Summer is a beautiful season, you can go to the beach, you can spend a lot of time outdoors and enjoy the garden. It’s practically an idyll. Too bad, however, that to ruin all this there are those hateful insects that ruin the summer evenings, indeed, with the arrival of the tiger mosquito even the days. But we are forgetting what is a real nightmare throughout the year, even more so in summer: carpenter ants in the house. This little insect can, despite its size, make our life a real hell.
There is ant
Who hasn’t happened to be dealing with ants? Well, if you have been a little careful you will have noticed that ants are not all the same, all annoying and pests, but with very different characteristics and habits. Among all pests, ants are certainly among the most common, but as we said, each species of ant has different characteristics and habits and this can be very useful not only to keep them away from our house, but also to prevent their invasion.
Just to have an idea of who we are dealing with, we need to know that ants live well structured in colonies. The queen lays her eggs, while the workers go to get food for the winter. In each colony, depending on the species, there may be more queens, whilst the males have a mere reproductive function and therefore have a decidedly short life. But why ants in the house? The correct question is another: who bothers us? The queen? No. The males? No. It’s the workers who invade our home in search of food to take to the anthill. Clearly for them it’s about survival, for us it’s a big nuisance since they can damage wooden parts of the house and ruin our food.
When you notice that black line
If you see an ant, maybe you don’t have a real problem. If you see a row of ants, you certainly have a big problem. Now all you have to do is figure out where they come from and what kind they are. Obviously you don’t have to be an expert entomologist, but you need to have an idea of who you have at home to convince him to leave. The guest who most frequently enters without being invited is the black ant, the Lasius niger which is the garden ant and the Ochetellus, also known as the house ant. There are, however, other species that do not put too many problems to enter your house, but let’s say that this one, at least here in Italy, is the most common. You may find it in plants, in saucers, but it’s not eating the plant! Hence the misunderstanding: many people think that ants come because of the plants and then get rid of green and flowering plants with the hope of eliminating and preventing their presence. Wrong. Ants go on plants because they love the sap that secrete aphids, but if they are in your house they will try to make provisions for the winter.
We know these two species of ants better.
Ochetellus, the black ant of the house. This ant has a black color, is shiny and has a length of about 3 mm maximum. An individual, from the hatching of the egg, takes about 6 weeks to become an adult. But why are they invading the house? Because they eat our leftovers, our supplies and even the food of the dog or cat. In fact, they can also appreciate the proximity of any animal excrement, so these ants could also carry pathogens, such as salmonella. Moreover, this insect is particularly fond of sugar, so refined sugar, cane sugar, but also fruit, carbohydrates, cereals, snacks, bread, in short, all foods containing sugar are irresistible to her! So how can we get rid of this ant? The most effective way is to find out where the colony is and act directly on it.
Lasius niger, black garden ant. The black garden ant is the other very common species of ants that can get very annoying in and out of the house. This insect has a length of about 5 mm maximum, but the queen gets to be very big reaching up to 15 mm. The colour is black, but also brownish, so it remains slightly lighter than house ants. Also these ants, however, are particularly gluttonous of sugary substances although they do not disdain proteins, therefore meat, fish, legumes. The workers look for food and mark the path to follow in order to reach the goal, that is, the identified food. In this way the long black processions of workers who go to collect food for the winter are formed, creating what for us is a real torment. The nest of the black garden ants is usually found outdoors, but they can also be found under the floors, they prefer sunny areas.
Solenopsis spp, the fire ant. Although this species is less widespread than the black ant, it is spreading with a certain rapidity in agricultural and residential areas, perhaps preferring those outside the urban centre with higher traffic and population density. This is a very unpleasant ant. In fact, if its “colleagues” are only annoying or potentially dangerous to human health under certain conditions, the fire ant stings and irritates, which is not pleasant. The insect has a length of about 6 mm maximum and has a brown colour tending to copper but darker on the belly. Why are they unpleasant ants? Because they are particularly aggressive and can sting if disturbed. The sting is painful and after a couple of days it causes blisters on the sting site. They are particularly fond of meat, even dead animals, insects, invertebrates, but they also stock up on food containing fat and sugar. Usually the anthill is well visible, usually an accumulation of earth of about 40 cm, but also tree trunks.
All these ants can become a real nightmare if they invade our spaces, that is why it is very important to prevent an infestation. In order to prevent the arrival of unwanted guests, including ants, we have to be very careful with food residues. We must always clean the kitchen with care, removing crumbs and closing the packages of pasta or rice, bread bags, jars of sugar and cheese, but we must also pay attention to the fruit, we check every day that there are no intruders. Let’s also clean the plants well and treat them against aphids. In the garden the same rule applies, if we eat outdoors we try to collect as much residue as possible. Also pay attention to your dog’s or cat’s bowl; ants may also be attracted by their food.
Where do ants come from?
When you discover ants in the house it is very important to know where they come from. Many people think that they must have nested at home, perhaps under a plant, but this is very unlikely. They are more likely to have their colony under the floor, especially if it’s wood flooring and you live in the countryside, but it’s more likely that the anthill is outside and the ants come into our house to look for food. All it takes is for one worker to catch their presence to send information to all the others, from there to the invasion is really a moment. But then how can we understand where they’re coming from? This is much easier than you think. You just have to look at them. Let’s look for the workers with the food collected and follow them, obviously they’re taking it to the anthill. If we follow them and find out that the anthill is far away, we can use tricks to make them lose track of our home. There are products on the market for this purpose, while less effective are those given as talcum powder or vinegar, although vinegar, if particularly odorous, can bother the ants and throw them off.
If we then see a crack in the wall and the ants coming out, that is certainly an obligatory passage for them. In this case, a little bit of cement, or if ever of putty, is enough to close the crack and block the way. Avoid drastic and risky solutions, it is really dangerous and it is not said to have the desired effect you can also eliminate ants without poison or aggressive chemicals.
Beware of DIY
If it is a small infestation of ants then you can try to stem the problem on your own, perhaps with ant traps, but the advice is to use specific products, whether chemical or biological. However, if the infestation was already widespread, or if it was in a place like the kitchen or the dining room of a restaurant or a bar counter, it would be good to intervene quickly to avoid serious problems that could be easily avoided.
If you find yourself in one of these cases the best thing to do is to call a pest control company that can intervene quickly and in a short time. First of all, then, you should monitor and assess the species of ants that are pests. On the basis of this we study the best strategy to eliminate the problem once and for all. An expert knows how best to use products that, when used by a private individual, could be risky, especially if there are animals or children at home. Greater attention must then be paid in public establishments where the presence of ants could also mean the closure of the premises, and in that case a targeted pest control plan must be studied.
As far as private homes are concerned, on the other hand, including gardens, a single intervention is usually sufficient to eliminate the infestation and ensure, even following the advice on prevention, that ants no longer invade our spaces. Every treatment carried out by a professional, even of chemical type, is always safe and aimed only at combating ants and does not create discomfort or damage to any wild or domestic animals that live near our house. Eliminating ants from home is not so difficult, if you know how!