Ants are insects with the highest level of organisation in animal societies. They belong to the family Formicidae and to the same order as bees and wasps – Hymenoptera. In human culture, ants serve as cuisine, medication, biological pest control agents, invasive species and even as pest species. Around 22,000 different ant species have been estimated to exist on our planet, colonising almost every landmass on Earth (except Antartica). That is why ant infestation is amongst the most common house pest problems that almost every home-owner faces at one time or another.
What Types of Ants Infest Homes?
In the UK, there are four types of ants which most commonly invade homes in search of food. These species are the black Garden ant, Pharaoh ant, Roger's ant and Ghost ant. Of course, there is always the possibility of other ant species being a nuisance, in such cases, you should contact a professional who can properly identify the type of pest you are dealing with.
What Do Ants Look Like?
- Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger) – the most common species in Europe. The garden ant workers are 3 to 5mm long with glossy black bodies.
- Pharaoh Ant (Monomorium pharaonis) - famous for being a major indoor nuisance, especially in hospitals. These ants are winged, small (2mm), yellow or light brown in colour, seeming almost transparent.
- Roger's Ant (Hypoponera punctatissima) – these ants are similar to Pharaoh ants in appearance. Workers are 2mm in length, light reddish brown in colour. Wingless.
- Ghost Ant (Tapinoma melanocephalum) – the smallest of the list, Ghost ants grow only 1.6mm long at best with semi-translucent bodies.
Where Do Ants Live?
Ants build complex nests where they store their food and ant larvae develop. These nests are usually outdoors but may be indoors too. Nests may be found in:
- the ground;
- cracks in pavement;
- wall cracks;
- under floors;
- under stones or logs;
- inside logs, hollow stems and acorns;
- under foundations;
What Do Ants Eat?
The ant diet varies according to the specific species, but common home intruders typically look for sugar, starches, fats and meats, including pet food. Many ants also feed to honeydew, a sweet substance produced by aphids and scale insects. Ants don't go after packed goods, they eat spilt, left out food or carcases of other insects.
What are the Signs of Ant Infestation?
Ants, unlike most pests, don't hide from humans, which makes their detection much easier. A good test is leaving pet food, sugar or grains to see if ants will come to gather it. However, a single specimen of these insects is not evidence of an infestation. In the case of Pharaoh ant infestation, detection might be easier due to the transparent trail of pheromones that the species leave behind. These trails are similar to the ones left by snails. Ant nests are harder to spot, especially if they are not in the soil where they just look like piles of dirt.
Are Ants a Health Hazard?
Ants are not disease carriers, but they can cause other hazardous situations. They can damage cables of appliances or any electric wires, which on occasion can result in electric blackouts, phone and computer networks damage or cause fire.
How to Prevent Ant Infestation?
The key to ant prevention is not leaving any food sources. Ants are food gatherers if there is no food to gather they will not be present in your home. Bear in mind that ants can climb on anything, which makes them experts on hard-to-reach areas. An open box of cereal in the cupboard or pantry could become an infestation source. Be sure to keep kitchen and eating areas clean of any crumbs or food parts left out, as these are enough to spark up an infestation.
How Can I get Rid of Ants?
Starting with the prevention section – make sure there's no food to attract an ant infestation. Keep all food in sealed containers or packages, while regularly cleaning the house of any food particles. In cases of Pharaoh ant infestation, sweeping the floor is a must in order to ensure that their pheromone trails are removed. There are solutions to common ant infestation that can be store-bought, but getting rid of ant nests is harder especially without any professional help or guidance. Be sure to advise with an ant exterminator before taking any action. Especially if you are not sure about the species of ants you are dealing with. Keep in mind many companies offer free quotes and pest identification.