damages they can cause inside a home’s structural wood as they tunnel through in order to create their nests. Fire ants are highly aggressive and deliver a powerful sting that can be extremely painful to both people and pets. In some cases, their stings may trigger anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention.
Other species commonly found living in our area of North Dallas such as little black ants, pavement ants, and Argentine ants, are not dangerous and pose no significant risks to people or pets. However, they do have the potential to enter homes in large numbers, and when they do, contaminate food items and introduce bacteria.
Why do I have an ant problem?
Ants usually prefer to nest outdoors. They are particularly attracted to properties that offer them appropriate places to nest, along with easy access to food and water sources. Once an ant colony has decided that your property is a place to nest, it is only a matter of time before they find their way into your home as it provides them with a safe, temperature-controlled shelter and easier access to food and water sources. Ants will sometimes enter our homes when the weather outside is too harsh for them to live outdoors comfortably. Periods of heavy rain, drought, or weather conditions that are too hot or too cold can also drive ants indoors.
Things that attract ants to a property include gardens, clogged gutters, compost piles, open garbage cans, and pet food. Ants usually enter homes through cracks and crevices found in the foundation, or openings around windows, doors, and utilities they encounter. If you have any of these things on your property or have weaknesses in the exterior of your home, you may be more at risk for an ant infestation.
Where do ants nest?
When ants nest outdoors, they build their nests in a variety of places. In general, their nests can be found under trees, along fence lines, under mulch or landscaping ties, under piles of wood and other debris, and in other similar locations. Inside, ants nest under floors, behind walls, in insulation, inside structural wood (carpenter ants), in crawl spaces, near heating systems, and behind large appliances.
However, their preferred nesting place truly depends on the species of ant:
Fire ants build their nests in open, sunny areas and avoid building nests in wooded areas or where there is a lot of shade.
When nesting outdoors, carpenter ants often create their nests in damp areas underneath fall trees, tree stumps, or under woodpiles; inside, they create their nests inside the structural wood of homes.
The area that pavement ants prefer to nest can be deciphered from its name; these ants prefer nesting spots in the cracks and crevices found next to pavement, sidewalks, foundations, and concrete slabs.
How can I prevent future problems with ants?
Inspect your home's exterior, caulking any cracks or crevices found in your foundation or exterior walls.
Make sure that all window and door screens are intact.
Install weather stripping around all exterior windows and doors.
Place door sweeps on all exterior doors, especially basement doors.
Leave a stone barrier of at least 12 to 18 inches between your home’s foundation and any grass or mulch.
Eliminate water sources by ensuring that your gutters are free of clogs and that any leaky indoor or outdoor fixtures are repaired.
Make sure that trash cans have tight-fitting lids and are placed a distance away from the exterior walls of your home.