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How to Deal With Pavement Ants


Ants are a year-round problem, only rivaling the following historical problems: 1980’s big hair, skinny jeans, perms for dudes (also from the 1980’s), and fanny packs. Unlike these historical problems that thankfully are in the rear view mirror (for most of us), a Pavement ant problem in the Boise area can be a recurring problem that continually causes a pain in the fanny pack.

Pavement Ants are often the most observed ants in the Treasure Valley. Pavement ants are tiny black/brown ants that like to nest around cracks in pavement, under rocks and near the foundations of houses and structures. They can be found inside as well, with whole colonies under the flooring of your home, or inside your walls! Pavement ants are unsightly and a nuisance, often gathering around dropped food in kitchens and pantries. You’ll often times see them making their way in and out of garages, kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms. Pavement Ants, like other ants are social insects belonging to colonies. They are considered ‘social’ in that they exhibit three defining characteristics:

  • they live together
  • they have separate working groups or ‘castes’
  • their population has generational overlap

The ants that are typically seen by people around their homes are of the ‘worker’ class that are out foraging for food or water to feed the young, other workers, drones (male ants) and the queen. Worker ants are really only a portion of the population of particular colony, with the unseen ants representing a big part of the total. Because of their unique social structure, treating for ants requires a different approach from treating spiders, for example. ‘Spray’ treatments are normally effective for most pest problems (like spiders, earwigs, etc.), but are less so with Pavement ants. While certainly spray treatments can kill a few workers, the end up doing very little to harm the rest of the colony, or the colony’s future (the queen and her young.) Ants are also extremely sensitive to their environment, and are able to sense when a repellent contact or residual spray has been used, and thereafter avoids the areas treated, only to show up somewhere else. In addition, such avoidance patterns sometimes will split a colony apart, thus creating two separate colonies in one area, multiplying the problem!

The best approach to eliminate an ant problem is to use the colony’s behavior and social structure against them. The best way to do that is to use an insecticidal bait and a few tricks! In order to start, we need to find (or create) a pheromone trail. Ants use pheromones to communicate with each other. They leave pheromone ‘road signs’ for each other to show where food and water is, among other things. While some can find them easily (as they are already foraging on your kitchen floor!), homeowners can ‘create’ a pheromone trail as well. Start by getting out your jar of honey. In a few areas where ants have been visible, place a few drops of honey on a business card, sticky note, or piece of tape, and place the honey-baited material down. Ants love honey, and will immediately start a foraging trail, leaving behind pheromones to communicate to others that there is food nearby. Once ants are active along a pheromone trail, simply replace the honey with an insecticidal bait. The ants will then take the bait back and share it with the rest of the colony, including and especially the queen, thereby effectively taking care of the whole problem.

Thankfully after reading this blog, you can avoid multiple problems, not only the fashion faux pas of fanny packs and skinny jeans, but also staying ant-free as well. Bonus!

-The Barrier Team

CC image by denebola2025 at Flickr

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