Ant Pest Control
Ants are the leading pest-related concern for homeowners and renters in the United States. Part of this concern stems from the hundreds of ant species that live and nest across the country. These pests are often undetected until they infest your house, business or landscape. Learn more about what attracts ants, the most common types of ants in Massachusetts and what you can do to protect your home or business.
Signs of an Ant Infestation
Sometimes, an ant infestation is obvious — perhaps you’ve seen ant trails scurrying across your floors or found an ant mound on your property. Other times, it takes closer observation and pattern tracking to identify potential concerns. Common signs of an infestation include:
- Visible ants: Ant sightings are the most obvious sign of an ant infestation. If you’ve seen an ant trail in or near your home or business, it’s time to call a professional. Singular ant sightings, though not always indicative of an infestation, should be monitored. If it happens more than once or is accompanied by other signs of an infestation, schedule an appointment with ant control services.
- Ant mounds: Ant mounds vary in size and are usually made of dirt or sand. You might spot them in fields, near sidewalks or on the lawn near your home. Outdoor ant mounds don’t always mean you will have an indoor infestation. Gauge how close the mound is to your home and what direction any trails are moving near it, if possible.
- Unusual residue: A little residue on your floor is normal, but if you continue to notice small piles or trails of dirt, sand, clay, sawdust or wood shavings, you may have an ant infestation. These materials could indicate that a colony is trying to excavate a site for a nest or relocate indoors.
- Abnormal occurrences: Some larger ants or colonies — like carpenter ants — can make a soft rustling sound in your walls as they travel back and forth. Any abnormal sounds inside your walls are likely cause for concern. If not ants, it could also signify a rodent issue.
How to Identify Different Types of Ants in Massachusetts
Knowing which type of ant is roaming around your home is the best way for you and a professional pest control service to develop an effective treatment and prevention plan. Note the following characteristics to help identify the ants on your property:
- Segments: Ants have three segments to their body — their head, abdomen and thorax. The size and color of each segment will help you identify the species you’re dealing with.
- Color: Ants are usually black, brownish-black, reddish-black, brownish-yellow or some combination of these colors. Note the color of the ant’s segments, head and antennae to narrow down your search. Keep in mind that ant larvae often change color as they age into adults.
- Size: Ant size varies between species and role. Some colonies are monomorphic — all similar in size — and others are polymorphic, which means they each vary in size.
- Habits: Behavior is a great way to learn more about which type of ant is on your property. Are they aggressive when you are near, or do they hide? What kind of food are they carrying? How fast are they? Note this information and let your exterminator know when scheduling your consultation.
Ants vs. Other Pests
Ants sometimes resemble other household pests, including cockroaches and termites:
- Cockroaches: Roaches are a similar reddish-brown color as many types of ants, but they are typically longer and behave differently. They do not travel in lines, and they are primarily an indoor threat.
- Termites: Flying ants and termites look nearly identical from a distance, thanks to their dark color and wings. Termites have a straight body, without pinching at the waist, and their wings are the same length on each side. Flying ants have a pinched waist and wings that vary in length.
Why Do I Have Ants?
Ants are attracted to places where they can build nests, find food or shelter their colonies. Though clutter and messy conditions may encourage the presence of ants, infestations in clean, organized spaces are very common. Factors that may contribute to an ant problem on your property include the environment you live in, the climate, how easily ants are able to access your home and how sustainable the living conditions are once ants have made it inside.
Some environments are more prone to ant infestation than others. The following property characteristics might encourage ant colonization or make it more challenging to detect an infestation:
- Heavily wooded or grassy areas
- Damp areas or places with standing water
- Dying, decaying or fungus-ridden trees, stumps and logs
- Gardens, flowerbeds and shrubbery near your house
- Indoor and outdoor flower pots and hanging baskets
- Rocks, sidewalks, stepping stones and platforms
Ants may invade your home or business regardless of the season or temperature. Cold winter temperatures may prompt more infestations than in the summer, and some ant species begin collecting food in autumn. Warm weather may encourage ants to seek moisture.
Many ants are opportunists. They will enter your house simply because they can. Common entry points include:
- Wiring and utility lines
- Foundation cracks
- Gaps near doors and windows
Some ants may be born inside your home from undetected colonies that may be lurking in places like your bathroom, attic, basement, garage, crawl space or kitchen pantry.
What attracts ants to your home is similar to what keeps you there — a safe, warm shelter where you can support your family and have easy access to food and water. That’s why successful ant eradication involves ridding your home of the pest’s food and water sources.
How to Prevent Ants
Removing an ant infestation is a complex process that requires professional assistance. The best form of treatment is safeguarding your home or business against infestations with the following steps:
1. Keep Your Property Clear
Groom your landscape regularly and do not allow excess weeds or vegetation near your home or business. Be wary of tree branches or shrubs that press against the building’s exterior, as they provide easy access for ants to make their way through small cracks or holes in the roof, walls and foundation. Keep an eye out for ant mounds when working outdoors, and note their distance from your house.
You should also be wary of where you store firewood that you intend to use indoors. Keep it in a covered location away from your porch and inspect logs before bringing them inside.
2. Clean and Declutter the House
Keeping your house clean and organized makes it less desirable for some ants that seek private shelter or food crumbs. It also makes it easier to spot infestation warning signs, like piles of sawdust or ant trails. As you clean, inspect critical areas of your home, like places with moisture-damaged wood or sites of previous insect infestations. You should also keep sinks, pet bowls and drains clean and dry.
Use caulking and weather strips to seal around doors, windows and vents to keep pests from entering. Regularly seal, paint and maintain your siding. Replace any wooden furniture, walls or structures that have suffered moisture damage.
3. Control Indoor and Outdoor Moisture
Many types of ants are drawn to — and thrive in — damp environments. Keep your property’s moisture in check by inspecting these critical areas:
- Gutters: Keep your gutters clean and serviced to prevent rainwater spillage, and route them away from your house to minimize water collecting near your home’s foundation.
- Leaks: Inspect all outdoor garden hoses, spigots and automatic animal waterers for leaks and promptly repair or replace them. Indoors, check for dripping faucets, leaks under your kitchen and bathroom sinks, around windows and doors and in basements that may have standing water. If you live in a rental property, contact your landlord or property manager at the first sign of leaks or drips.
- Wood: Damp and decaying trees and shrubs can harbor ant colonies, inviting them onto your property. This also applies to wooden structures around your home, like porches, decks and sheds or indoor cabinets and wall paneling.
4. Participate in an Ongoing Pest Prevention Program
A professional pest removal service is the best way to treat emergency infestations, but why wait until a problem arises? Work with a professional to develop an ongoing pest prevention program that addresses your home’s unique needs. Your property has different needs, depending on the season, common pests in your area and ongoing concerns, like vegetation growth. Quarterly pest control services with an experienced Massachusetts ant exterminator like Pest Pros can address seasonal pests and changes to keep your home safe.
Types of Ants Common to Cape Cod
Some of the most common types of ants in Massachusetts include acrobat ants, carpenter ants, field ants, little black ants, pavement ants and fire ants. These different ants have unique traits that can affect your home or business.
1. Acrobat Ant
The two most significant threats these pests pose are their ability to produce multiple colonies very quickly and their bite. Acrobat ants may establish colonies inside or outside your home or business. Their outdoor homes are frequently found inside decayed or dying wood, like fallen logs and limbs, inside empty tree cavities or in stumps left behind after tree removal. They may also create nests in wet earth under leaves or stones.
The colony’s tiny worker ants enter buildings via cracks near windows and doors. You might see these worker trails moving between the nest and an indoor or outdoor food source. Acrobat ants feed on various foods, including other pests and sweets.
2. Carpenter Ant
Carpenter ants are the most common pest ant we encounter in private residences and businesses in northern states — and the leading culprit for extensive home damage. These ants often create a main colony along with other satellite colonies to fill different voids inside a single residence. The main colony requires constant moisture for survival, so they often nest in dead wood in the wild.Inside, primary colonies are often associated with water leaks, damp crawl spaces with inadequate ventilation or attics.
Carpenter ants prefer to excavate out their nests in softened wood galleries and utilize themuddy residue found in rough termite galleries. You may also find thriving nests in wall voids, corner boards, door and window trim and burrowed inside insulation. Common signs of a carpenter ant infestation include piles of wood shavings, called frass, resulting from their burrowing behavior when they nest or travel in a cavity of wood. Unlike termites, they do not consume the wood.
Because these pests nest in multiple hard-to-reach areas, DIY solutions or commercial sprays are not enough to eliminate them entirely. We approach carpenter ant infestations with a “cleanout” method that relies on training, inspection and treatment methods that flush out those challenging cavities around your home.
3. Field Ant
It’s easy to confuse field ants with carpenter ants at a glance. Field ants nest in the soil in moderately large colonies. They scavenge and feed on other insects and floral nectar. Field ants do not typically establish indoor nests, but the workers often forage inside homes and businesses for food and create an annoyance by their presence.
4. Little Black Ant
Little black ants are frequent home and business invaders, as they’re drawn to kitchen crumbs, trash, pet waste and sweets. For this reason, they may carry diseases like salmonella and E. coli. These ants are the same ones you often find nesting in wood, stonework, dirt and decaying wood. Their vast colonies eat sugars, meat, produce, honeydew and other pests. You can spot their in-ground nests by the compact craters of fine dirt they create. Sometimes, portions or the entirety of a colony might build a nest inside a wall, behind brick or under carpets near entryways.
5. Pavement Ant
The pavement ant got its name from its tendency to establish nests near pavement. Common nesting places include patios, driveways, concrete slabs, sidewalks and the foundation of your house or business. You might also find these pests indoors in wall voids or near sinks, showers, toilets and water heaters. They may move into your wall or attic insulation.
When outside, pavement ants linger near rock, alongside curbs, inside logs and under mulched areas. While foraging, they leave behind ant trails near your baseboards, flooring, rugs and near moist areas of your home or business. The workers move between rooms and floors via plumbing lines. These trails guide other ants indoors and give them easy access points while serving as a source of moisture and heat for pests seeking shelter.
6. Fire Ants
Fire ants create trouble for people, pets and landscaping. Outdoors, they nest near foundations, under porches and decks, inside irrigated gardens and under logs and rocks. Once nested, they may displace the natural environment, cause plant and crop decay and break lawn irrigation systems. They spread easily and sporadically as a part of their swarming ritual.
Fire ants do not have a reason to move indoors unless extreme temperatures or a natural disaster prompts them. They prefer to move back and forth between their outdoor colony and indoor food supply. If they choose to nest indoors, they seek moist environments, like bathrooms and water heaters. They can remain undetected for several months after establishing their colony before their nest becomes noticeable. Each mound houses several thousand ants.
Fire ants are aggressive, territorial and are known to attack humans and animals with venomous stings. You should never attempt to eliminate fire ants on your own.
How to Get Rid of Ants
If you’ve got ants in your home or business, prompt and thorough removal is critical. Follow these steps:
- Seal possible entry points: Seal all possible entry points, including cracks, gaps, holes and pathways with caulking, filler or stripping. Contact a professional contractor to assist with large cracks in the foundation or walls.
- Inspect your property often: Inspect all indoor and outdoor areas regularly, including bathrooms, cupboards, cabinets, under sinks, basements, near pantries, by the doors and windows, potted plants, outdoor vegetation, gardens, tree branches, porches, patios, decaying wood, sidewalks and sites of former pest infestation.
- Use ant bait and traps: You can use ant traps as a temporary solution while waiting for your extermination or use bait to follow ant trails back to their mound.
- Schedule professional ant exterminator services: Effective ant removal requires eliminating the entire colony, including the queen, and creating a long-term prevention plan to discourage future infestations. A professional ant removal company has the tools and resources available to eradicate colonies quickly, safely and thoroughly. After they have solved your ant problem, be sure to clean your home or business, including the floors, to remove traces of the ant trail that could attract insects.
Have an Ant Infestation? Pest Pros Can Help.
Pest Pros offers annual, quarterly and one-time pest treatment and prevention services for residents and businesses throughout Cape Cod and South Shore. We’ve been serving homes in the area since 1999, so we’re familiar with the types of ants common to Massachusetts and the best ways to eradicate them. Learn more about our ant removal services and call (508) 888-0999 to schedule an appointment with one of our professionals today.