Ants have colonised almost every landmass on earth, except for Antarctica.

Appearance, life cycle and habits

Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors about 140 million years ago. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and the distinctive node-like structure that forms their slender waists. They are the most frequently encountered insects in and around the average home. Ants are considered nuisance pests in the house as they enter from outside in the garden and make their way to the food handling facilities. Depending on the species of ant, their nests are made under paths and cavities. Ants feed on a wide range of foods, from those found in homes to the sugary excretions from plant bugs. Ants can also carry disease organisms. Certain species are attracted to dog faecal droppings, and to other waste products in garbage, particularly those containing organisms causing dysentery or bacteria such as Salmonella.

Useful tips on ants

When ants occur inside a house, the following procedures are suggested:

  •  Inspect the house and the area outside to locate the nest or the area from which most of the infestation originates
  • Identify the species of ant and determine the appropriate control measures (identification also often assists in the location of the nest)
  • Treat the nest or surfaces where ants are active, using either sprays or dusts
  • Baits may be used where appropriate, or where insecticides are not to be applied
  • Eliminate food particles by vacuuming and other methods of hygiene, both inside and outside the house

Chemical measures

Insecticides may be used as sprays applied to the nest or when this cannot be found, to the areas when the ants gain access to various parts of the house. When the nest is located, the eradication of the colony is usually achieved.

Temporary control is usually achieved by the use of insecticidal dusts, which may also be used as a special application in enclosed spaces such as electric power boxes and roof cavities.

Ant baits can be used successfully where insecticides cannot be used or when the nest cannot be located. The bait is collected at feeding sites, taken back to the colony by the workers, and fed to others including the queen and developing larvae. This usually results in the demise of the whole colony. The bait must be a formulation that is attractive to the particular species. Baiting procedures are usually on the label. Granular formulations of ant baits are being used more in homes because of their ability to eliminate entire ant colonies.

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