When to Call an Exterminator for Ants

By Sarah Horvath

The good news about ants is that they don’t carry diseases, but some species of ants can cause structural damage to your home. Fire ants in particular have irritating and painful bites, especially if you are allergic to them. Whether or not they spread disease, ants do not belong in your home.

How do you know when it’s time to call an ant exterminator? If you’ve seen several instances of ant activity in your home (groups of them, not just one or two stray ants), then you may have an ant infestation. You can start with home remedies for DIY solutions to your ant problem, but if those don’t work, it’s time to call a professional ant exterminator.

How to Identify a Home Ant Infestation

Did you know that there are multiple types of ants? It’s true — not all species of ants are the same, and not every species of ant causes the same damage to your property. The following are some of the most common types of ants you’re likely to see in your home and how they might affect your life and the structure of your home.

Types of Ants and How They Get into Homes

The following are the common kinds of ants that will inhabit your home if given the chance. One or two ants can easily be managed, but large colonies can spring up in just a short time. Ants communicate primarily through pheromone trails — these are scents they produce to convey information to each other. Ants don’t have the best eyesight, so they mainly communicate through these scent trails to pass along messages about food or potential threats. They use their antennae when close to each other, but pheromone trails act as message highways so that the whole colony can be on the same page. This is how ants come into your home and become a problem.

Carpenter Ants

Unlike the rest of the ants on our list, carpenter ants can cause structural damage to your home. In nature, the colony settles in rotting wood, stumps, or fallen trees. However, they will look for equivalent wooden structures in your home once they ascertain that your home could be a good place to settle down. Carpenter ants don’t typically work as quickly as termites, but they can eventually cause just as much damage as termites, depending on the size of the infestation. Carpenter ants are reddish black in color, and they prefer cool, wetter climates in North America. They can enter your home through a damaged portion, like a rotting windowsill or cracked doorframe.

Pavement Ants

If you’ve ever seen an anthill rising out of cracks in your driveway or out of any concrete structure, including parking lots or sidewalks, these are likely entrances to pavement ant colonies. Pavement ants are black or dark brown and they make their homes in spaces and crevices in, well, pavement. They’re found all over the country and are one of the smaller kinds of ants on this list. They do not cause structural damage to the places they inhabit, but should they infest your home, they can contaminate your food, so they should still be removed from your home.

Argentine Ants

Argentine ants are found in the southeastern United States mainly due to the widespread availability of wet environments and humid, tepid weather. They are an invasive species that can disrupt the life cycles of essential pollinators and other native species of flora and fauna. Because Argentine ants aren’t known to be particularly aggressive toward one another, this adds to their invasive capabilities because they can create extremely large colonies relatively quickly, as long as no predators get involved. If they infest your home, you don’t have to worry about them damaging your home or biting you, but you do have to worry about the odor they produce when crushed as well as food contamination. Argentine ants will enter your home through cracks and holes and are drawn to readily available water sources.

Fire Ants

These pests can be an absolutely painful nuisance. Also an invasive species, their full name is red imported fire ants, and they wreak havoc on feet and ankles all the way from Maryland to Texas, and some desert states like California. They are small, but they can produce large welts with their quick and nasty bites. These usually turn to blisters full of pus and are painful to the touch. If you or any of your family members are allergic to fire ants, it’s especially prudent to eliminate any fire ant colonies either in your home or on your property. As their name would suggest, fire ants are orangish brown or reddish brown. Any homeowner needs to be aware of the potential problem of fire ants creating colonies on their property, usually in the yard or near sheds or other structures.

Odorous House Ants

The odorous house ant is a black ant, sometimes dark brown in color. They are found all over the United States, and they are aptly named since even one ant produces a strong, unpleasant odor when you smash it. Some say it’s reminiscent of rotting coconuts. This type of ant is again not a health risk to humans, but it can be a huge nuisance if they infest your kitchen or even the crawl space under your home. They like to create their colonies in loose and open soil, which is an abundant material underneath most homes. They can also make their homes within walls and floors, and this is where the infestation becomes tricky to control.

Crazy Ants

These ants are dark brown or black in color and they have little hair-like structures protruding from their exoskeletons. Caribbean crazy ants get their name because the worker ants, the type of ants you normally see, run around in an unpredictable and seemingly nonsensical, jerking way while they’re out of the colony searching for food. Crazy ants adore honeydew, so they are likely to stay away during warmer months when the fruit is in season; however, they are known to enter and inhabit homes after heavy rains and when the weather changes to cooler seasons because they no longer have an abundant supply of honeydew. They can enter your home through damaged seals or cracks, and they will look for food sources within. Indoors, they build their colonies under carpets because their colony structures are naturally shallow and wide.

Where Do Ants Hide?

Ants require both a source of food and a water source, so they tend to congregate in places where there are both — kitchens, near garbage materials, and anywhere that may have a steady source of moisture. If you have a basement with cracks through which ants can enter, they can find water there and then find food either outside or they can eat your food.

Ants can hide within your wall voids, under and behind door frames, behind windowsills, and, especially in the case of odorous house ants and crazy ants, within your floors. Much like termites or wasps, ants make their homes in damaged wood structures or anywhere they feel is safe from predators but still close enough to food sources. If you have an area of your home where ants might easily find food (for example, behind a dishwasher that is not working correctly) chances are high that you’ll find ants congregating there.

What Happens if You Can’t Control Ants on Your Own?

If you’d like to tackle ant pest control on your own, there are many DIY treatments you can try. You can purchase little ant traps. These are bait traps that are about the size of a pack of gum or smaller, and you can place them where you’ve seen ant activity and where ants are likely to enter your home. You can also caulk or seal the cracks and crevices you see where ants could come in.

After a few days, if you notice less and less ant activity, it means the bait traps are working. You may need to purchase a few more and wait a few more days or weeks, but if your infestation is a small one, this could be enough to take care of it. You can also make your own ant bait traps using any kind of leftovers you have, a small plate, and boric acid. Boric acid is extremely cheap, but it’s a very effective pesticide. All you need to do is place something appetizing on the small plate (or plates) and mix in boric acid. The workers of the colony will not only consume the poison in the food; they will also bring the food back to their colony so that the whole colony is affected. Within about two days, all the ants will be dead.

If your home is infested by a particularly large or unruly colony or two of ants and these methods just don’t seem to be working, you need to call a pest control company or an exterminator right away.

How Do Exterminators Get Rid of Ants?

Exterminators and pest control services have the know-how, experience, and proper equipment needed to eradicate ants that have taken up residence in your home. While pest control companies employ an ideology called integrated pest management that combines environmentally sustainable use of insecticides with residential pest removal, exterminators usually make one or two visits to your home and employ a style of pest control that can be described as total annihilation.

They essentially perform the same steps mentioned above, except that they have more powerful insecticides and typically specific entomological knowledge that better prepares them to get rid of ants than the tools lay people have at their disposal. Exterminators will start with a free quote most of the time, do an inspection of your home to determine the severity of your ant infestation and where they’re coming from, and then seal off those passages. They then set down industrial-grade baited traps which are sugar- or protein-based so that the ants are attracted to the toxins within. The great thing about colony insects like ants is that the workers go back to the main colony and spread the poison to ants, effectively spreading the poison to other ants without any extra effort on your part.

How Do Exterminators Get Rid of Ants in Walls?

After sealing up the entry points ants are using to go back and forth between your home and the outdoors as well as placing the aforementioned bait traps, exterminators will then apply insecticides directly into the voids of the walls. Sometimes they need to use a sprayer with a hose attached so that they can place the pesticide into the wall void effectively. They may remove the faceplate on wall outlets so they don’t have to damage any walls in order to apply the pesticides.

These pesticides are in addition to the baits and are in the form of liquid sprays, dust, or aerosolized compounds. All of these can be applied through a controlled spraying apparatus. Some exterminators even use foaming pesticides so that each and every surface an ant could take refuge upon is covered.

How Much Does an Exterminator Cost for Ants?

Pest control companies and exterminators have different costs because pest control companies typically perform their services annually, quarterly, or monthly. Exterminators do their treatments for ants all at once, and the average cost for an ant treatment is $150. This just takes into account the national average going from as low as $40 or $50 to several hundred dollars. Quarterly and monthly treatments will range from $30 to $100, depending on the size of your property. One-time treatments performed by exterminators usually cost around $200. That’s based on the average cost of treating a home that’s 2,200 square feet, inside and around its perimeter.

How Long Do Exterminators Take to Get Rid of Ants?

Exterminators perform their actual pest control activities for getting rid of ants in about two hours, possibly slightly longer if you have a large home or an extensive pest problem. Most exterminators are not contractually obligated to return to your home after they perform their treatments unless otherwise stated in your agreement.

With that being said, many big names in extermination are now offering follow-up services should you notice an increase in ant activity (usually a frenzy before they succumb to the poisons). Preventive measures if you sign up for an ant control subscription usually take only about half an hour. Efficacy of these treatments can depend on whether it rains right after the spraying — if you see more ants after your treatment or it does rain heavily and you’re concerned about the pest problem rebounding, the company will return free of charge to complete another treatment.

Hire a Professional Ant Exterminator

If you’re sick of dealing with ants in your home, now might be a great time to contact an exterminator or a pest control company to rid your home of the problem once and for all. If you’re not sure which exterminator to call, we recommend solving your ant problem with Terminix. Terminix is a professional pest elimination company operating in most parts of the United States — with more than 80 years of experience, Terminix has the team and the experience needed to eliminate any type of ants.

Not only can Terminix get rid of every ant on your property — they can also keep them from returning. Terminix’s policies include its Nix Pest Guarantee when you invest in a continuous pest control plan. If your ants return to your home in between appointments, Terminix’s team will return as many times as is needed to make sure the ant problem is solved. Click here to get a free quote from Terminix and begin your journey to a pest-free property.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for an exterminator to get rid of ants?

As a general rule, most exterminators will take around two hours to spray for ants. However, if your ant problem returns or if you’ve got a severe infestation, you might need to book multiple appointments with your exterminator to make sure that your ant problem doesn’t come back and that ants don’t have the opportunity to form a new colony.

How do you know if you have an ant infestation?

There are multiple warning signs that tell you that you might have ants in your home, the first of which is seeing ants on your property. Ants must frequently leave their colonies in order to look for food, which means that you’ll likely see them exploring your property or bringing crumbs back to their colony to share. You might also notice ant colonies or mounds forming outside of your home or insect wings discarded around the inside of your home.

What to do before an exterminator comes for ants?

When pest control companies arrive at your home to treat ants, they’ll be providing pesticides that kill ants and trick them into taking poisoned food back to their colonies. To prepare for an ant extermination company, make sure to clean up your countertops, flooring, and any other areas where ant activity is common. Cleaning beforehand will allow your pest control company to apply treatment effectively. You can also make notes of anywhere you frequently see ant activity — this will help your exterminator know exactly where to apply treatments.

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