Ants are closely related to bees and wasps, and a single ant colony can home as many as half a million ants. Having said that, if a colony feels under threat they’ll move locations in no time, lock stock and barrel.
An ant can live as long as seven years, a very long time for such a tiny creature, and a Queen ant can live twice as long. You might have noticed huge clouds of ‘flying’ ants in August, in which case you’re looking at millions of young queen ants flying off to create their own colonies.
You might have seen a few ants indoors. They might just be exploring. But they might be an indicator there’s a nest close by, something you don’t want in your home or business premises.
Why is an ant infestation a bad thing?
The majority of British ants are completely harmless. They don’t carry germs or spread disease. But because they love sugar they can be a nuisance around food, and a large infestation might see you being bitten – not particularly painful unless you get multiple bites, but unpleasant enough.
Pharaoh’s ants are the exception to the ‘relatively harmless’ rule. They’re carriers of harmful germs and diseases picked up from their habit of eating decomposing food and faecal matter, which can then contaminate your home and the food you eat.
These days our warming climate means people get ant infestations all year round, in and out of doors. Your first step is to find out what species of ant you have in your home or business premises, since different species need different pest control treatment.
Britain’s most common ant species
- The garden ant is 4-5mm long and dark brown to black. The workers will follow trails around food sources, keen to find sweet and high-protein foods. They swarm in mid to late summer and nest outdoors in soil, under paving slabs and on the sunny side of buildings, revealed by small piles of very finely powdered soil, almost like very fine sand
- The pavement ant is around 3mm long lives under paving slabs. They process the soil into a fine sand which causes pavements to sink and become unstable, and they’ll eat more or less anything that humans and our pets eat. They like nesting near water and enter buildings under cover of darkness in search of food
- Pharaoh’s ant has a lighter head and a darker abdomen, both brown, and is about 2mm long. Swarming can take place at any time of year and you can spot clear ant trails that often follow the routes of heating systems. They eat meat, fat, blood, dead insects and more, and nest deep inside heated buildings. They’re often found in hospitals, where they love the humid warmth
- The red-brown Roger’s ant is just 2mm long and they’re rarely found outdoors. They can swarm at any time of year and nest in tiny crevices around drains and behind wall tiles
- The ghost ant is less than 2mm long with a very pale abdomen and dark head. It loves sweet foods and grease, nests indoors in small spaces and is attracted to moist places so particularly enjoys kitchen and bathroom cupboards
DIY ant killing products and professional support
If you have a small ant problem outdoors, and they’re not Pharaoh ants, you could leave them to do their own thing. There are various DIY ant killers available in the shops, which are perfect if you want to get rid of small colonies of garden ants outdoors. But big colonies or persistent infestations of Pharaoh’s, Ghost or Fire ants need professional attention. Once your BPCA certified surveyor has identified the ants for you, they’ll pick the most appropriate insecticide for the job, ideally something that’s pet and people-friendly.
How to spot if you have an ant problem
If you see loads of ants, it’s a sign there’s probably a nest. You might see ant pathways going in and out of the building. Some ants create these paths by laying down a trail of special pheromones, designed to show their fellow colony members which way the food is. You might see an ant nest, at first glance nothing more than a small pile of soil. Other types of ant prefer living inside walls and in dark places, which makes their nests harder to spot.
How to prevent ants colonising your home or business
Most ants only come indoors to find food. They love anything sweet, so keeping the place clean and tidy, and storing food carefully, will help prevent infestations. Clear up spilled food and drinks straight away. Sweep up all crumbs as soon as you can, taking care to also clean under appliances and furniture. Store food in containers, ideally airtight ones. Clear away uneaten pet food immediately rather than leaving it hanging around. Seal cracks in the surrounds of your doors and windows so they can’t get in. Outdoors, seal your rubbish bins.
Are you looking for Ant Pest Control in London or Kent?
If you have an ant problem, call us or use the free quote form above to arrange a survey. Once we know which type of ants you have, we’ll arrange treatment by one of our qualified pest technicians, who will help you exterminate the ant infestation and advise you how to stop the creatures coming back