Oklahoma residents know all too well the problems of having an ant infestation. Given the weather patterns and climate the state faces, Oklahoma can be a breeding ground for these tiny pests. Controlling ant populations indoors can be a daunting task for any homeowner as countless sprays and powders may temporarily alleviate the problem or completely fail. It's estimated that there are nearly 1.5 to 1.6 million ants per person in the world, making ant control a necessity.
Ant populations have flourished in Oklahoma in recent years. Though ants may seem harmless foraging on the sidewalk or within a garden, these pests tend to invade homes and businesses. Without prevention or proper treatment, a visit from ants can lead to a long-term co-existence within a home.
Given the small size of ants, the pest can easily find its way through the smallest of cracks as it forages for water and food substances. Ants most often are seen traveling in a line formation. This can be attributed to the ant's unique characteristic of leaving a chemical trail of pheromones leading to and from a food source.
We don't just Get Rid of Pests, We Make Sure They Stay Gone
Colonies can be as large as one-half million ants at any given time, making DIY ant control incredibly ineffective. With a nest capable of being concealed anywhere in the house, pinpointing their exact location can be tricky for the homeowner. The queen of the ant colony can live up to 15 years and worker ants, constantly being born, have a lifespan of nearly 7 years. Over time these populations can wreak havoc on whatever material they choose to use for nesting, including wood structures.
The best offense in defending a home from an ant invasion is ensuring that steps have been taken to create a barrier between the home and the outside world through preventative ant control. For over 40 years, Emtec Pest Control has perfected the process of locating and safely removing ants from homes and establishments. If you are experiencing ant problems, we are available to give you a free inspection to assess your ant control needs. Fill out our online contact form today to schedule your no-obligation inspection today!
ANT LIFE CYCLE
The metamorphosis process of ants follows a very distinct path, including; egg, larvae, pupae and adult phases. The process can take several weeks or months to complete depending on environmental factors and the species of ant. Knowing the life cycle of the ants in the colony you are dealing with can make ant control treatments more effective.
Fertile female ants who successfully mate with a male select a shelter fit for becoming a colony to begin laying eggs. Ant eggs are rice-like in appearance with a white or transparent color and oval shape. As the sole reproductive element of a colony, queen ants are brought food by worker ants who also remove their waste.
Within one to two weeks, ant eggs will hatch with a grub-like appearance. During this time adult ants are consistently bringing food and liquid to satisfy the larvae's appetite. Larvae will tend to pre-digest the food then regurgitate it. This method provides sustenance throughout the colony through redistribution of the regurgitated food.
After molting and shedding their skin, larvae become pupae. Generally, ants in the pupae stage will resemble the common ant appearance, yet limbs and antennae will be affixed to the body with a folded appearance. When in the pupae stage, ants typically begin a white color, but with age become darker.
Once the pupal stage is complete, ants take the form easily seen on sidewalks or as unwanted pests within a home or business. Ants will take on one of three to four jobs within the colony, dependent upon the species. The job associated with the given ant can vary greatly depending on their gender.
ANT COLONY CASTES
Within ant colonies, there are three to four particular castes that inhabitants fall into depending on the species. The jobs assigned can be based on factors such as gender and fertility. In the colony system of ants, each caste serves a very particular purpose. By functioning as a colony, these ant populations have developed an efficient population system.
Depending on age and size, worker ants can be assigned a variety of jobs. The most numerous population within an ant colony, worker ants are primarily tasked with foraging for food and bringing it back to the colony for distribution. Female ants that are unable to reproduce are within the worker caste to maintain a clean nest and feed larvae. Worker ants are always wingless and are the typical pest seen foraging.
Hatched from unfertilized eggs, drones aren't responsible for work within the colony and function solely for reproduction. In appearance, the drone more closely resembles a wasp, due to its addition of wings. The function of a drone is to mate with a princess ant during the nuptial flight. Once the drone ant has mated, it dies.
Soldier ants are characterized by their large heads and protruding mandible. Only present among polymorphic ant species. These sterile female ants possess more strength than the typical female workers and can carry larger objects back to the colony.
Functioning as the founder of a colony, the queen ant can lay thousands of eggs each day. After successfully mating, the queen may stay fertilized for many years. When the queen ant establishes a new nest, she will shed her wings. During its lifespan, the queen can potentially lay millions of eggs. With a lifespan of up to 15 years, the queen ant is one of the longest living insects in the world. Upon the death of a colonies queen, the colony will only survive a few months.
OKLAHOMA ANT SPECIES
Several species of ants can be found in Oklahoma. Though in many ways the species are similar, different ant control methods may be required between the species. Professional help may be vital in controlling the ant population in and around your home.
Red Imported Fire Ants
Native to South America, the red imported fire ant has become a prominent pest within the southern parts of the United States. Characterized by the painful bite and repetitive stings, red imported fire ants are an aggressive species. The bite will produce the appearance of hives and can leave scars depending on severity. Red imported fire ants are omnivores and tend to favor meats, grease, and sweet food sources.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants derive their name from the scent they give off when they are crushed. The rotten coconut scent they emit may be due to the diet this ant species has, which consists of honeydew. Most often, odorous house ants invade homes after rainy weather. When indoors they feed on meats and grease.
Little Black Ants
Though this species possesses a stinger, their small size makes it ineffective against humans. Little black ants are prolific in urban and industrial settings. This species establishes indoor colonies within walls and carpet wall junction points. Little black ants are omnivorous and will feed on a variety of sources, including; other insects, sugar-based items, grease and oils and vegetables.
Pavement ants can be found indoors within walls and under floors. They typically will invade homes and businesses while foraging for food. Pavements ants typically prefer to eat greasy foods, but will also eat insects, living or dead. Though they have the ability to sting, they are typically docile and avoid confrontation. Pavement ants received their name due to their unique nests within sidewalk and driveway cracks.
This genus of ants encompasses wood ants, mound ants, thatching ants and field ants. Sunlight is an important component to most Formica species' colonial survival. Given their reliance on sunlight, it is atypical to find Formica ant colonies indoors. In suburban areas nests most often are found near sidewalks, fence structures, and building foundations. With the wide variety of species within the genus Formica, food sources can vary depending on the ant in question. In most cases, professional help is needed to adequately find colonies and satellite colonies that may be associated with it.
Primarily seen outdoors during the Spring and Summer months, carpenter ants have become a common sight. Often mistaken for termites, these ants can be found in decaying wood for its humidity and temperature properties. Though they can be detrimental to the wood they inhabit, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Most often carpenter ants will feed on meats and pet food, as well as sugar-based sources like syrup, honey, sugar, and jelly.
Major workers within this species of ant have large heads relative to their bodies, giving them the name bigheaded ants. Though not associated with structural damage, some bigheaded ants are known hosts of tapeworms. Typically, they will not nest inside of homes but establish colonies near entry points outdoors. Bigheaded ants forage for protein-rich food sources when found indoors and enter through foundational cracks.
When dealing with an infestation, it's important to know that do-it-yourself treatments may give the appearance that your ant problem is normalizing. In reality, without properly removing the nest, the ant problem is still present and can be potentially deteriorating the quality of a home. With over 12,000 species of ants all over the world, the likelihood of running into an ant infestation is likely.
There are several prevention methods available to ensure that a home has a decreased risk of ant infestation.
Ants create established routes to and from the colony when foraging food. This is done by the secretion of semiochemicals secreted by the ant to "signal" to others where food can easily be found. By watching the paths taken by the ant's food sources and entry points can be easily identified.
Due to their small size, ants are very successful at penetrating even the smallest opening to your home. To make a home less accessible, it is recommended that cracks are sealed with caulk and crevices are eradicated to deter entry.
If entry points have been located, cleaning the entry point with a detergent will help remove the semiochemical trail created by the ants. In some cases, using a non-repellent insecticide may be a better option. Non-repellent dusts allow the ants to track the insecticide back the nest, potentially eradicating the problem over time. When working with insecticides it is important to take all necessary safety precautions.
Homes become a viable source of food and water for ants, and other insects, when kept unclean or contain leaky pipes and faucets. Ants have the unique ability to survive on the smallest of food sources given the size and dietary need of the pest. Vacuuming areas typically otherwise overlooked (e.g., under couches and along the baseboards) and adequately wiping down counters can help remove the food sources found by ants.
Airtight containers help remove the scents and entry points commonly found with factory direct food boxes. It is important to clean any residue left from the food on the container to ensure they don't continue to come back. Keeping food stored in a refrigerator, freezer, sealable jars or other inaccessible areas will help cut off the food supply of an established colony.
Leaving dirty dishes in the sink can lead to a whole host of pest problems. Washing the dishes after each meal or separating them into the dishwasher ensures that these pests don't have easy access to food sources.
Though no home can be completely entry proof, these methods can help ensure that a home isn't a buffet for any unwanted pests that make their way inside. The key to successful pest management lies in dedication to preventative care. In Oklahoma, ant control can seem like a never-ending process, but it doesn't have to be with the help of professionals.