The Ants Go Marching 100 By 100, Hurrah, Hurrah…NOT!

[slideshow]When is the last time you saw just “one” ant? The typical scenario is you see “many” ants, either following a trail or going here and there in a frenzy.  The truth is, there is NEVER JUST ONE ANT. What you are seeing is, most likely, just 10% of the colony, so if you see 20 there is at least 200 nearby. If you see hundreds, then there are thousands and on and on it goes. Here’s how it works; there is a “colony” of ants somewhere (whether it be inside or outside of your home.) And the “Queen” or “Sub Reproductive” sends out about 10% of the adult workers to gather food and water. Ants are a highly complex group of social  insect., each one within the colony has a specific job. The “Queens and Sub Reproductives” reproduce–that’s it. The “Soldiers” defend the colony. Adult Workers” gather food and water, “Nursery Ants” eat the regurgitated food from the ” Adult Workers and feed the “Immature Workers” the soldiers and the Queen. Interesting, isn’t it? We could really learn a great deal from ants, don’t you think? Imagine if we applied that to our human world–we would never have too many chiefs and not enough indians causing confusion in the organization!

Now, we, as humans, desire instant gratification so, we grab a can of spray (or cleaning chemical or a rag) a bag of granules or a liquid pesticide and we kill them dead. This is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done to control ants! You see, when we exercise our “dominion” over these tiny creatures (“we bad, yea that’s right, we bad!”) we are actually “making the problem WORSE! The ants are the true victors and they are laughing all the way to their next feast on your food OR, in the case of Fire Ants or Harvester Ants their next attack on your body! 

Okay, okay, so you didn’t know any better and what you did  made the problem worse. The ants disappeared for a short time, but they just surfaced in a new area, and it seems as though there are even more of them.  Sound familiar? Not to worry, once you know what really needs to happen you will gain control of the ant population, I promise.

Here is what you need to know and after you read this, you will know more than most of the “sales clerks” at Chain Stores and even many Professional Company’s Pest Control Technicians (that only had five days of training before they were set loose with a “spray can!”)  THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN CONTROLLING ANTS IS PROPER IDENTIFICATION. With the exception of the very large ant species (Red Velvet Ant and Florida Carpenter Ant) the ants should be placed under a 30-50 power magnifying lens. This is NOT something you can do with the naked eye. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when a somewhat  knowledgable clerk or PCO, by knowing the ant’s color, size, habits and food choices, can make an educated guess and be successful BUT, more often than not, you need to be able to see if they have a “single or double-node petiole”, if they have clubs on the antennae, and if so, how many? Do they not have any clubs, but just lots of segments or perhaps 3 clubs followed by lots of tiny segments (as in the case of the Pharaoh Ant?)  Is their body covered with hair? Do they have a stinger? Is their antennae elbowed or straight?  You get the idea… The other thing of paramount importance, here in Florida, is to make sure that what you are seeing is actually an ANT and NOT A TERMITE which can cause more damage to your home than fires, hurricanes and earthquakes combined! Do you want to take a chance with your home? This is serious business and you need to know what you are “going after” before you arm yourself with pesticides and put your family and the environment at risk only to end up with MORE ANTS THAN YOU HAD TO BEGIN WITH!

So, here’s what you do. Step One: Either call a Professional Pest Control Company that has a good reputation with someone you know OR bring your ant sample to a Pest Control Store that is run by a Certified Pest Control Operator (or the like) and has a trained staff. MAKE SURE THEY, TOO, PUT THE ANT UNDER A MAGNIFYING DEVICE AND NOT JUST EYEBALL IT. If that is not feasible for you, then you can send them to us and we’ll be happy to identify the ant species and recommend the proper selection of BAIT AND INSECTICIDE. Please notice that I said Bait AND Insecticide. It takes BOTH to truly control ants.

Ants, after they have been identified properly, need to be  Step Two: “BAITED” first for a period of time. Remember the 10% that leave the nest to go forage for food and water? They are looking for SPECIFIC FOOD TYPES. Some ants feed on PROTEINS (dead bugs, dish soap, laundry soap, grease, pet food, etc.) while others feed on CARBOHYDRATES  (sweets, toothpaste remnants on your toothbrush (ewe!), or how about Pepto Bismol or the cough drops by your night stand? Those are all food  sources for ants. Some Queens need both types of food, but perhaps at different times. That is why it seems like they “don’t take the bait” or take it just for a period of time and then go to other source. ALL TYPES OF ANTS NEED WATER so many times I recommend a bait that is liquid OR put out both gel or granular bait AND a liquid sweet bait or water. Some of the Professional Ant Baits on the Market are MAX FORCE GEL OR GRANULES, TERRO PCO, ADVANCE DUAL CHOICE, NYBAN, OPTI-GUARD, etc., etc. There are many and there are many because DIFFERENT ANTS LIKE DIFFERENT BAITS BETTER. It all depends on the species, which takes us back to Step One–PROPER IDENTIFICATION.

Okay, you’re “cooking with gas” now. You’ve had your ants properly identified by an expert, you’re armed with the Professional-Strength product for the job at hand. You’ve put out the bait and replenished the bait, and replenished the bait and replenished the bait (yes, at least three times–even more for some ants) and the ants are now slowing way down. Are you done? NO!! You have taken all that time to “do the job right” and you don’t want to become re-infested with ants, right? Right. So….now it’s time for FOLLOW UP. FOLLOW UP IS A MUST! After the Queens and Sub-Reproductives have died from the SLOW-RELEASE STOMACH POISONS IN THE BAIT, it’s time to use a RESIDUAL PESTICIDE to KEEP THEM (and many other types of insects) UNDER CONTROL. It’s important to note here that you would never, ever use this until you have used the bait for at least two weeks, even longer for some species. That is totally counterproductive! THE ANTS NEED TO LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO TAKE THE BAIT BACK AND FORTH TO THE NEST.

With all that said, you may be wondering “why in the heck is all this stuff necessary just to kill these little ants? ” Im glad you asked. The reason this is necessary is because if you just kill them, the workers don’t get back to the nest with what the Queen needs to feed her “babies” and so she starts “pumping them out double time” and sends out another 10% to get the job done. When they go out, they too, get killed or squashed or smashed and now she’s down 20% and her “babies” are still not fed! At this point, she sends out a “Sub-Reproductive” and BAM instead of one nest, you have two! When that maternal instinct kicks in, she’s going to do whatever it takes to tend her colony.

Now for Step Three: When the “Baiting Process” is complete, it’s time to do your FOLLOW UP. After you’ve gone through all the time and trouble to KILL THE QUEENS, it’s imperative that you put out a RESIDUAL INSECTICIDE to ensure that you don’t just end up re-infested. Here in Florida we have a myriad of Professional Strength Insecticides to choose from (Unlike NY, CA and some other states). But, that too, can be a a dilema with all the choices that there are to choose from . The following products are some of the leaders in the field, but just because they are a Professional Product does NOT mean that you just pick a product and spray it! Here are just a few of the product names: TALSTAR, CONQUER, DEMON, BIFEN, SUSPEND, ECO PCO, PERMETHRIN, PYRETHRUM and on it goes. We teach homeowners and businesses THE BEST CHOICE FOR THE JOB AT HAND after hearing all the facts. And then there’s the issue of resistance and chemical rotation.

Please understand something, I am NOT talking about products such as RAID, COMBAT, SPECTRICIDE, BLACK FLAG, ORTHO or other “retail products.” Any and ALL the products you will here me refer to are not going to be found in a chain store environment. I will always be referring to the “tools of MY trade” as a Professional. I make NO claims that the retail products will even come close to really solving the problem at hand. I also need to make it clear that not everyone that has a Pest Control Store is an expert. Unfortunately, there is a gross misconception that opening a Pest Control Store is a “Get Rich Business” in Florida. ALSO, Unfortunately you can be mislead and sold the wrong products that, if misused, can cause serious illnesses or worse yet, even death to unsuspecting consumers! BE SURE YOU ARE DEALING WITH A CERTIFIED PEST CONTROL OPERATOR, who is trained in these types of applications AND accountable to The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). Those of us that are properly trained and licensed, are also required to do Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) each and every year to keep our credentials in force.  We are Not  Sales Clerks or an ONLINE Marketers! The HEALTH AND SAFETY OF YOUR FAMILY, PETS AND THE ENVIRONMENT MAY SOMETIMES COST MORE THAN “THE CHEAPEST PRICE” THEY, INSTEAD, ARE INVALUABLE! Don’t take a chance.

Well, I guess that is a pet peave of mine since I have gone on a tangent, but as a Mother and Pet Owner…it matters!

I’ve said all that and you are probably going “Man! That is way to complicated” or “I had no idea it was such a big deal.” Well, consider this. If you take just a little time to do your homework and do the job right, not only will it save you a lot of money by not wasting time, effort and dollars on things that don’t work, but you will KNOW THAT YOU HAVE DONE IT SAFELY, and you, can then, in turn, tell others so in essence, you too, will be protecting your family and the environment. You can do-it-yourself. WE CAN HELP.

If you don’t have a Professional Operator or Pest Control Store to turn to OR if you just like doing it yourself and saving money, you can send me a sample of your ants attached to CLEAR SCOTCH TAPE OR PACKING TAPE, Write “Hand Cancel” on the outside of the envelope so they don’t get squashed beyond recognition, and send them to me. I will be happy to identify them for you and let you know what products you need to get to do the job right.

Send it to:

PEST CONTROL GENERAL STORE –  Attn: Mona -2636 US Hwy 19 – Holiday, Florida 34691.

As always, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURERS LABEL DIRECTIONS. And until next time, HAVE A SAFE SPRAY!

Mona Giordano, “The Bug Lady”

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