APC Alpine Pest Control AntsHas your kitchen become a picnic ground for ants? Have these hard-working insects invaded your home or your lawn?

There are about 100 species of ants in Canada, so it is not unusual for them to become a pest around the home. In fact, ants are so abundant and so adaptable, they are impossible to eliminate. Ants should be tolerated as much as possible as they cause little damage in the garden. Because they like to eat other insects like fleas, bedbugs, young silverfish and clothes moths, they can even be considered beneficial.

Species that are known to invade homes in Canada may include the carpenter ant, the little black ant, the odorous house ant, the thief ant and the pharaoh ant. Pavement ants can become a nuisance in lawns.

The species of ants commonly found in Canada are not aggressive, although some are capable of stinging.

Ants may be black, brown, red or yellow. Adult ants range in size from as small as 1 millimetre (1/ 16 – 1/32 inch, e.g., little black ants and thief ants) to as large as 13 millimetres (3/4 inch, e.g., carpenter ants).

Homeowners may confuse carpenter ants with termites. Termites are present only in specific areas in Canada. It is easy to distinguish between them: the termite has straight antennae and a thick waist, and the carpenter ant has a very narrow waist and ‘elbowed’ antennae.

Carpenter ants are larger than other species, although the sizes of the workers vary. It is important to identify carpenter ants correctly. They can cause structural damage to homes when they excavate galleries for their nests. Piles of sawdust may indicate their presence. For further information please refer to the Effective Control of Carpenter Ants page.

Ant Social Structure

Ants are social insects that live in large colonies usually located in underground tunnels. There are a few species, i.e., carpenter ants, that nest above ground in rotting stumps, or inside structures in wall voids, especially where wooden structures are damp. Many species will nest outside buildings, and enter them just to forage for food.

Depending on the species, a colony is made up of one or more queens, and workers. The queens lay the eggs, while the worker ants defend the nest, care for larvae (hatched eggs) and forage for food. The workers carry food back to the nest to feed the queen, larvae and pupae (developing young ants).

The Spread of Ant Colonies

Ants create new colonies by a process of swarming or budding.

The appearance of winged queens and smaller winged males means that swarming is taking place. The ants may come indoors at this time, but it does not necessarily mean that the ants will succeed in colonizing in your home!

The queen will lose her wings after mating and will establish a new colony alone with her brood of young. This type of ant colony is best controlled by destroying the queen.

Ant colonies that spread by budding will send workers with larvae and pupae to a new site. A poorly planned chemical control treatment will encourage this type of colony to bud, thereby complicating the problem.

Eating Habits of Ants

Some ants have food preferences, but generally they are happy to eat whatever you are willing to provide! They are attracted by sugary foods, oils or greasy residues like peanut butter smears, crumbs, or even the honeydew produced by aphid-infested houseplants.

Ant colonies send out scouts to forage for food. A successful scout leaves a scented trail for other workers to follow back to the food source. This accounts for the orderly parade into your pantry!