Termites and ants are common problems in many homes around the world. Not only are they a nuisance, but they also cause severe structural damage. There is not one comprehensive resource available online on how to identify, prevent, and remove these pests from homes. This makes it difficult for readers to find the information they are seeking.
Below you will learn how to properly identify each insect, how to treat, remove, and prevent both of these pesky insects from entering your homes:
According to a study conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 54% of pest management professionals claim that ant infestations are on the rise. Carpenter ants are the most treated type of pest infestations among the pest management professionals at 66%. They account for 66% of pest control annually. Carpenter ant infestations are most commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms due to the high amount of moisture, damp wood, and food. The kitchen is the most vulnerable area of a home for an ant infestation among the pest management professionals at 96%.
Termite colonies are commonly found in wood objects within structures. Just one wood object could consist of millions of termites. Since they are able to eat 2-3% of their body weight daily, they can do a significant amount of damage very quickly. The USDA estimates that $1-2 billion in annual consumer spending will be on prevention and repairs related to subterranean termites. The average homeowner will spend approximately $3,000.00 in repairs and treatment from a termite infestation.
Carpenter ants and termites are often mistaken for one another because of their similar physical traits. There are several distinguished characteristics to tell them apart from one another. Carpenter ants can be ¾ of an inch to an inch in size and they can be red or black in color. Termites on the other hand are ½ of an inch in size and are always black. Carpenter ants have elbowed antennae, a narrow waist, and 2 pairs of wings that differ in size while termites have straight antennae, a thick waist, and 2 pairs of wings that are the same size.
Spring and summer are the main infestation seasons for carpenter ants but they can remain active all year round if their nest is inside a building. Carpenter ants are tiny in size, making it very easy for them to enter a home or building through cracks in the structure. Ant colonies send a scout into new buildings to find potential colony locations with damp wood and a sustainable food source. Ants will eat anything from dead or living insects to honey, sugar, protein, and foods that contain these ingredients.
Despite the fact that termite activity slows down during colder weather, they remain active all year round. The two most common types of termites are: Subterranean termites and drywood termites. Subterranean termite colonies live underground, while drywood termites enter through crevices in the wood and seal themselves inside of a nest.
Subterranean termites find their way into buildings through areas of a structure that have ground to wood contact. These areas can include doorframes, decks, porches, and wood stacks located close to the building. Subterranean termites can also enter through the cracks in the foundation and holes in concrete blocks. They then travel to wood objects found within a building’s foundation. These termites are also known to build tunnels constructed out of mud to transport themselves throughout a structure.
Drywood termite infestations occur a bit differently than their subterranean counterparts. The initial group of drywood termites is called swarmers. These swarmers seek out a crevice in the wood of a building and begin a nest. Once they have sealed themselves in the nest they will start producing eggs to build their colony. Drywood termite infestations are problematic to prevent compared to subterranean termites for they can enter through any floor of a building.
Termites are attracted to materials made of cellulose: wood, cardboard, and paper. Like carpenter ants, termites are attracted to moisture, shelter, and optimal temperature.
Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood, but rather dig it out causing severe damage to a buildings structure. Carpenter ants dig into the wood, creating tunnels to push the wood through galleries. This approach causes the wood to appear smooth and finished. Damage is much less noticeable when compared to the damage caused by termites. Because of this, carpenter ants may not be identified for long periods of time, weakening the structure of a home or building severely. Key indicators to look out for are piles and trails of sawdust.
The main source of food for termites is wood. Termites consume wood 24/7 causing extreme damage in a short period of time. Since termite colonies house thousands to millions of members, the structural damage they can cause is insurmountable. Termites cause damage to house foundations, furniture, shelves, books, carpets, laminate flooring, ceiling walls, and insulation.
Unlike carpenter ants, termites eat the wood, which causes the wood to become rough and jagged, unlike the smooth and finished results from the damage carpenter ants cause. Often times damage to wood objects remains under the surface. One way to test for termite infestation is to tap on the wood. If it sounds hollow, this may be an indication of an infestation.
There are a number of household products available for the removal of ants. However, these are only temporary solutions that do not remove or control the main root of an infestation. Be cautious when using products that contain boric acid, bleach, and rubbing alcohol for they can be dangerous for both humans and pets if consumed.
Another treatment method is fumigation. This procedure uses chemicals to kill ants and prevent infestation for approximately 6-8 months. Fumigation can be inconvenient because it requires you to stay out of your building for a few days due to the dangerous chemicals used. The chemicals used can be potentially harmful in the home environment, which is not suitable for children whose immune systems are still developing.
Specialized ant control solutions by pest control experts are the best option. These treatments will target and remove the root of the ant infestation and put preventive measures in place to keep your home ant free.
There are several methods used to treat termite infestations. The most common treatment is called termiticides. Termiticides (termite pesticide term) are available in liquid and gas form and are applied to the soil or directly on the wood to control a termite colony. This type of prevention kills residing termites and repels future pests to inhabit the area.
Liquid termiticides are applied to the soil to target subterranean termites or directly on the infested wood to target infestations of both subterranean or drywood termites. Liquid or foam termiticides can be applied to the foundation of homes to help prevent termites from entering any cracks in the foundation.
The most effective type of treatment depends on the severity of the infestation, the species of the termite, and the location and construction of the home. Consult with a trained and licensed pest control professional to assess the infestation individually and recommend the most effective treatment plan.
According to a survey done by Pestworld.org, 81% of pest professionals stated that keeping your home free of crumbs and spills whenever possible is key to preventing carpenter ants.
Regularly maintaining a clean home and removing food and moisture is one of the best preventive measures to take to prevent an infestation. Perform household chores such as wiping down all surfaces with mild bleach or vinegar solution, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, fixing water leaks, and removing sources of moisture or standing water. Clean up all debris of food on countertops, tables, sinks, and from the floors. Make sure food is stored in cabinets, sealed or in airtight containers.
To prevent ants from entering a building, inspect for any cracks in the building, windows, and doors. Prevent ants from entering through these cracks by sealing them and replacing or fixing window screens. Fill in all cracks with proper products to prevent entrance into your home (another benefit is increasing the energy efficiency of a building with better temperature control and lower utility bills). Also, be mindful of tree branches and other plants close to your home for ants use them to enter buildings. Keep firewood, yard debris, and building materials away from the building to prevent infestations from developing in stacks of wood.
Much like carpenter ants, eliminating standing water and fixing water leaks helps prevent termite infestations. Along with eliminating moisture inside and outside of a building, removing wood-piles, tree stumps, and roots away from buildings is another prevention method. An 18-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of your home is recommended to prevent ant infestations. Routinely inspect the foundation of your home for any signs of termite damage.
Termites and carpenter ants affect over 600,000 homes each year. These pests find openings and flaws within a buildings structure and tunnel their way into your home. They burrow within and devour the wood that supports your home causing billions of dollars in damage. The best way to treat an infestation is to prevent it. Don’t fall victim to carpenter ants and termites this season!