Ants are the most widespread pest in the country. Most of the many billions of ants which live around us never cross our paths, but when they do, they can become a constant source of irritation during summer.
While they are categorised as a “nuisance pest” – meaning they don’t pose a risk to our health – ants can carry bacteria on their body as they pass through dirty areas of your home, so repeated ant sightings in your home should be investigated.
If you want to know how to beat ants, first you need to understand how they live.
The ants that you see crawling around your garden, patio or home are worker ants who have a variety of jobs in the colony: searching for food, establishing supply lines, caring for larvae, expanding the nest and – most importantly – feeding the queen.
There’s usually only one queen per colony, and she is solely responsible for laying all the eggs. She is found in the deepest chamber of the nest, with all tunnels spread out around her.
This means that – no matter how many worker ants you kill – it is only ever a temporary measure.
Unless you manage to disrupt their colony to such an extent that the queen starves (which is almost impossible, as colonies have thousands to tens-of-thousands of workers), she will just keep laying hundreds of eggs every day and replenish the population in no time.
In the wild, ants make their nests in moist soil beneath stones or logs. Around humans, the undersides of our patios and the insides of our walls make ideal habitats for a colony. Ant mandibles are sharp enough to chew through pointing in brick walls, especially if it’s decayed.
This brings ants a lot closer to home than we would like. Ant workers explore around their nest to find food and, when they do, lay trails of pheromones to guide more workers to the source. When you see a long train of ants going to and fro, it means they’ve made a supply line.
With thousands of workers on the hunt for food every day, if there are any gaps or cracks that ants can use to squeeze into your home, it’s only a matter of time until they find them.
All it takes is one ant to find your fruit bowl for the entire thing to be swarming with them by the time you get home from work.
For a temporary solution to give yourself a bit of peace during a summer barbecue, you can pour boiling water or bleach over the nest. This will kill nearby workers, and the resulting chaos will keep the colony occupied until your guests go home.
If you want the ants to be gone for good, boiling water, bleach or even pesticide sprays won’t do the trick as it will only kill the workers. To wipe out an ant colony, you need to kill the queen, which is exactly what we do with our ant control treatment.
Once we’ve identified the location of the nest, we lay a sweet poisoned gel around the exit tunnels, which the ants find irresistible. When the worker ants find the poison gel, they carry it back to the queen, who dies soon after. Without a queen, the colony goes into collapse.
Ants are a seasonal pest. No matter how many times you exterminate them, they will come back year after year. At the end of summer, thousands of ant queens take to the air to breed then burrow into the ground to start new colonies, which may be close to your home.
If you have long-running problems with ants, it’s better to have your home thoroughly proofed to minimise their points of entry through cracks in walls or gaps in windows. Though, unfortunately, ants are so small that it’s very difficult to entirely ant-proof a home.
To nip ant infestations in the bud, we can visit your home in February to find any early signs of ant colonies and exterminate them before they become too established.