Control of Small Ants

Extreme close-up of some pavement ants, one of the most common household pests in Dayton

Small ants, like the pavement ants pictured on the right, are among the most common residential pests encountered by exterminators in Dayton and the Miami Valley.

Although they're not generally considered significant public health pests, like any other crawling insect, ants may track filth that they crawl over to food and food preparation surfaces. Some ant species can also impart a foul odor or taste to food. But more than anything else, most small ants are just plain annoying when they're present in large numbers.

At Dayton Pest Control, we take a variety of approaches to ant problems, depending on the customer's preferences. But our preference is to do most ant control work from outside, using borates and other low-toxicity baits, and only perform localized interior treatments if and when there's actually an ant problem inside the home.

The reasons we prefer this approach are because it's more responsible, and because it works. Ants aren't a serious enough threat to human health and safety to justify extensive interior treatments. Besides, in most cases, the ants' nests are actually outside, anyway. They're only coming into the house to eat. Even the tiniest food or beverage spills look like a smorgasbord to ants, and they don't hesitate to help themselves.

Another reason that exterior baiting works well is because all ants are social insects. There's no such thing as solitary ants. The ones you see who look like they're just wandering around are actually worker ants looking for food, which they'll bring back to the nest and share with the rest of the colony when they find it. That's one of the reasons why baiting works so well: The ants do some of the work for us.

Common Ants of of Ohio's Miami Valley

Pavement ants. The picture at the top of this page is an extreme close-up of pavement ants from two different colonies fighting each other. In reality, they're quite tiny, averaging about 1/10 inch to 1/8 inch in length. Most pavement ants are predominantly black in color. They have elbowed antennae and constricted "waists," which helps distinguish them from termites.

Some people believe that pavement ants got their name from the longitudinal grooves on their heads. We believe it has more to do with the fact that they're commonly seen on pavement. They often live right below the pavement, in little spaces between the surface material and the soil underneath. They get in and out through the cracks.

Once in a great while, a pavement ant nest can be located inside a house, most commonly under the slab near a crack or expansion joint. But that's the exception to the rule. Most of the time their nests are outside, and exterior treatment is the treatment of choice.

An odorous house ant, so named because they smell bad when you squish them.

Odorous House Ants. Odorous house ants are about 1/10 inch to 1/8 inch in length and are predominantly brown or black in color. They get their common name from the fact that they stink when you squish them, which also explains their other nickname, "stink ants." Their smell has been described as resembling rotten coconuts, moldy cheese, or dirty feet, among other things.

Odorous house ants are more likely to nest inside a home than most of our other Ohio's ants. In fact, they'll nest pretty much anywhere -- there's really no such thing as a "typical" odorous house ant nest -- but usually they build nests close to their food sources, which also can be pretty much anything. Although they strongly prefer sweets, odorous house ants will eat anything that we eat, and quite a few things that we won't.

Odorous house ants whose nests are outside the house are often seen inside the house after a rain storm. That's because the rain washes away one of their favorite foods: the honeydew produced by aphids. So they come inside, hoping that your kids spilled some juice during breakfast that morning and that you haven't mopped the floors yet.

Treatment for odorous house ants depends on where their nests are. This can sometimes be a challenge to figure out because of their random, unpredictable nesting habits. You can help by observing the ants' travel patterns, and pointing us in the general direction when we arrive for the service call.

Close-up of a Formica ant, a large, soil-dwelling ant common in Ohio.

Formica Ants. Formica (or "Formican") ants are a genus of soil-dwelling ants that build loose nests in the ground. They're predominantly black in color and can range in size up to about 1/3 inch in length, so people sometimes mistake them for carpenter ants; but they're not even in the same genus.

Formica ants are always an exterior problem, and exterior treatment is the way to control them. When they come inside the house, it's because they're looking for food; and they only do that when they can't find stuff they like outside.

Outside nests of Formica ants should be treated if they're close to your home. Although they're not especially aggressive, they can bite if threatened, as well as spray an irritating liquid called formic acid on the perceived threat. This can be a problem if you have young children who play outside, or pets that might annoy the ants. They do take offense easily.

Close-up of a Pharaoh ant colony.

Pharaoh Ants. Pharaoh ants are tiny, translucent, yellowish ants that can become major nuisances when they build nests in homes. Their colonies can rapidly grow in numbers to thousands of individuals because the colonies have many queens. They can then spread through the entire home, traveling through walls, plumbing chases, and even electrical conduit.

If you believe that you have Pharaoh ants, it's very important that you not try to eliminate them yourself using any sort of insect spray. Doing so will only make the problem worse. Because their colonies have multiple queens, applying sprays that are repellent to the ants will cause the colony to fracture into multiple, viable colonies.

The other problem with DIY Pharaoh ant control is that if it fails (which it probably will -- Pharaoh ants are a challenge even for professional exterminators), your attempts will make it harder for us to treat the problem. The original nest will have fractured into many nests, and the repellency of the sprays will discourage them from eating our baits.

Other Small Ants. There are hundreds of species of small ants found in and around Dayton and the Miami Valley -- far too many to describe here. We have cornfield ants, crazy ants, acrobat ants, thief ants, and even a specie whose actual common name is the little black ant.

No worries, though. We're a full-service pest control company that can handle any ant problem, in an environmentally-responsible way that's friendly to your home and your family. So if you have a problem with ants, please contact us for a no-obligation consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.


Jarrod's Corner

The Dayton area just ranked #34 in the nation for bed bugs. If you need help, call today for a free estimate. Here is a picture from a heat treatment today in Huber Heights.

--Posted by Jarrod Kelley on
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Check out this video from a bed bug heat treatment done near downtown Dayton today.

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I’m often asked by my customers if our vehicles will have a big bug on the side of it when we arrive for a service call. This question always comes up when we are called for a bed bug problem. Take a look at the following link ...

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Here is a photo from another heat treatment performed near downtown Dayton today.

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Here is a handy reference guide put out by OSU’s entomology department. If you think you have bed bugs or aren’t quite sure what one looks like, here a good place to start!

--Posted by Jarrod Kelley on
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Termites are still busy during this hot summer. Did you know this insect never sleeps?  They are working 24/7 looking for food (i.e. your house)!

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