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Ant Control Techniques


By Ralph H Maestre BCE

Ants continually remain the number one pest for most pest management professional. In residential homes in Nassau County they are the most common pests found. In Manhattan and the other boroughs, ants may be found crawling up the side of apartment buildings and brownstones. They will persist for weeks at time throughout the early spring until late fall. In some cases they may be found in and around the home during the winter months with snow on the ground. Many methods are employed to control them and many fail. Long term methods generally employ exclusion or pest proofing. I will explain some of the current methods used by Magic Pest Management LLC. First, I will give a very brief introduction of a couple of different ant species Magic deals with in NYC, and Long Island, and then I will speak on the control techniques.

Carpenter Ants

  • Small minor workers 1/4 inch long
  • Large major workers 1/2 inch long
  • Large black or reddish ant
  • Polymorphic (multiple sizes in the colony)

One the most prominent species of ants we encounter is the carpenter ant. There are several species, but Magic Pest Management LLC treats all with the same approach.

Carpenter ants are among the largest ants found in homes and live in colonies containing three castes consisting of winged and wingless queens, winged males and different sized workers. Winged males are much smaller than winged queens.

Swarmers emerge from mature colonies usually from March to July. The colony does not produce swarmers until about three years after the initial pair starts the colony. A mature colony, after three to six years, has 2,000 to 4,000 individuals. Workers regurgitate food for nourishment of the developing larvae and queen.

In later generations, workers of various sizes are produced (polymorphism) into major and minor workers that are all sterile females. Nests are usually established in soft, moist (not wet), decayed wood or occasionally in an existing wood cavity or void area in a structure that is perfectly dry. The walls of the nest are smooth and clean (sandpapered appearance) with shredded sawdust-like wood fragments, like chewed up toothpicks (frass), carried from the nest and deposited outside. In many cases dead ants or parts of ants are found in the frass.

The most important and often most difficult part of carpenter ant control is locating the nest or nests. Once the nest location is found, control is very easy and simple. Steps to a successful inspection include an interview with family members, inspection indoors, inspection outdoors and sound detection.

Pharaoh Ants

  • About 1/16 inch long
  • Light yellow to reddish brown with abdomen slightly darker
  • Monomorphic workers
  • Has two nodes and no spines on the thorax
  • No stringer
  • Three segment clubbed antennae

Female Pharaoh Ants can lay 400 or more eggs in her lifetime. Mature colonies contain several queens, winged males, sterile females or workers, eggs, larvae, prepupae and pupae growing to as large as 300,000 or more members.

Periodically a queen together with a few workers; carry immatures (eggs, larvae and pupae), leaving the nest and set up a new colony elsewhere, quickly spreading an infestation. This behavior pattern is known as "satelliting," "fractionating" or "budding" where part of the colony migrates to a new location rather than by single females dispersing after a reproductive swarm. Budding may occur due to overcrowding, seasonal changes in the building's central heating and cooling system or application of a repellent pesticide (really known as Fusion).

Nests usually occur in wall voids, under floors, behind baseboards, in trash containers, under stones, in cement or stone wall voids, in linens, light fixtures, etc.

Pharaoh ants are usually much harder to control than other ants because of their ability to disperse. About 90 percent of the colony remains hidden in the nest so even if 10 percent of the colony is killed by a residual pesticide, the remaining reservoir of ants is enormous. Conventional contact pesticide applications, especially repellent products such as pyrethrins, may spread infestations to new areas with multiple colonies blossoming within the structure. These ants will avoid certain pesticides. For this reason, baiting is the most effective approach.

Odorous House Ants

  • Brown coloration
  • Body 1/8 inch in length
  • Workers are all one size (monomorphic)

Colonies vary in size and range from a few hundred to 10,000 individuals, usually with multiple queens. Sexual forms are produced only in colonies that are at least four to five years old. Mating may take place within the nest or nearby. Colonies multiply when one or more fertile females accompanied by numerous workers leave the parent colony, found a new nest, and start a new colony. Single inseminated queens from nuptial flights also may establish new colonies independently.

The odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile (Say), is a native species that occurs throughout the United States. Outside, it commonly nests in soil beneath most any object, including stones, logs, concrete blocks, and fallen limbs. It also nests under the bark of logs and stumps and in plant cavities, refuse piles, under mulch in flower beds, and nests of birds and animals.

It is critical to survey inside and outside to locate all nests. Nests found outside can be drenched with a residual insecticide. When numerous ants appear around the building foundation, a perimeter or crack and crevice treatment with a residual non-repellent insecticide should be used. Baits that have a protein or sugar-based attractant may be effective when the nest is not accessible.

Magic's Ant Management Program

Magic's Ant Management Program is an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that always begins with an inspection and an interview with the client. Once the inspection is completed the technician will develop a plan of action. Baiting is the first of several treatments to be employed. Using the various baits we have available allows the ants to bring the bait back to the colony in the first step at eliminating the infestation. Magic Pest Management uses the buffet style of baiting, this means we don't rely on only one bait material. Using only one bait may fail and numerous call-backs will occur. Magic Pest Management may use a liquid spray, such as Phantom in conjunction with a baiting program. The use of Phantom both outside and inside the according to label instructions, around the structure, provides a non-repellent product the ants don't know is there and therefore exposes the ants to a lethal dose. There are other products such as dusts and foams that provide long residuals in hard to reach areas such as wall voids. Specialized equipment such as the Actisol® Machine allows Magic to reach deep into wall voids without exposing the client, their family, and their pets to any products.

Repairing any leaks found during the inspection is very important.

Nests found outside, consisting of small mounds of dirt, may be sprayed using liquid products labeled for such use. Magic Pest Management personnel are trained to always read and follow labels and provide them to the customer.

If a follow-up is needed, then our trained technicians at the most appropriate time will schedule it to maximize its effectiveness.

Magic Pest Management LLC provides these services in office environments, food processing locations, food establishments, apartment buildings, and residential homes throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County. Magic Pest Management technicians receive continual training throughout the year to maintain the professional edge and updating them on the latest changes in the industry. This professionalism separates Magic from rest of the other pest control companies in the area.