Noah has recently finished his landscaping project, and his yard looks great. He has put down fresh mulch, and he has planted some beautiful knock-out roses under his windows. To celebrate, he has been inviting his friends over for cookouts, which can run late into the night – so late, in fact, that he often doesn’t clean up the mess until the next day. And now he has ants. He has tried using repellents and off-the-shelf baits, but the problem is only getting worse.
Here are five mistakes he made that led to (and then worsened) his ant problem – and how he can fix them.
1. Out with the old mulch, in with the new mulch.
Every year when Noah puts new mulch down, he puts it on top of the previous year’s mulch, which is a big mistake. As the mulch ages, it dries and hardens so that it flakes apart easily. Ants are drawn to the decaying mulch, and if it’s right up against the house, then you are practically inviting them inside.
Solution: Remove the existing mulch before you put down new mulch. If possible, don’t mulch right up against the house. You might also consider pre-treating the area with an ant repellent.
2. Roses attract aphids and aphids attract ants.
On top of that old mulch, Noah planted knock-out roses, which is an excellent choice – they are beautiful and hearty. But they also attract aphids. Aphids come with their own problems, but they also draw ants. The aphids produce a substance called “honeydew,” which is an excellent source of food for the ants. This “honeydew” is so appealing to the ants that they will actually help to maintain and tend to the aphids in a symbiotic relationship.
Solution: Treat the roses for aphids before they have a chance to attract ants.
3. Ants love leftovers as much as you do.
To get the most out of his yard, Noah has been hosting regular cookouts, which have a tendency to run long into the night – so late that he often doesn’t feel like cleaning up the mess until the next morning. The queen of an ant colony sends out workers in search of food and moisture for the colony, and the baked beans and soda spilled on your counter are as tempting to them as they are to you. Additionally, ants are very good at communicating to other ants using pheromones when they find a good food source. One lucky ant that finds your feast can quickly turn into a supply line “trailing” from your counter to the heart of the colony.
Solution: Avoid leaving food out any longer than absolutely necessary. If the ants have already found the food, then be sure to wipe down the entire ant trail to remove the traces of pheromones that can continue to attract other ants.
4. Repellent can keep ants out – or trap them inside.
When Noah discovered the ants in his house, he used a repellent figuring that it would repel the ants away from his house. Repellents are an effective treatment method when they are used correctly by forming a barrier that the ants are unable to cross. This means that the ants that are inside are trapped inside. The trapped ants will then form a new colony in a process called “budding.” Now Noah is dealing with two or more ant colonies instead of one, and they are appearing in more areas of his house.
Solution: Once the ant problem is the persistent and spreading throughout the house, it might be time to consider professional help to develop a strategy to reign them in and keep them out.
5. Off-the-shelf solutions aren’t long-term solutions.
Now Noah has expanded his arsenal to include a variety of off-the-shelf repellents, baits and traps. However, if they aren’t used properly, the poison won’t make it back to the queen (or queens if the colony has already budded), which means that the colonies will continue sending workers in search of food and moisture. In fact, it’s possible that the colonies are inside the house rather than just around the house. These off-the-shelf products aren’t intended for long-term use, so a persistent problem will require application after application, which will get expensive fast – without solving the problem.
Solution: By this point, it’s clear that the ants have settled in for the long haul, and a long-term, professional solution may be necessary to ensure that the ants are taking the poison back to spread throughout the colony – all the way back to the queen.
Noah could have prevented his ant problem before it started by:
Removing the old mulch before adding new mulch to his landscaping
Treating his rosebushes for aphids before they attracted ants
Cleaning any surfaces that came into contact with food
Avoiding short-term, off-the-shelf solutions that require application after application
Consulting with a professional to develop a complete strategy
Gladhill Services is a family-owned company serving Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, providing pest control, mold removal, duct cleaning and waterproofing services for residential and commercial customers.