Ants are usually nuisance pests for the most part. While some can cause painful bites, the problem that most of us have with them is that they are where they should not be, or that there are just too many of them. But they can contaminate the food we eat and some may cause damage to our homes by building nests in wooden structural members.
There are many different species of ant and it may be necessary to collect a few of them to help you identify the species that you have before you can take them on.
Ants are social creatures that live in large colonies, some with millions of individual ants. All colonies include the queen whose job is to lay eggs, and workers who take care of and feed the queen and larvae. Workers will often travel great distances seeking food and water in order to feed their charges. When a food source is found, the foraging ants will leave odor trails for others. They can sometimes be observed traveling directly a long way between the nest and food.
Ants also produce swarmers; the winged ants that leave the home colony and fly off to start new nests. These guys are sometimes mistaken for termites, which is a scary thing for a homeowner to see in the home. But ants differ in appearance from termites in that they have bent antennae, and a pinched waist. Termites are the same shape from front to back, and have straight antennae.
While ants build their nests outdoors most of the time, they do sometimes build in the home. These are the most frustrating to deal with and often the most difficult to control. Some will come in the house searching for food, even though they nest outside.
The key to ant control is to get them all, especially the queen and the entire colony; not just the ones you see. Merely spraying the visible individuals will wipe out the nest. This is never the majority of the ants in a colony.
It can be impossible though to locate an indoor nest so that it can be destroyed. When hidden in walls or some inaccessible location, there is little chance of finding exactly where it is. If this is the case, control methods must be employed that are not dependent upon exactly locating the colony. This is when insecticide baits are the best choice for controlling them. Those that are foraging for food to take back to the rest of the colony will take the baits there where they can do the most damage. The queen and other colony members will feed on these poisons and often virtually all will be killed.
It's important to place baits where ants have been seen traveling and these should be the only control methods employed in these areas. The use of sprays or controls may prevent ants from reaching the baits and taking them back to their nests. Even if you see even more ants than you usually do around the baits (which is normal) you should refrain from spraying them. Let them all return to the nest with the bait and feed it to the others.
If your efforts to control indoor ants by yourself are unsuccessful, a professional may be required. They have a larger arsenal of products to use and can eliminate ants where your efforts may fall short.
Stephanie McIntyre has been a Platinum eBay Powerseller, an eBay Trading Assistant as well as an Educational Assistant trained by eBay. Her company, eSales Unlimited Inc. specializes in training small business owners in using eBay as an additional revenue stream. She maintains a site with information on selling on eBay.