Years ago I received a call from a customer in the Gorge wanting pest control services for ants. I proceeded to ask her my standard line of questioning; where are they at? Inside … How big are they?
They are small…. not like a carpenter ant. Does it have a pungent odor when you squish them? “I don’t know… let me see. Suddenly she starts choking and making all kinds of weird noises… I ask if she’s ok and she said OMG… I just snorted the ant and it smells gross. Oh I felt terrible, I’d never had that happen before… from that point on when I asked someone to perform the squish and sniff test I always remind them to wipe the ant off their finger first!
Now why would I ever ask someone to do this? Well some ants have distinguishing odors like the odorous house and velvety tree ant and other ants don’t. Asking key questions over the phone, I got pretty good at figuring out what my customer had and the best way to achieve control. Take the odorous house ant for instance, they say when you squish one it smells like rotten coconut. I don’t know about you, but frankly I don’t go around smelling rotting coconuts, so I will just say it’s pungent. The odorous house ants are the ones commonly found invading your house, looking for sweets, proteins, sometimes even grease. They have multiple colonies and queens who call the shots on what to forage for in and around the structure. They have no shame where they decide to call home, a VCR, planter, computer system, in cabinets, under a bag of sugar, dish drainer, and even in a bag of russet potatoes. This is just the tip of the iceberg where these ants nest inside, outside areas are also limitless.
“I had ants in the spring and now they are gone!” We hear this often and even though they may not be “bugging” you inside, their colonies are happy and alive outside. This is were ants want to forage; they love aphids, mealy bugs, and scale, just to name a few. These insects produce honeydew which ants love and many ant species will herd aphids and milk them for this sweet nectar.
“If you spray will the ants be gone forever?” Unfortunately not forever, professionals have sprays that can eliminate colonies around your house, but when one colony disappears it’s only time before the mini “For Rent” sign comes out and another colony wants to move in. If you have ants inside don’t feed them, sanitation plays a big part in control. If you see a trail of ants, use disinfectants to remove the pheromone trail so other ants don’t know where to go for a food source. Ants have very keen senses, that sponge you used to wipe up the jelly from the PBJ sandwich you made will bring them coming out of the woodwork.
Outdoors, look at your trees and shrubs, if anything is touching the house.. trim it. Even garden hoses can make a smooth highway right into your house. Ants like the path of least resistance; they use less energy to forage for food.
“I’m going to do this myself!” You can, just remember a lot of over the counter products can make matters worse. Ants are as a colony looked at as intelligent because they can sense when something makes them sick, taste bad or starts killing them. When a multi queen colony feels threatened, some of the queens and brood will split off of the main nest and go somewhere else, this is called “budding”. Now instead of having ants in just one part of the house you have them in several locations. We had this happen at an apartment complex. The ants were misidentified and everyone was spraying. It started in one unit and by the time our company got the call, it had spread to all 16 units.
Ants are not all bad, they do have a purpose in the grand scheme of life, they just didn’t get them memo that we don’t like living with them.
Northwest Pest Control Inc.