Pavement ants are one of the most common indoor ant pests in the northeastern United States. These small brown or brownish-black ants make their nests under building foundations, sidewalks, patios or rocks — leaving characteristic mounds of soil nearby. Do they come inside? Oh, yes. You’ll find them indoors when they forage for sweets and high-protein foods — mostly at night.
Pavement ants are common indoor pests. They are usually noticed around sidewalks and stone work.
Did you know …?
Ant Fight: In the spring, neighboring pavement ant colonies sometimes duke it out on the sidewalk, killing hundreds of their neighbors.
Full House: Pavement ant colonies can have as many as 10,000 workers in a single nest.
Follow Me! Pavement ants use a chemical or pheromone trail to recruit nest mates to a food source.
Many ant species create nests in the ground, excavating soil in the process. Nests are often under or on sides of rocks, sidewalks, or cement slabs — which buffer them against temperature extremes.
Integrated pest management (IPM) helps prevent structural damage and home invasion. IPM steps includes ID’ing the nest, sanitation, and exclusion.
For instance, when you see tiny ants going back and forth to the same crumbs or splashed grease, clean the counter. Not only are you depriving them of food, you’re also wiping away that invisible pheromone trail.
If you put bait out, be sure you get the right one. A bait formulated for carpenter ants, for instance, won’t help you much.
Of the ant species that invade homes, carpenter ants cause considerable distress due to their large size. This is particularly true in the spring and early summer, when foraging ants may be found in many rooms within a home. While these foragers are not much more than a nuisance, it is the nearby ant nest that is alarming to homeowners. Especially since carpenter ants can damage wood.
Carpenter ants can be thought of as an indicator species, since they tend to nest in wood that is damaged by moisture. Their presence is suggestive of a roof leak, clogged gutters, poor drainage from the home, or other structural issues that result in water-damaged wood. When nests are found in homes, they are often satellite colonies of the larger nest that is located outdoors in rotting wood such as a tree stump. It should be noted that carpenter ants do not eat wood as food (like termites), but rather use the structure for nesting purposes.
As an urban entomologist, my home is a laboratory of pest management trial and error. This spring and summer I observed carpenter ants in one corner of my garage. On the workbench below, I would occasionally see a dead ant or some frass (the excavated wood and food-stuffs kicked out of the nest). It wasn’t long before common house spiders (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) discovered the ants and started to feed on them, adding to the carnage on my work bench.
House spider dining on a carpenter ant, with egg-sacs and newly-hatched spiders.
What’s left after a spider feeds on many ants.
As summer progressed, I decided the experiment was over and wanted to rid myself of what I believed to be a satellite ant colony. I inspected the area around the ant sightings, and in the very corner of the garage, in a recessed void, I found what I was looking for – a large pile of frass and many ants. With my vacuum in hand (the same one I’ve used for eliminating yellowjackets), I vacuumed up as many ants as possible, plugged the end and left the vacuum in the heat of the sun for two days. Problem solved! Now I just need to find the parent colony.
The spiders showed me exactly where the nest would be – the void in an upper corner of the workshop.
Carpenter ant frass includes sawdust and pieces of insects.
Carpenter ants are the most common ant pest found in the Northeastern United States. They cause structural damage when they excavate wood for nest sites. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but rather scavenge on dead insects and collect sugary secretions (“honeydew”) produced by other insects such as aphids. Carpenter ants are a nuisance pest when workers are spotted inside foraging for food and when winged swarmers are found inside.
Carpenter Ant Damage
Did You Know … ?
Wood is Not-So-Tasty: Carpenter ants tunnel through moisture-damaged wood and spit out wood shavings. The resulting waste piles look like sawdust and often include ant body parts.
A Numbers Game: There are approximately 24 species of carpenter ants that are pests in North America; nine of these species are present in the northeast.
Hanging Out: Carpenter ant larvae are clumped together by J-shaped hairs, and cling like Velcro to the roof of their galleries.
In late September and early October, on warm days, you may notice a buzz in the air. This is the time of year when citronella ants swarm, and they can overwhelm a backyard with winged queens and kings looking for a mate and a new home. Citronella ants are a bit larger than pavement ants and are yellow to amber in color. Winged swarmers are larger and darker in color with smoky tinted wings. When crushed, they smell just like a citronella candle.
Citronella ants care for, or tend, root aphids.
The life and habits of citronella ants aren’t well-studied, but they do have one fascinating trait. They tend herds of underground aphids, known as root aphids as if they were cattle, and harvesting sweet honeydew excreted by the sap-loving aphids. Root aphids feed on the roots of shrubs and plants, in my case flowering dogwoods. Root aphids may contribute to poor health of some plants, but they are extremely common and remain mostly undetectable beneath the soil.
Citronella ants are not a home-invading species of ant, although they may accidentally fly indoors during a mating flight. Swarmers may also end up indoors if the roots of shrubs have reached a structure foundation that, due to gaps or cracks, provides an exit into the building. Either way, these ants are not household pests, preferring to remain in their own habitat, tending their herds and minding their own business.
May 13, 2014
by Matt Frye Comments Off on Top 5 Pest Hangouts — in Your Kitchen
Spring! Time to fling open the windows, plant some flowers — and begin the annual tradition of spring-cleaning. But are you getting to all those places where pests find food, water, or shelter? Householders tend to overlook these five places. And they could be just the spots where pests come for a free meal or to catch a few zzzz’s.
Clean these often:
The Stove Top — or rather, the space right beneath it
Most cooks wipe down the top of the stove when they’ve fixed a meal. But what about the space under the stove lid? Here, spilled liquids, crumbs and other food materials can accumulate out of sight, providing food for rodents, cockroaches, and other pests.
Crumbs, spilled coffee, whatever — they’re easy to see and clean up on your countertops. But food particles and liquid can accumulate on the undersides of ledges too. So while you’re at it, wipe down those ledge undersides.
Toasters and toaster ovens are great hidey-holes for crumbs. Lots of crumbs. Just be safe when you clean — unplug the toaster. Then pull out the tray and wash it. For even better results, invert the device to shake out the crumbs or go at it with your vacuum cleaner.
Behind the Faucet
Behind the Faucet
The sink is our go-to place for cleaning dishes and utensils. But how often do we remember to clean behind the faucet or around its handles? Here, water and spilled food particles could make for the pest equivalent of the soup kitchen if not cleaned regularly.
The Trash Receptacle
Let’s face it — plastic bags are easy to tear. Too often, something we toss out tears the bag; then the combination of (for instance) food scraps and wet coffee ground means we’ve got stuff leaking out. The solution? Clean the receptacle when you take out the trash.
Carpenter ants are the most common ant pest found in the Northeastern United States.
Black Carpenter Ant
They cause structural damage when they excavate wood for nest sites.
Carpenter Ant Damage
Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but rather scavenge on dead insects and collect sugary secretions (“honeydew”) produced by other insects such as aphids. Carpenter ants are a nuisance pest when workers are spotted inside foraging for food and when winged swarmers are found inside.
April can fool you all month long. Even if your pest-prevention responsibilities lie mostly indoors where frost and rain rarely intrude — a school, an office building, a museum, your home — April has some tricks up her sleeve. Those perimeter pests, for example: wasps, bees, ants, termites. For many species of wasps and bees, queens are the only ones that survive the winter, so most likely you won’t see them making their solitary way in early spring. Take yellowjackets, paper wasps, and hornets. They’re out there scouting for nest sites — which means you should be scouting for them.
this starter nest is still small
Scope out entryways, porticos, eaves, and attics for small starter nests — it’s far easier to deal with a queen and a half-dozen workers now than a queen and 5,000 workers later. When you see a nest, knock it down with a broomstick, the spray nozzle on a hose, or even your kid’s Super Soaker. Then step on it. If using the broomstick, best done early on chilly mornings — wasps can’t move fast when it’s cool outside.
About yellowjackets — they’re really aggressive in defense of their nests. Not all species nest where you can see them. Some go underground — nesting in abandoned rodent burrows, for instance. Others find sneaky little holes leading into walls or attics. Get professional help — and never swat a yellowjacket (or any other wasp) — it releases alarm pheromones that call its kin to the scene. In the melee that follows you’re likely to get stung way more than you’d like.
Got bumblebees buzzing around your house? Most likely they’re carpenter bees, actually. Bumblebees look fuzzy; carpenter bees have shiny black bellies. Some are all-black.
Watch as they crawl in and out of their perfectly round holes — these bees are nature’s power drill. Though males will dive-bomb you if you move quickly, don’t be fooled (or frightened!): they can’t sting. Females (less often seen) can sting — but only if you work hard to provoke them. Though new nests are small, carpenter bees can do serious damage as subsequent generations bore deeper into wood to rear their young in turn. How to cope? Start here.
Worried you’ve got termites? They might be ants instead. And both termites and ants can swarm on warm spring days — maybe making you think you’ve got some kind of weird bee instead. But those wings are temporary.
Here’s how to tell termites and ants apart. Termites seem to have just two body parts: rounded heads with straight antennas and cigar-shaped bodies. Ants, au contraire, have three distinct body parts and (more distinctly yet) narrow-waisted hourglass figures. Note their bent antennae, too. Most ants are an annoyance and no more … but carpenter ants can remodel your home — while termites can demolish it. What to do? Begin here: Carpenter ants. Termites.