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Ant ExterminatorsAnts are among the most successful of insects, and many pest control companies consider them the most important household pest in terms of challenge. Like termites, they are social insects and live in colonies. However, ants evolved this social behavior separately from termites, and these two groups are not closely related. Ant colonies include a collection of workers, one or more reproductives, eggs, larvae, and pupae. Ant colonies build structures called nests, which typically require much effort by the worker ants in the colony to maintain. Many species prefer to nest in the ground; others will be found in wood, such as dead logs, fence posts, hollow trees, or even wood within structures. When ants nest in wood, their damage will usually be much less than that caused by termites, because ants will only hollow out a nest gallery. Unlike termites, ants do not eat wood and cannot digest cellulose. Nests afford the ants considerable protection from their enemies, some protection against extremes of weather, and some proximity to their food, water, and other resources. There is practically no food item (besides cellulose) that will not be eaten by some species of ant, and most species will eat a variety of foods.

Controlling Ants

Proper procedures for ant control in and around homes or other buildings depend greatly on the species of ant involved, the extent and nature of the infestation, and location of the nest or nests used by the infesting species. Proper identification of the ant species in each situation will help the technician to determine where to begin the search for the source of the trouble-the nest or nests-and to understand whether it is likely there may be multiple nests for separate colonies, or satellite nests for one colony. Certain characteristics of the nest can aid identification of a particular species. For example, a carpenter ant may leave small shavings of wood thrown out of the galleries.

The first step in ant control is to conduct a thorough inspection to determine which species are present and if possible, all the nest locations. Sometimes a survey program with nontoxic baits is necessary to determine where ants are nesting. In some cases many survey bait locations may need to be checked and possibly moved on repeat visits. If an ant colony is established within the structure, killing the exposed workers seldom gives permanent relief because the queen or queens in the nest will continue to produce more workers. A chemical barrier, or perimeter treatment, may be effective for some ant species nesting outdoors that are invading the building for food, but it may not be very effective at all for other species. However, this barrier will be temporary because workers from the nest will again invade the building when the chemical residue becomes ineffective. Colony eradication will provide longer term relief, so it is important to remember that the first priority of ant control is to locate the nest and treat them directly with a bait or non repellent insecticide spray for a colony kill. When using baits, other competing food sources should be removed or the ants may not feed on the baits. The objective is to have the foraging ants feed on the bait and carry it back to the colony, where the active ingredient is transferred and kills the queens and larvae of the colony. If ants forge on the baits aggressively, effective elimination of the colony will often be observed within a few days to two weeks.

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