London is one of the world’s great international cities, attracting people and products from across the globe. Unfortunately, this has also turned London into an international city for an increasing population of exotic ants.
Some aren’t much more hassle to exterminate and prevent than the common black garden ant, while others are the most difficult challenge that a technician will ever face.
Here are a few of the exotic ants making a name for themselves in London’s homes and businesses.
Ok, no ant is “good”, but of the exotic ant infestations you could have, ghost ants are on the less serious end of the scale.
Ghost ants got their spooky name from their appearance, which makes them very difficult to see with the naked eye. They’re about a third of the size of a garden ant at only 1-1.5mm long (and even the queens only reach 2.5mm) with pale, translucent bodies and dark heads.
If you do spot them, you may not even realise they are ants. They’re often confused for other pests such as book lice, especially as they often share habitats such as potted plants and bookcases.
As you may have guessed, these aren’t usual habitats for ants to set up in. This is another thing that makes ghost ants tricky, as they establish entire colonies in the places you least expect.
Luckily, ghost ants aren’t likely to spread far from their colony, or set up “satellite colonies” like the tougher-to-control ants below. Ghost ants are tropical and can’t survive outside of warm, damp environments such as kitchens, bathrooms or greenhouses.
In terms of prevention, ghost ants are usually transported into the home through infested soil. Before you buy any plants, take a close look at the soil (preferably with a magnifying glass) to make sure it’s not hiding a secret colony of ghost ants.
We’ve only encountered carpenter ants within the last two years, but their presence in London has serious implications for our streets full of timber-rich Victorian housing stock.
Like termites, carpenter ants bore into wood, but unlike termites, they don’t eat it. For these busy ants, the wood only provides a nest, not food, and their little deposits of sawdust-like chewed up wood called “frass” are often what gives them away.
Carpenter ants are also given away by their noise. They’re such tireless workers that you can hear them scratching away inside floorboards or roof beams as they excavate their enormous networks of tunnels and nests.
As you can imagine, the cost implications of a carpenter ant infestation are serious. Their nests can weaken wooden structures to the point they need to be replaced – and that’s if they’re discovered. If they’re not, they could cause structural collapse.
Luckily, these ants are still very rare in London, but our abundance of period buildings provides them with the perfect habitat should they become established here.
If you spot these large, jet-black ants or evidence of their nests, please call us immediately so we can stop the spread of this destructive pest.
These two tropical ants are a pest controller’s worst nightmare, and their infestations are often made even worse by amateur attempts to control them.
What makes pharaoh ants and argentine ants so difficult to get rid of is that their colonies contain multiple queens. This allows them to easily split off into satellite colonies if they’re attacked. These smaller colonies can then grow and split again, snowballing into shockingly huge infestations.
Worst of all, these colonies recognise each other as family and won’t compete with one another like warring colonies of garden ants do, further accelerating their population explosion.
In fact, argentine ants are believed to form “super colonies” that spread across entire continents, with the largest covering thousands of miles along the Mediterranean coast thanks to their ability to make nests just about anywhere.
If you spot either of these ants (both are 2-3mm and yellow/brown), never try to take them on yourself or hire amateur pest controllers. Clumsy attempts to exterminate them will only spread the infestation further, and they are infamous for being able to take over entire hospitals or blocks of flats.
It takes careful, long-term planning and precise treatment to effectively eradicate infestations of pharaoh or argentine ants.
If you’re not sure what type of ant is in your home or business (or if it’s even an ant at all), you can email a photo of them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can identify the species for you and provide preliminary advice.
Remember that whatever type of ant you have that insecticides are ineffective at controlling the population if you don’t find the queens, and proofing is just as important as extermination.