For ants, focus more on nest, less on food


May 21, 2019

Photo: courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White,

Photo: courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White,

One of the fundamental precepts of stored product pest control is “find the source.” When it comes to pests like Indianmeal moths, drugstore beetles and other pantry pests, locating and removing the infested food product is the most important step in the control process.

When it comes to ants, the most commonly encountered pest in the United States, the most important step in nuisance ant control is not finding the food source. That’s usually easy and the reason why a client calls. Instead, it’s crucial to locate and control the colony at its nesting site.

Knowing the location of the colony allows you to employ the appropriate control tactic directly to the source of the ants. Certain species, like carpenter ants and pavement ants, can be treated directly with liquids or dusts if the nesting site is accessible. When baits are the preferred control method, depositing baits in close proximity to the colony will accelerate control and maximize treatment efficiency by reducing the distance ants need to transport the bait to nestmates.

Use food to help discern the location of an ant colony’s nest. Upon leaving a food location, ants will immediately return to the colony to deliver nourishment to the reproductive, larvae and other workers. By following a procession of ants as they leave a food source, a tenacious technician can track down the location of the colony.

Removing food sources is one part of the ant integrated pest management (IPM) process that can’t be completely ignored, but only a fraction of an ant colony is foraging for food at any one time. Plus, multiple food sources are likely, so this can’t be the only tactic.

Like any good IPM program, the success of your efforts will likely be dependent on multiple approaches working in concert with one another. One thing is for sure: Eliminating the ants at a food source will not result in successful control of the infestation.

About the Author

Dr. Jim Fredericks

You can reach Dr. Fredericks, VP of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), at

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