When left to their own devices, ants are amazing little creatures. From working together to create elaborate labyrinths to joining together to safely cross small rivulets of water, ants are very industrious. We humans have taken notice of their impressive work rate, too.
When looking through human cultures, ants make a very impressive impression. The little six-legged buggers appear in both the Bible and Quran, their hard work lauded in the popular and well-known fable The Ant and The Grasshopper, and as the main attraction in movies, including Them!, Antz, and most recently, Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Such fascination in such tiny individuals. As youngsters (or even as adults), how often did we stop to see what a small mound of a few thousand ants on a sidewalk was up to? Both repulsive and hypnotic, the insects were simply going about their daily lives, working together for an end goal.
Admirable, really. Until that end goal is to find a way into our sugar bowl. That’s where the entertainment ends and the teeth-gnashing begins. They transform from cute little characters in a Pixar film to beady-eyed marauding invaders that must be eradicated at all costs.
Which, in itself, would be quite the undertaking. It is believed for each human on earth, there are around 1.5 million ants. If they managed to gang up on us, could you imagine what 1.5 million black ants or red imported fire ants coming after you would look like?
Common to the Pacific Northwest
This family is wide and varied and range in size from the enormous two-inch long Amazonian Ant to the two-millimeter long Pharaoh Ant. Army ants are typically living in the Southern United States and other warm climates, but this family is rarely found in the cold environs of the Arctic.
In our neck of the woods, we don’t have the biggest, smallest, or deadliest ants to contend with. We do have some very specific species that we’ve all grown to know. If kept at bay, these ants go about their business and cause little concern for humans.
- Sugar Ants – Also known as odorous house ants because of the smell they give off when crushed, these bugs are relatively harmless to humans (although they do cause the occasional panic). They are darker in color and like to take up residence in the kitchen or bathroom.
- Carpenter Ants – As the name indicates, these larger ants like to make a home and lay eggs in woody areas, such as logs or stumps. This also means the floor joists and the framing in your home are attractive, too. They can be red, black, or a combination of the two and may be confused with termites.
- Pavement Ants – Another aptly named ant, the pavement variety can be found along driveways and parking strips next to sidewalks. Black or brownish in color, they make their way from cracks in the concrete to your home looking for food.
- Velvety Tree Ants – Similar to carpenter ants and their love of wood, these insects are a little more aggressive than the others. With dark heads and lighter red or yellow thoraxes, these ants will bite and release a secretion on humans and animals they see as a danger.
Helpful, not Hurtful
They’re not all bad, however. Ants do a lot of good for us here in the Pacific Northwest. So before wishing for the extinction of every last member of the family Formicidae, consider what they do for us. Well, besides grossing us out on occasion.
Aerate the Earth
By burrowing into the ground, these insects turn the soil for us. Ant colonies should get just as much credit for helping the ground as earthworms do. By moving soil from one place to another, they redistribute nutrients that improve the health of the soil. The little tunnels left behind circulate the air and allow water to reach further into the ground.
Improve the Earth
In addition to improving ground circulation, our little friends also enhance the soil itself. As the old fable applauded, ant nests are continually storing food back on their farm, spreading nutrients that wouldn’t normally be there. There’s also the fertilizer they leave behind after eating, improving the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen.
As they bring seeds back to the family, the occasional seed may be missed when inside the colony. Because the soil is so much better down there, the seed has a better chance of growing. Protected from other seed-eating insects and drought conditions, the seeds have an ideal place to root.
They Can Play The Hero
They aren’t helpful to everything, though. One of the things that make these insects so formidable is their ability to work together. That’s especially true when they decide to take on/defend against other pests. There was a popular video in 2018 that showed a colony creating a bridge to get at and destroy wasp nest.
Termites are also a tasty treat for ants. Now, to be clear: We aren’t saying you should let a few million ants move in. But they do a lot of good for the environment around our homes, help us grow strong plants, and keep the ground healthy. But we understand if you don’t want them in your home.
That’s where The Bug Man can help. Using products that help deter ants from entering your home, we will develop a plan to help keep these maddening little bugs from entering your home. However, there are many steps you can take right now to keep the creatures from taking up residence in your pantry.
Like any other animal, the ant species is always on the hunt for shelter or food. It makes sense then to eliminate accessible food sources. This means remembering to put the lid back on the sugar bowl, clean up crumbs left behind on the countertop, and put pet food in sealable containers.
Many cities have started to hand out countertop food recycling tubs. Instead of throwing your leftover food into the garbage, use these sealable bins. By denying access to food sources, the bugs will have no reason to hang around. You may find the occasional ant hunting around for something to eat, but at least you won’t have any nest sites in your home.
Ants don’t travel en masse for no reason. Male ants, or drones, are sent out in search of comfortable areas to move, including places with bountiful food sources. Once somewhere hospitable is found, they’ll leave a pheromone trail for the others. No food, no trail.
There are also steps you can take on the outside of your home to discourage these insects. Although they can create their own bridges, cutting tree limbs away from the home makes it just that much harder for them. With no food sources, they won’t make the effort.
At the ground level, move decaying vegetation away from the home. Leaving six inches between the home and the flowerbeds won’t stop an ant of course, but will leave the area less desirable. It will also make the exterior of your home look just a little bit better.
Simple solutions like these will keep ants – and other bugs – from taking over your cupboards, cabinets, and crawl spaces. Already infested with insects? Contact The Bug Man and find out about our variety of options for managing pests. Our technicians are state-certified and receive continuing education on best pest control practices.
The Bug Man understands not every situation is the same, so we don’t offer one-size-fits-all fixes. We make a careful inspection of your home or business and tailor solutions to your situation. In cases where products are needed to stem the tide of pests, all of our treatment products have been EPA-certified.
That’s why we believe our process can’t be beaten. Call us for today to discuss your specific situation and the variety of solutions we have to offer. We streamline programs to fit your family’s needs.