An ant or two scurrying across your kitchen floor today can easily become a 300,000-strong colony tomorrow, eating through your stored food, contaminating your home, and, if you're unlucky enough to have carpenter ants, destroying your house.
Ants multiply quickly, cause damage even quicker, and have been a pain for homeowners in Southern Maine since people started living in the area.
In nature, ants serve a very important purpose. They are, for lack of a better phrase, nature's janitors. Ants feed on dead animals and waste products, helping them decompose faster, enriching the soil, and preventing diseases.
Ants aerate the soil as they tunnel and keep the numbers of the population of insects around them in check. Ants even help pollinate certain flowers, and carpenter ants, the scourge of many homeowners, help dead trees decompose faster and, by doing so, prevent forest fires.
Unfortunately, the same skills that make ants such useful insects out in the wild turn them into a nightmare for Maine homeowners.
Let's look at what types of ants are common in Southern Maine, a few ant prevention tips, how to get rid of ants if they've already made their way into your home, and if prevention and DIY approaches don't do the trick, where to find top-notch pest control in Southern Maine to get ants out of your home.
The Many Types Of Ants That Can invade Your Home
Ants are one of the world's most populous types of insects, with over 12,500 species discovered thus far. They live on every continent besides Antarctica and have adapted to an extreme variety of environments over the millennia of their existence.
As varied as they are, all ants share these common features:
Large heads and compound eyes
Legs with three joints each and a claw on the end that helps them climb
Ability to secrete a type of antibiotic fluid to help ants deal with diseases
A body that's covered in an exoskeleton, allowing them to withstand pressures many dozen times its body weight
Thankfully, only a few ant species show any interest in sharing their homes with humans, and living in Southern Maine; you're likely to run into the following culprits attempting to set up camp in your house:
Carpenter ants are the biggest ant species in North America and by far the most damaging to your house. They grow up to 5/8 of an inch long with a red or black colored body. In nature, carpenter ants infect dead or dying wood, tunneling through it to build colonies. Unfortunately, if they make their way into your house, they apply the same skills of tunneling through wooden structures that will, inevitably, result in costly repairs. Carpenter ants are some of the most common ants in Southern Maine.
Odorous house ants are the most common ants to infest our homes. They are 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch in size with black or brown bodies. The "odorous" part of their name is due to them being able to release a smell reminiscent of rotten coconuts when threatened or stepped on. Odorous house ants are famous for their love of sweets, and a spilled sugary soft drink will call to them as a siren.
Pavement ants in Southern Maine are around 1/8 of an inch in size with dark brown or black bodies. They have a tendency to build their nests in pavement cracks or under the pavement. They commonly enter our homes through cracks in the foundation.
Citronella ants are on the larger side compared to odorous house ants, averaging between 1/8 and 3/16 of an inch long with characteristic bright yellow or yellow-brown bodies. Similar to odorous house ants, citronella ants produce a citrusy smell when crashed or threatened.
Cornfield ants are, as the name suggests, very common in cornfields, where they build crater-like nests. They are 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch in size with dark brown or black bodies. Cornfield ants are not the most likely ant species to make their way into your house, but they will settle in the front yards or under pavements and walkways.
Field ants are 3/16 to 3/8 of an inch long with either dark brown or black bodies. Unfortunately, field ants are more and more frequently making their way into an area populated by humans. While they're not interested in your home, they will ruin your lawn by building their nests which commonly include an above-ground hill 3 to 4 feet wide and up to 2 feet tall.
European red ants are a relatively new invasive species that are also called European fire ants. They are distantly related to a common South American fire ant and, like fire ants, can produce a very painful sting. European fire ants that settle in your backyard will aggressively defend their territory, and people caught up in an attack will be stung multiple times.
Ants live in very rigidly structured colonies with dedicated roles for workers, soldiers, and one or multiple queens. Their colonies are most often underground, but it's not uncommon for them to utilize rotten trees, pavement, or houses to nest.
Do Ants In My Home Mean It's Dirty?
Ants are omnivorous and, in nature, will feed on tree sap, honeydew, dead animal and animal waste, fungus, insects, and even each other. In our homes, just about any food humans eat will attract them, from meat left out in the open to sweets, grains, or sugary drinks.
A cluttered house will allow them more places to stay hidden, but in general, ants gravitate to a home for three simple reasons; food, moisture, and a place to build a nest.
A leaking pipe in your crawl space, a crack in your door screen, and easy access to food can be all it takes to turn the cleanest home into a home with an ant infestation.
Five Natural Ways To Keep Ants Away From Your Property
An adult queen ant can lay up to 800 eggs a day, turning a couple of ants that got into your home into a nest of tens of thousands in no time. Getting ants out of your house once they've established a colony is not an easy task, even for a professional ant control specialist, so let's take a look at what you can do to make your home impenetrable to ants:
Start with making sure there are no water leaks in your plumbing system to avoid accessible moisture. Ants love rotten wood and will often start a colony in the deteriorated wood around a water leak.
Clean up spills and crumbs immediately and store food in tightly sealed containers. Ants have up to four times the amount of olfactory sensors on their antennae compared to other insects and can sense minuscule particles of food from a long way away. Once one ant has found food, it will leave a pheromone trail for other ants to follow and grab more food to carry to the nest.
Seal cracks and gaps in the outside walls and foundation, and cut grass and other vegetation short around your home's perimeter. Many ant species, such as pavement and citronella ants, build nests next to pavements and foundations and will follow cracks into the house.
Don't stack firewood next to your house. Bringing carpenter ant-infested firewood into the home is one of the most common ways carpenter ants get inside.
Keep an eye out for scout ants making their way into your home and swarmer ants flying in to establish a new colony on your property. Flying ants and swarmers rarely venture far out from their nest, so if you're suddenly seeing a bunch of swarmers, there is a very good chance there is an established nest close by on your property.
Spotting a colony early on is the only reliable way to keep ants out of your Southern Maine home without involving a professional. The problem is that most nests are usually built in well-hidden places inside the walls, rotten deck posts, or in the ground underneath the house itself, making them very hard to find.
How Can I Permanently Get Rid Of The Ants In My House?
Since there are different treatments for different species of ants in Southern Maine, finding the nest's location and properly identifying the type of ants you are dealing with is paramount to an effective anti-ant infestation strategy. An experienced pest control technician can fall back on previous encounters with ant infestations and their training to figure out the likely nesting place as well as the passageways ants used to get into your house.
At Big Blue Bug Solutions, we've provided a full range of residential and commercial ant control solutions to Southern Maine residents since 1935. We offer a quick, painless, and environmentally responsible approach to evicting pests that are infesting your home. Everything we do is 100 percent guaranteed to stand the test of time and invading critters.
If your Southern Maine home has an ant infestation, get in touch with us today to get started and to learn more about our residential and commercial pest control services in Southern Maine.