Did you know that ants are the number one household and nuisance pest in the United States? In fact, ants are one of the top pests for which Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) would like better control.
Ant control, especially when dealing with tramp ants, can be a difficult and time-consuming task. While there are many treatment options, PMPs can exploit aspects of each species’ biology and behavior to gain thorough control quickly.
Read on to learn more about ant colony structure, what makes tramp ants so tough to manage and discover the key areas on which PMPs should focus to gain and maintain control. Additionally, find resources and get pro tips for effective ant control.
Identification is Essential for Successful Treatment
While there are more than 16,000 identified species and sub-species of ants worldwide, 700 of which can be found in the United States, only a small number are considered pests.
Ants are generally similar, but each ant species will vary in certain characteristics such as size, color, nodes, and antennae. Proper identification is important because it will provide insight into the species’ colony structure and unique behaviors, helping a PMP devise the best treatment strategy.
Download the MGK Guide to Ants to learn about 11 key ant species commonly found throughout the United States.
Colony Structure: Single- or Multi-Queen Species?
Once properly identified, it is important to note the colony structure, or social form, the species belongs to. There are two primary social forms: monogyne, or single-queen species, and polygyne, also referred to as multi-queen species.
In monogyne species, reproduction is accomplished by a single dominant queen. They typically occupy a single discrete nest. In polygne species, there are at least two reproductively active queens within a colony. Some colonies have hundreds, or thousands of queens spread out over many interconnected satellite colonies.
Pro Tip: Because some ant species have satellite colonies and can move locations frequently, PMPs will achieve better control with a product that is labeled for outdoor broadcast treatments.
Argentine ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, red imported fire ants and pharaoh ants are the most common polygyne ant species found in the U.S.
Use the MGK Interactive Ant Map to find the prevalent ant species in your area. Filter by state or species to identify problem areas in your region.
Unique Behavioral Aspects of Tramp Ants
Nearly all ants use a complex suite of chemicals, called pheromones, to communicate with nestmates, mark newly explored territory, recruit nestmates to food, as a distress signal when they are in trouble, and to distinguish queens from workers.
Even though all ants are social, their behaviors can vary drastically by species. Polygne, or multi-queen ant species, are also called tramp ants. This term conveys their aggressive and competitive nature, and domination of food resources and available nesting sites. They have broad diets, can nest virtually anywhere, breed rapidly, and attain massive colonies that help them exploit non-native environments.
The most problematic of the tramp ants are those that can form “supercolonies,” where the presence of hundreds or thousands of queens allow colony populations to expand rapidly and dominate an environment by outcompeting native ants for resources.
Pro Tip: Highly polygyne species like Argentine ants have 17 queens for every 1,000 workers. Affect the most ants possible by using a product that is transferred back to the colony.
Key Control and Baiting Strategies
Ant management can be divided into two types of treatment: preventive and curative.
Preventive treatments involve applying a repellent product with residual around the structure or known nesting sites early in the season. This helps eliminate ants before colonies become too large or creates a barrier to keep ants out of a structure. By getting that quick kill and long residual, it keeps ants from trailing indoors. Another type of preventative treatment is a broadcast landscape application which targets colonies before they are established.
Pro Tip: Use fast-acting barrier treatments to prevent ants from entering structures but be careful not to trap them inside.
Curative applications involve treatments after ants have entered a structure or are becoming a nuisance to customers. These could be first-time treatments or call-back services and typically involve the use of non-repellent concentrates in conjunction with an attractive bait. The combination of the two products exploits the foraging behavior of ants and creates an effective attract-and-kill approach.
Pro Tip: Some species nest outside and are only in the home for food and water. Use non-repellent liquids and baits to reduce numbers, followed by a barrier treatment once the interior infestation is taken care of.
An overlooked component in effective tramp ant management is exterior baiting. Traditionally, baits are applied on the inside of a structure where ants are found. But with a larger tramp ant population, this may not eliminate the problem. Ants forage indoors for food and water, and if they can find that food outside, they will quickly consume it.
In small-scale field trials, carbohydrate resources like sugar water and honey were exploited very quickly, often within a few hours of placement within a foraging area. Therefore it’s recommended to bait outdoors with gels and liquids, which can be so effective you do not need a gel or liquid bait to last for weeks or even days outdoors. Ants will exploit these resources in a very short amount of time and quickly divert them to other individuals within the colony, including the larval and reproductive castes.
Pro Tip: Tramp ants are successful because they quickly and effectively outcompete other ants for resources. By applying a gel bait that holds up outdoors, their foraging behavior can be exploited to help PMPs achieve better results, faster.
Key Structural Hotspots: Outdoor Residential
Key Structural Hotspots: Indoor Residential
Stay in control of ants with comprehensive treatment protocols. Download the MGK Indoor/Outdoor Ant Protocol or species-specific protocols below (or from MGK.com/Ants). Protocols include: habits and background, identification, inspection, customer communication and treatment information. Click the images below to see species-specific protocols.
Success Starts with MGK’s Sumari System
The Sumari System was created specifically for PMPs. During development, the MGK team worked directly with PMPs to identify several challenging areas within ant control that were lacking in current product offerings on the market.
Designed to work in tandem, the powerful combination of Sumari® Insecticide and Sumari® Ant Gel Bait is uniquely formulated to provide long-lasting ant control through direct contact and ingestion.
Only Sumari brings together the features critical for improved ant control:
- Sumari Insecticide concentrate provides fast-acting and long-lasting control of ants, including multi-queen species, as well as a broad spectrum of other insects. This all-in-one solution can be used indoors and out, including outdoor broadcast. It has no signal word and contains NyGuard® IGR.
- Sumari Ant Gel Bait is a highly palatable, consistent matrix that delivers long-lasting control of ants, including multi-queen species. It kills within 24 hours and eliminates colonies within 1-2 weeks. This new bait can be used indoors and outdoors, including food areas in operation and has no signal word.
Maximize control and reduce callbacks with the Sumari System. Get additional resources and download products labels and resources at MGK.com/Sumari. Or contact an MGK sales representative or your local distributor representative for more information.
This page was produced by North Coast Media’s content marketing staff in collaboration with MGK. NCM Content Marketing connects marketers to audiences and delivers industry trends, business tips and product information. The Pest Management Professional editorial staff did not create this content.