How to Cope with Ants in
Your house


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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Ants Are No Picnic
By Gary Fish

How do you spell nuisance? A N T S.  For many of us, ants are a pain,
especially those carpenter ants! They come into our homes looking for sweet
and fatty foods. If only that fat would give them little ant coronaries. Since it
doesn't work that way, how do you banish them?

The first step is identification. There are many species of ants in New
England and each has its own habits, so once you know the enemy, you can
plot its eviction.

Carpenter ants are generally 1/4 - 3/4 inch-long and may be black or red.
(Your local Extension office or the Maine University Pest Management Office
1-800-287-0279 can confirm the species.)

Most carpenter ant infestations start with a few scouts looking for good grub
or an oasis to quench their thirst. From a nest in rotted wood, they set out at
night, following driveway edges or tree branches to enter a house through
foundation cracks or roof vents. If the scouts find food or water, they recruit
others to enjoy the spoils. If the eating’s really good, the colony may outgrow
its quarters and establish a satellite community, often indoors. Evidence of an
indoor nest include coarse sawdust mixed with small black pellets (ant poop)
or flying ants.

But, whether you find the casual marauder or a group of squatters, there is
no need to panic. Carpenter ants are not like termites. They don't eat wood.
They chew rot-damaged wood or foam insulation commonly used under
vinyl siding or around foundations. They won't eat your whole house and
their presence only reveals structural damage that existed before their arrival.

So on to the eviction plan.

First, clean up food sources and put staples inside containers. Remove access
points. Fix leaky pipes or roofs. Keep shrubs and trees six feet away from the
house. Eliminate rotten stumps within 50 feet. Replace damaged or rotted
wood. Seal cracks along foundations and around windows, doors or vents.

If the critters keep coming, explore control options. To find their lair, put out
a bait of jam and cat food and set your alarm for midnight. When you turn up
the lights, you’ll readily spot their caravan marching between the nest(s) and
the food.

Once you know where to strike, do it with care. Call your local  Board of
Pesticides Control (BPC) (In Maine its 207-287-2731) which can help you shop
for a licensed pest management professional or provide a list of carpenter ant
control products. Read and follow all pesticide label directions. Direct
controls into the nest(s). Foundation sprays are not very effective and pose a
greater potential for human or animal exposure. In the spring, baits can also
be effective when placed along ant runways.

The BPC motto is --Think First...Spray Last. When you must spray, reduce the
risk. Use the least toxic material in as small an area as possible where nothing
other than the ants will contact it.

Better yet, learn to live with them since they really are just a nuisance. (For
more information, check out
www.thinkfirstspraylast.org on the web.)

About the author:
Gary Fish, is an environmental specialist for Maine's Board of Pesticides
Control.
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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