There are approximately 10,000 different known species of ants living on our planet. There maybe another 10,000+ ant species that we don’t know about yet, explaining why we are constantly finding new ant species in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. At local perspective, there are about 750 ant species commonly found in North America, but less than 30 are commonly found in homes and structures. Some of them are public health threats and potentially dangerous to humans and animals.
Ants bite and sting, potentially posing risk to human health, especially fire ants. Another rarely known fact - some ant species can also be the potential source of food-borne illness. Several years ago, University of Florida recovered pathogen bacteria from Pharaoh ants and fire ants after allowing them eat dead roaches infested by the pathogen bacteria.
Ants do not eat wood, but the destructiveness of carpenter ants is well known. They nest in wood, damage lawns and defoliate plants. As for fire ants, they can actually undermine pavement on driveways, causing settling and cracking and consequential water damage. The damage they do to buildings can also make it easy for termites to build tunnels into that area. Did you know that termites will live in fire ant mounds to get warm in winter.
The complexity and variety of ant species and different biologies associated with each ant species makes controlling them difficult at times. Therefore, correct identification is a must before considering control methods. While sometimes it is necessary to let the pest management professional do the control job, homeowners can fix ant problems if they are knowledgeable.
Like any other household pests, keep these tips in mind: - Ants are active 24 hours a day. - They have specific food requirements and need water. - Each at species has its own chemical trail followed in food searching. - Ants normally live outside your home, so spraying inside for prevention is not a good practice.
Therefore, first know your target species and figure out where they are located - look for water sources and harborage habitat. Then look for the bridges and tunnels they use to enter homes. Place ant baits* on or in the bridges and tunnels, let ants feed and be intoxicated. You can also destroy the bridges and tunnels to cut off the routes ants use to invade homes.
(*sugar-based or protein-based, depending on ant species and their physiological need)
Dr Xing Ping Hu
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