One of Earth’s most successful species, ants have colonized nearly every corner of the world, adapting to thrive in every environment except Antarctica’s frozen ice fields. With more than 12,500 species identified, ants account for 15% to 25% of Earth’s total animal biomass, making them one of the Earth’s most prolific species. Evolving from ancient wasps more than 120 million years ago, scientists attribute ants’ success to their highly developed social organization, remarkable adaptability and highly-honed survival instincts.
Like most insects, ants play an important role in nature. They pollinate plants, aerate the soil, feed on other insects and recycle dead organic material. It’s when ants invade our homes and businesses that they become a problem. Human habitats supply everything ants need to survive – food, water and shelter – providing a powerful attractant to foraging ants.
Once ants invade, it can be difficult to get rid of them. Their prodigious numbers and the secretive nest sites make elimination problematic. To effectively exterminate ants, the entire colony, including the well-protected queen, must perish. Extermination is made more difficult when people treat invading ants with home or garden pesticides before calling a pest control professional. Such treatments cause ant colonies to move from known locations or fragment into multiple colonies making extermination more difficult. Professional pest control experts like Allison Pest Control have the professional expertise and experience needed to successfully exterminate ant infestations in New Jersey homes and businesses.
Ants have six legs, elbowed antennae and bodies divided into three distinct segments. The head and usually larger abdomen are separated by a narrow thorax, giving ants their distinctive “wasp waist” appearance. While the majority of ants are black or brown, red and yellow shadings are common. New Jersey ant species range in size from the minuscule 1/16-inch pharaoh ant to 3/4-inch carpenter ants with the average worker ant being 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. Ants’ small size can make species differentiation difficult. Allison Pest Control technicians are specially trained to identify ant species and determine the most effective extermination treatment.
Most active during the spring and summer, ants live in large, strictly-defined hierarchical societies. Evolving via metamorphosis, ants develop from eggs to larva to pupae before emerging from their cocoons as fully-developed adults two months later. Ants emerge as either workers or winged reproductives. The majority of ants are sterile, female workers whose job it is to care for the colony. Worker ants forage for food, feed and groom the queen and other workers, maintain and defend the nest and care for young.
Winged reproductives are produced every three to six years when nests reach maturity or ant populations overwhelm available resources. Emerging from nests by the hundreds between March and July, “swarms” of winged ants pair up and take flight to establish new colonies. The male dies after mating while the female bites off her wings, lays her eggs and begins a new colony. Queens, which can live more than 20 years compared to a worker ant’s one- to three-year life span, spend the rest of their lives laying eggs to populate the colony.
Swarming ants can be confused with flying termites which also exhibit swarming behavior in the early spring and summer. The easiest way to tell them apart is by their wings. Ants have a longer front wing than hind wing while termites’ wings are the same size and nearly twice their body length. Ants also have a characteristic pinched waist and elbowed antennae. A swarm in a garden area or lawn is a sure indication of a large ant or termite nest nearby.
Not all ants expand their colonies by swarming. Some, like odorous house ants and pharaoh ants, use a process called “budding” in which a portion of a mature colony breaks away to establish a new nest. When ant colonies expand by budding, new nests are typically located close to the parent nest. Budding colonies also feature multiple queens allowing for an exponential explosion in ant populations.
Opportunistic feeders, ants are omnivores and will eat nearly anything humans eat. While they are particularly attracted to sweet foods and liquids, they will also eat meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, breads, fats, oils and dead insects. The sweet honeydew produced by sap-sucking aphids, scales and mealy bugs is a favorite food for most ants.
The Ant Habitat
Most ants build their nests in the ground, in rotting trees or logs, in mulch or leaf debris or under rocks and logs. However, ants are highly adaptable and can easily adjust to living in homes and buildings. Because they require moist conditions to survive, leaking pipes and damp foundations or crawl spaces attract ants. Ants need only the tiniest crack or crevice to gain entry into buildings. Foraging ants may follow electrical wires or plumbing pipes into homes and buildings, enter through tiny cracks in foundation walls or come in through doors or windows. Overhanging landscape plants and trees can provide “bridges” that allow foraging ants access to buildings.
Communicating via pheromones, foraging ants lay down scent trails to guide other workers to new food and water sources. Ant trails are one of the first signs of an ant problem and can help pest control professionals locate entry points and nest sites. Ants typically build their nests near food and water sources, making kitchens a favorite nest site. Nests are often located in wall voids particularly along sweating pipes, behind paneling, under countertops, in cabinets, behind baseboards, under flooring, in attics and have even been found inside furniture and under carpeting.
Protect Your NJ Home or Business from an Ant Invasion
To protect your home or business from invading ants, you must eliminate the things that attract them: food, water and shelter. Practice good sanitation in kitchen and eating areas. Repair leaking pipes and moisture issues. Remove debris, firewood and lumber piles from building areas to eliminate potential harborage sites. Trim overhanging trees and shrubbery and seal holes and cracks to eliminate access paths into buildings.
Effective elimination of an ant infestation in your home or business requires the expertise of a professional exterminator with demonstrated experience in ant control. Allison Pest Control professionals have the knowledge, expertise and experience to locate and destroy problem ants. Allison’s residential and commercial pest control plans can rid your home or business of problematic ant infestations and prevent ants from coming back.