Recently in Ants in your house or yard Category


We have been battling ants for about a month now and I'm just curious if we need to take it to the next level (ie- call in a professional) or if we are on the right track.

First, some background, we live in the Kansas City area, and we've had a fairly mild winter up until about a month ago. We have had 3 snowstorms in the last month, all producing more than 6" of snow (two with more than a foot!). The first two snowstorms were 5 days apart and we first noticed the ants between those two storms.

We have a split-level home, and I first noticed the ants in our dining room area, and as I started looking around more, I realized they were everywhere. In the dining room (which is connected to the kitchen, but they weren't trailing to any food in the kitchen), they were also in our front living room near the window and the fireplace, they were also in our walk-out basement. None were noted in the storage room (where the dogs and their food are), or any of our bedrooms which are on the same level as the kitchen/dining room.

Initially we sprayed indoors which I now realize was foolish. We couldn't spray outside because there was collectively 2 feet of snow after the first two storms. After doing a bit of research I decided that the terro traps were the way to go (because we were still seeing live ants every day). We went out of town on March 1st, and we laid terro traps in the areas we'd been seeing the ants. We were gone for 10 days, and when we returned, there were THOUSANDS of dead ants all over. The most concentrated areas were near our fireplace, the front window, and near the door to the walk-out basement. I vacuumed all of the dead, and continued to see new live and dead ants each day, but the numbers slowly dwindled over the following 2 weeks. I also sprayed the perimeter of the home (outside) once the snow melted. I felt like we were finally getting ahead of the game because it seemed like we weren't seeing any more accumulate.

Then out of the blue this morning (after our third snowstorm happened overnight last night) I noticed a few more near the front window, however they were different. Instead of being small, black (what I think were odorous house ants), there are a fair number of dead, larger, winged ants. They have a good waist to them, so I don't think they are termites, and they are all dead, or almost dead, no swarms.

My question is, is this a good sign? Have we killed enough that the end of the colony is coming out dead? Or is this a bad sign that more breeding ants are coming out and developing new colonies? We continue to have the terro traps in place and have not given up the battle yet. I just need to know if it's time to call in a professional, or are we making progress and just need to keep at it?


Dear Christina,

It is hard to say but it is very possible that you are on the home stretch of ridding yourself of these ants. Oftentimes, when ant colonies are on the verge of death due to depleted resources, disease, or attacks from other ants, they will devote their remaining resources to producing winged reproductives in a last ditch effort to reproduce before dying. Therefore, the colony occupying your house may be teetering on the edge of collapse.

Good luck! Hopefully an exterminator will not be necessary!

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team


Hello,

I stumbled across your very interesting blog whilst searching for an answer about ants.

We live in the sub-tropics (Queensland, Australia) and just over a week ago experienced severe wet weather (flash flooding) due to an ex-cyclone passing over us. This was after an extended period of dry weather in a hot Summer. We have had a steady stream of various ants come in due to the weather, mostly heading for the kitchen. This is quite normal for us and has been managed mainly by keeping minimal accessible crumbs etc.

The unusual ant activity we've had is in the last couple of days. One night we suddenly realised that there were clumps of tiny black ants all over the house. There were thousands of them in the laundry, on the top of the wall and cornice - not many down near the water sources at all. There were also about 6 big clusters of them located on cornices throughout our living room and hallway - far from any food source and/or water. The next day another cluster appeared on the door frame of our bedroom en suite - these ones were near some artwork and some were feasting on the glue used in it, but most were in clumps on the doorframe. I took some pictures and have attached them.

Ants1 is to give you a reference point for size and the shapes of all the small clusters these ants are forming - these are very small ants compared to most others we get locally.
Ants2 is a closer shot - when I was later looking at the photos I noticed that the ants appeared to be clustered around some sort of larvae or white-fleshed ant? I suppose this is why they are clumping, but am wondering what the white things are. I am hoping it is not termites! I am also curious as to why these ants all suddenly appeared in such unlikely places (and so many times) particularly given that it had been about a week since the wet weather. I would also like to know what we can do to try and discourage them from invading our house in such a huge and sudden manner.

I've done some searching on ant identification pages etc. and the closest ant I can come up with that they may be is the "black house ant". Although I am not sure they have the right number of joins in their body.

Any answers to my questions would be much appreciated!

I can send a bigger sized picture if you require it, just let me know if you do need it. I just didn't want to unnecessarily overload your inbox with a large sized file.

Thank you,

Anna.


Ants2.jpg

Ants1.jpg


Dear Anna,

Thanks for the question and the pictures!

First off, these are definitely not termites. Note the "elbowed" antennae and distinct rear part of the body (called the "gaster" in ant literature).

These ants probably belong to the genus Technomyrmex. They're very common in forests in tropical Southeast Asia and Australia. I used to work on a small group of islands called Palau, and there were parts of the forest where it seemed like nearly every tree had this density of Technomyrmex on them. Although it's tough to say for certain, it's likely that these ants belong to a group of very similar-looking species that would have all been identified as Technomyrmex albipes a few years ago, but have since been shown to belong to several distinct species, including T. difficilis (guess why it has that name!). Here are some close-up pictures of the ants I think you have (although this this ant is fairly widespread, these pictures were actually taken in Queensland). In your region, many common household ants can be identified using a key developed by Eli Sarnat for the Pacific Invasive Ants program out of New Zealand (assuming you have a good microscope). For more complete information on ants in your area, check out our Queensland section on AntWeb, and Steve Shattuck's Ants Down Under.

We've written a few posts about getting rid of ants in and around your home (for example: here, here, here, and here), but in your case, one of the more important actions might be keeping vegetation from touching your house. I've actually seen a house in Palau that was entirely on concrete stilts, and each stilt rested on a concrete block that had a small moat of water in it - this is essentially the house-level equivalent to putting the legs of your kitchen table in tuna cans filled with water to prevent ants from climbing up. However, the house got electricity from an above-ground wire, and there was a steady stream of Technomyrmex coming in on that wire all the time! So....I guess there's only so much you can do!

Hope this helps, and good luck!
best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

I am a typical mom who knows only three things about ants: they have structured colonies, they carry 3x their weight, and they invade our home during the rainy season. I had never noticed this behavior before and came upon your website in trying to research if what i think is happening is true. The black ants that I see in my bathroom are scouting for food and I don't kill them because I know they will not find any and will eventually leave, but some lone ants have become lost or stranded and I will see them roaming in the same area for a day or two and then they seem to die. Is it from starvation or cold temperature at night, or emotional distress at being alone with no way back to what they know as home?
Also, when they first invade there are many following a trail but soon I see that some break into groups of a dozen or so that scatter when they detect me, do they communicate in this way? I thought they were more like little robots following programmed instincts so they used chemical scent trails, but it almost looks to me like they are having a meeting to discuss their options. I use Clorox wipes to clean and have looked at the spot were they grouped to make sure there wasn't anything that could have served as food like my son's bubble gum toothpaste. I hope to learn more as I respect these tiny hard workers.

Thank you!
Claudia from central California


Hi Claudia,

Rather than thinking of ants as robots following programs, it might help understand what they are doing by imagining them as small people with a limited view of the world and very short-term memories. Contrary to popular belief, no single individual is in charge of an ant colony, not even the queen. Instead, an ant colony's behavior is accomplished through the independent action of each individual together. So every ant has to use the relatively small amount of information available in the immediate area to figure out what she should be doing. Oftentimes, this means "asking" other ants what they are doing and if they have an opinion on what everyone else should be doing. This type of communication is usually accomplished through antennal contact and scents and could certainly result in the formation of groups of ants all "talking" to each other, figuring out what they should all do next. Of course, it is always a possibility that they just found something interesting on the ground.

The ants that you find in your house are almost certainly looking for food. They could also be exploring for new nesting sites and, as your house is probably relatively warm, it might appear ideal at first. Unfortunately, no matter the reason for their exploration, foraging ants have very high rates of mortality around 15% per day. Many of these ants are the victims of predation or, in hot and dry areas, dehydration, but many simply get lost, as some of the ants in your house seem to. A scent trail may be too faint, may get disturbed, or the ants may get separated from it inadvertently and be unable to find their way home. Their eventual death is likely the result of starvation or dehydration although cold temperatures could certainly be a factor as well.

Deborah Gordon's book, Ants at Work is about how ants get all of their work done and it sounds like the subject might be of interest. You may want to check it out.

Thanks for your question,
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

Hi there!

I've recently observed a bunch of ants on my desk at my lab that seem to "freeze" in movement, in a group, usually in a straight (but not linked) line against the wall, completely stationary for hours at a time. They're usually gone by morning and they tend to return again, usually in the afternoon and the cycle repeats. I've been trying to read up for info on this online but I haven't found any information that explains this. These are small brown ants, common to households, but I'm unsure as to the exact species.

I apologise in advance for the lack of information but I'm extremely curious as to what causes this behavior.

Hope you can shed some light on this.

Thank you
Felicia
**********

Dear Felicia

The ants you saw are most likely Tetramorium bicarinatum, a species that occurs in houses world-wide. One of the other contributers has observed the "freezing" behavior in other ants, but we really don't know why they do this. It is possible they are responding to vibrations in the object they're standing on, and that freezing might make them less visible to predators. This is a behavior we really don't understand.

Hope this helps!
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

Dear Ant Experts,

I have a large colony of ants in my yard (or possibly many colonies) in Surprise, AZ. These ants are becoming a small problem because they love to bite my family. So far I have tried many "ant baits" and found that they ignore all of them except for amdro pellets which contain Hydramethylnon. Boiling water works great on them when I can locate their hills, but they always return. Any information on what kind of ants these are and how to eradicate them will be very appreciated! Thank you in advance!

-JJ
*********

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CRW_8103.jpg

Dear JJ,

I wish I had some encouraging news for you, but it's likely you have Solenopsis xyloni, a close relative of the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta. You're already doing some of the most effective things: Amdro was developed specifically to target S. invicta (or RIFA, as it's sometimes called in the invasive species literature). It works best if you pour about 1/4 cup directly onto the mounds, and re-treat every 2-3 weeks. In general, poisoned baits usually kill at most about 90% of the colony, so re-treatment is essential. Boiling water, as you said, is also great when you can find the colonies. Just don't pour it over the Amdro! It doesn't work when wet!

The problem is, unless you and your family live on a 1,000-acre ranch, miles away from town, surrounded by a moat and a flying-ant-proof fence, you'll always risk re-infestation from the surrounding area. Therefore, the only further advice I have is to get organized with your community. It might make sense to bring this problem up with your neighbors, at your children's schools, and any local organizations you're involved with. The "School of Ants" is a citizen-science project that would be a fantastic way to gather information about where other colonies of these ants occur in your area...and the students might even learn a thing or two about the biology and ecology of ants!

One critical bit of information you can get from collaborating with the folks at "School of Ants," or other experts, is a positive identification of these specimens. Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis xyloni are difficult to tell apart from pictures, but one is a native ant that can be a nuisance, and one is an invasive ant that costs the USA more six billion dollars a year to control nation-wide. More information on Solenopsis invicta, and some advice about distinguishing it from related species, can be found on this excellent site.
Either way, you have the opportunity to raise awareness in your community about ants, so that you can more effectively solve the problem you have now, and be prepared for future ant invasions.

Good luck!
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

Aloha,

We live in Kailua-Kona, HI and have tiny, and I mean tiny, red ants inside of our home recently, and we are unsure what they are looking for, what they like to feed on, and are also wondering how to control them. We keep our kitchen counters spotless, but they are all over the counters, and while watering an indoor plant today, the soil exploded with these ants. Also, after opening the top to our coffee maker this morning, there were hundreds and hundreds of these ants inside, so it seems that they like moisture, maybe for nesting.

Any assistance you may provide would be appreciated.

Mahalo,
Tom
**********

Dear Tom,

Aloha! We are sorry to hear you are having an ant problem in your home and have contacted an expert on Hawaiian ants, Dr. Paul Krushelnycky, and here is what he had to say:

"Aloha Tom,

As I'm sure you know, keeping your home completely free of ants is difficult in Hawaii. You're already doing one of the most important practices, which is keeping your kitchen clean and reducing sources of attraction. But you're right that often water is the main target, especially during dry periods and in dry areas like Kona, and its hard to do much about that. Your ants are most likely one of two species: Plagiolepis alluaudi (doesn't seem to have a commonly used common name) or the little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata. The latter is much more problematic than the former; you've probably already heard a lot about this species in the local media. Its now widespread in the Puna area of the island, but has recently also been detected at several locations on the Kona side.

Normally I'd recommend using a sugar-water based bait, like Terro, to reduce and hopefully eliminate new and/or small infestations. However, while this is probably the best approach for Plagiolepis alluaudi and some other household pest species, if you have an infestation of little fire ants, Wasmannia auropunctata, you'll want to do your best to eradicate them before they get too established in your home and on your property. Otherwise, you'll have to deal with a species that can reach very high densities and inflict constant, irritating stings. While the stings aren't as sharp and immediately painful as the tropical fire ants (Solenopsis geminata) we have in sunny coastal areas, they can cause a persistant painful and/or itching reaction that can last for hours or in some cases days. Some people have stronger reactions than others. If you've already noticed something along these lines, then you may have little fire ants. (A close-up photo of some workers might allow an identification, if in focus). The potted plant you mention could have been the source of introduction - colonies are easily spread this way. Did you recently purchase the plant, and did this roughly coincide with your new ant infestation? If so, eradicating the colony could be as easy as drowning it in the pot, using hot water, if they are indeed nesting in the soil. But if they are nesting in other or multiple locations, you'll need to bait them to get rid of them. If they're already widespread, eradication may be unlikely.

I can address additional questions you might have, but I would also encourage you to visit the website: http://www.littlefireants.com/ Its an excellent resource maintained by Cas Vanderwoude, a specialist on invasive ants who currently works with the state and is based in Hilo (I'm on Oahu). He focuses on little fire ants, and I believe has been trying to deal with some of the Kona sites. His website has a lot of information that can help you determine whether you indeed have little fire ants, general info about this and other species, and most importantly recommendations on how to control them. Cas has been working on developing baits specifically for this species. There is also a google-based email list for discussing little fire ants and invasive ants in Hawaii in general. Instructions for signing up are on the website."

In addition you can see a list of the ants of Hawaii with high-resolution photographs for most species here: http://www.antweb.org/hawaii.jsp

I hope this helps,
Paul Krushelnycky, Corrie Moreau, & the AntAsk Team

Dear AntBlog,

Thanks for your cool site. It's nuptial flight day for the ants that live under our patio (I don't know what species they are, but they seem to be normal for the south of England where I live.) The queens and males are milling around a lot before they take off, opening up their wings and then not being very successful at flying to start with. Whilst they're doing this, there are loads of worker ants rushing around them, and quite often coming up to them and touching them (with their antennae I think, but it's hard to see in detail) often 'face to face' but sometimes on the queens' legs or on the backs of their wings. Why are they doing this? Are they giving them directions? Encouragement? Licking off dirt? My mum thinks they're biting them to make them want to fly away. Hope you can enlighten us.

All the best,

Sarah Weatherhead

******

Hello Sarah,

Thank you for your very keen observations! Without knowing exactly what species of ants these are or under what precise conditions this event happened to take place (not to mention how the whole thing eventually played out) it's difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether this was in fact a "planned" nuptial flight or a kind of "false start" initiated by impatient alates.
Assuming that the weather and time of day was favorable to the release of the colony's winged reproductives (virgin queens and males), your suppositions are right on the mark. Obsessive grooming of this sort would have served both to motivate the already restless assembly of sexuals as well as to ensure that said sexuals--prospective progenitors of future generations--were free of any dirt and bacteria, and therefore fit to spawn a new colony.
However, in the absence of all the appropriate environmental cues, worker ants will actively interfere to prevent the over-eager alates from taking flight prematurely, in many cases physically grounding them or dragging them back to the nest. This might explain why the workers appeared to be "biting" the queens as you mother observed, but in this scenario it would have been a form of discouragement rather than persuasion.
In theory, the timing of these seasonal nuptial flights is dependent on just the right combination of circumstances--humidity, wind speed, time of day, temperature, probability of rainfall, etc.--and is uniformly observed across different colonies of the same species to maximize the likelihood of interbreeding. When workers perceive that conditions are not entirely auspicious for a successful, synchronized launch, they will forcibly keep the queens and males at bay.
As a UK-based witness of this extraordinary phenomenon, you might be interested in the Society of Biology's "flying ant survey", an initiative that seeks to document appearances of nuptial flights around the country and thus decode the various stimuli that are believed to influence these mysteriously well-timed events. The link featured in the above article will direct you to a page where you can record the date, time and precise location of your sighting, in addition to the type of weather you remember experiencing at the time.
The survey assumes that the ants in question are black garden ants, Lasius niger, but given your remark about the species being fairly common in the region and recalling that you observed the event in late July, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the same species.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team



Hi,

We live in San Jose, CA.

We have been reading your blog for sometime.
We are facing the ants problem.
attached pictures were just taken at a corner of my dinning room.
Hope you would help.

some ants have visited our house last year around October by crawling in from the windows to the bedrooms and kitchen.
the situation was under control after using the Terro ants bait stations; we saw less ants around.

this year, we started to see a few ants visit our kitchen counter in May.
Without knowing where their nest was, we just killed them when we saw them around.
Fortunately, they had not discovered our food cabinet yet and we have put all food in airtight container already.
Until one morning in early July, the troop found some leftover on the kitchen counter and hunderds of them paraded to the food source.
Knowing there was no use to just kill the workers, we chose to use the Terro ants bait stations again and let them enjoy the sweet fluid.
By this incident, we noticed from they came in from the tiny holes at the corner in the dinning room.
After a day, we decided to get the Terro liquid ants killer and starts to place several stations in front of the little holes as shown in the pictures right in front from where they come out.

After feeding them Terro for more than a month, they are still very active.
Hunderd of them coming out to enjoy Terro everyday.
In a hot day, which they are more active, they consumer twelve to fifteen drops of terro only within a morning and a bit less at night.
we have used up around half a ounce in the past month.

We do not want to spray pesticide inside the house.
However, sprinkle baby powder on the ant trails means asking them to walk in the walls.
and they also find a NEW way to crawl in the kitchen counter.
I need to watch carely when I prepare dinner, as they pop up all the time!

We wish to get the lemon oil or orange oil or Orange Guard from the neighbourhood stores but not successful.

Yesterday, I have lost my control as I see them again on my kitchen counter (on which I sprinkle baby powder on the side) but they finally found the opening to crawl in.

My husband bought a Hot Shot Natural with lemongrass oil and start to wipe in the ant trail.
This morning, we find less ants come out fromt the hole, while we are still placing few ant bait station in front the hole.
but the foreager still try their best to searching around.
We have consider to fill the holes, but we are afraid they will search a new opening that might be in our bedroom.

would you give us some suggestions:

1. would you please help to identify the type ants from the attached pictures? are they Argentine ants?
2. what do you suggest us to do now.

thank you very much!

Emmy

from San Jose Bay Area, CA

IMG_4843.JPG

IMG_4847.JPG

----------

Dear Emmy,

Thank you for the wealth of information, and I'm sorry your home is infested! Indeed, one of our experts Dr. James Trager has confirmed that these are the Argentine ant Linepithema humile, which is the most common ant in the Bay area. If you want to read more about Argentine ants, please see a few of our other posts here, here, or here.

In terms of solving your infestation problem, we get this request fairly often, so we actually have a pretty wide literature on the subject. This post is the most detailed, but you can also refer to here or here.

Good luck on getting rid of the Argentine ants!

Best,

Max Winston & the AntAsk Team

Hi
I live in Raleigh North Carolina and I was stung (felt like an intense sting) by a dark colored ant on my pinkie finger as I was getting into my car. The car was parked in a large shopping mall parking lot but our spot was located at the end of a row, under a tree. I did not see where the ant came from or how it got onto my finger, it was probably close to 1 cm in length and had a wider body - vs the small thin bodies of the ants I have seen around the house and yard. It did not have a smooth shiny body like I picture a carpenter ant to have and it almost seemed like it could have been hairy. The bite was painful and it felt like a sting that intensified the longer the ant was on my finger. I kept shaking my hand but the ant wouldn't come off... (of course the intake nurse at the ER said "this is when you use your other hand to swat it away" but I don't know why I didn't do that) The pain did not go away after the ant was off of me and 1 hour later I felt sunburned and my hands, feet and face were red and hot and my eyes were bloodshot. I was sweating and my heart was racing. I then developed weakness and had difficulty seeing, as it looked like I was looking directly into the sun. By the time I got to the emergency room my symptoms were starting to lessen and I was ultimately told that I must have had a toxic response to the bite. I was given an antihistamine but there was no sign of a bite mark on my finger. ( if I didn't have a witness, I probably would have sounded crazy) The next day I had a raised hard bump on my finger at the site of the bite/sting and the entire finger was swollen for 2 days and itched for a few days more. 2 weeks later I can still see the bite mark but the symptoms are otherwise gone.

Any idea of what bit me? I have looked up fire ants and this ant was bigger than the description of the fire ants I have read about/seen online

Any insight would be appreciated

thanks
-abby

**********
Dear Abby,

We are sorry to hear that you were stung by an ant and had such a terrible reaction. Although it is difficult to be sure, it sounds like the ant you may have been stung by is the Asian needle ant, Brachyponera chinensis.

The School of Ants has a very nice summary of this species on their website, including information about the painful sting:

www.schoolofants.org/species/1157

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Dear AntBlog,

I have ants in my yard and garden. Should I leave them there or try to get rid of them? What good are ants?

Thanks,
David

**********
Dear David,

Ants are very important and we are glad you asked!

Although ants can spoil our picnics or become unwelcome visitors inside our homes, most ants are actually beneficial to have in our yards. Ants are important to many organisms through their environmental and ecological impacts. There are over 12,000 species of ants that scientists have given names and there are at least double and maybe triple out there waiting to be discovered. Not only do ants turn more soil than earthworms, aid in decomposition, and disperse the seeds of many plants, but they also kill pest species.

Soil Makers: Like earthworms, ants help create healthy soil. By digging tunnels, ants aerate and turn over the dirt, bring nutrients closer to the surface, and allow rainwater to circulate more fully through the soil.

Seed Sowers: Seed-harvesting ants increase the dispersal, survival, and germination rate of seeds. By carrying them to new habitats and storing them in nutrient-rich ant nests, the seeds can sprout in a safe environment, protected from seed predators as well as drought. This helps plants thrive in the wild.

Pest Police: Many ants prey on the eggs and larvae of bothersome household insects such as flies, fleas, silverfish, bed bugs, and even cockroaches. If left to colonize the pe- rimeter of your yard, ants can act as a barrier to termites and help keep pest populations down overall. The diversity of the total ant species in an ecosystem can be an indicator of overall environmental health. Having a diverse community of ants and other insects helps keep the entire ecosystem in balance, which is important for all the plants, fungi, and animals (including us) that share the environment.

So unless the ants are coming into your home, I would suggest that you leave them to preform their important roles in your yard. If you are having problems with ants in your home, then you can try following some of the advice we have given in the past:

http://www.antweb.org/antblog/ask-an-ant-expert/ants-in-your-house-or-yard/

So the next time you come across ants in your yard, take a minute to watch them and appreciate the important role they are playing in maintaining a healthy planet.

Enjoy the ants,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

AntBlog...

In collaboration with

Got a question?

Have a question about ants? Drop us a line!


Recent Assets

  • corgi and ant.jpg
  • ant.jpg
  • orange_black_ants.jpg
  • orange_black_ants1.jpg
  • ant-crete-1-1.jpg
  • ant-crete-2-1.jpg
  • ant-cyprus-1.jpg
  • ant_or_beetle.JPG
  • ants from Argentina.bmp
  • 1.jpg