Essential Information on How to Get The Best Ant Control

by | Feb 13, 2021 | Pest

Portland Ant Control

If you’re in Portland, sugar ant control in the springtime can be a struggle. Kitchen windowsills, sinks & showers are their favorite haunts. Sugar ants aka odorous house ants are tiny pests that get into food and crawl over people & pets. This article will walk you through the integrated pest management approach on how to get rid of sugar ants.

Odorous house ants (tapinoma sessile), often called sugar ants are persistent household pests due to the colonies that they live in. These colony structures mean getting rid of sugar ants can be serious work sometimes.

Potted oxalis plant, small cactus and some scallions soaking in water on a windowsill
If you have a South facing kitchen windowsill in Portland, odorous house ants aka sugar ants will show up there first. Or in your hot tub. Sometimes sugar ant pest control can be difficult to get right.

Ecological Exception

  • Odorous house ants are actually considered an endemic species native to the Northern United States.
  • Here in Oregon odorous house ants have foraged in the topsoil for protein from dead bugs and fungi for centuries.
  • Odorous house ants trail high into fir or maple trees searching for honeydew, sap or other sugary liquids to drink.

Bizarre Biology

In fact, adult ants have a liquid only diet. So when you see them carrying a crumb in their mandibles they’re certainly carrying it back to the colony. The larvae chew, process, and feed back to the adults through a process called trophylaxis. Which is essentially “baby birding.” Gross, I know.

Learning Ant Control

But this is actually important for us if we want to know how to get rid of sugar ants. Recognizing that foraging ants rely on their larvae back at the nest for food is key. For best ant control we should start to imagine the ant colony working more as a whole, instead of individual ants we see on our countertops.

Secondly, these ants like other “pests” take advantage of the perfect habitat our homes provide for them. If you see a Portland pest control company drive by every few minutes, ant control for the home is probably a major reason why.

Take the Test: Is There An Ant Colony In Your Walls?

Odorous house ants favor the constant moisture and temperature that the insulated space between our interior & exterior walls provide. Here’s a simple test to determine if you have odorous house ants in your wall voids.

Take a look at the weekly night time temperatures.

If temperatures are below 55 F at night, and you’re still seeing ants inside: congratulations. You have an odorous house ant satellite colony in your wall voids.

If temps are over 55 F, you can usually tell there’s an interior satellite colony if they’re frequently found swarming a dropped crumb in the morning.

Satellite Colony Ant Control

What’s an OHA satellite colony? This is pretty cool thing you have to respect them for.

  • They have multiple queens and multiple colonies, with one central main colony that supplies other smaller ones. Other ants usually have only one queen and one colony.
  • OHA’s main ant colony is usually outside and the largest during summertime.
  • When food is abundant in one area, they pick up part of their nest and set up a satellite colony to start reproducing nearby.

My colleagues have noted many interesting places where OHAs had decided to create a satellite colony. Inside a DVD case on an open garage floor, inside wall outlets, light fixtures, smoke detectors, and underneath potted plants.

Gamers might think of an ant colony as a player in real-time strategy games like Starcraft or Command and Conquer. They expand territory, move bases, harvest resources and subjugate enemies. This should help you visualize the ants as one or more interconnected colonies hidden away in your walls.

How To Get The Best Ant Control

Thinking of them less as individuals on your counter tops will assist in getting professional ant control results.

Sanitation Station

OHAs basically nest wherever they want. Common areas are south facing kitchen windows sills, around electrical outlets or along plumbing at bathroom sinks, shower or tubs. Anywhere where there’s a little extra heat or condensation.

It’s always good to keep your kitchen tidy and floors swept. In all reality though, cleaning alone probably won’t provide ant control long-term if there’s a nest inside. Likely the main ant colony is outdoors somewhere nearby, and they will send more ants if they choose. You might reduce a significant portion of the food they sense, but you won’t remove all the attractive scents. And you’ll never remove their abundant habitat as long as you have insulated wall voids in your home. (Hopefully that’s everyone here.)

Before You Set Out On A Caulking Campaign

Sealing crevices around doors, windows & openings is a good way to keep moisture and spiders from entering your home. Ants are a different story. Odorous house ants disappear into the tiniest cracks in Portland foundations that may not even be visible to the naked eye. Since you’re unlikely to effectively exclude ants from entering, attempting is probably not worth your while. Instead monitor the crevices where you notice ants entering, and place bait there.

Lack of Natural Predators

Fascinatingly, odorous house ants are a native species but don’t have significant natural bio-controls. Possibly due to the foul chemical stench of their pheromones, they do not have many known predators. Clearly they don’t have many lethal pathogens or parasites either. Odorous house ant colonies ranging from hundreds to thousands in size are able to thrive in and around our homes. And with apparent impunity.

Most common “pest” species are non-native invasive species. Norway rats, roof rats, house mice and house spiders are non-native species that thrive outdoors and can become invasive and disrupt local biodiversity. Odorous house ants are kind of a one-off, in that they’re not invasive or disruptive to the ecosystem, but they’re a major nuisance to humans. Species that live alongside humans are sometimes referred to as “commensal.”

Odorous house ants definitely should be considered commensal, like Norway rats and roof rats. However since they have an evolutionary place within the native ecosystem, we should manage them with special care.

Ant Control For The Colony

Now we know where ants are lurking and what they’re doing back there. How do we get rid of sugar ants from our Portland homes? Always aim for the colony and do not take half measures.

Control Ants With Baits Not Sprays

Recruit the ants themselves to help bring some bait back to their colony. Terro or other borax based liquid baits work well for most cases. If the main colony is numbering in the thousands, you may still need a professional treatment.

Over the counter insect spray products should be avoided since they won’t necessarily treat the colony, and may actually and interfere with control later. Avoid organic essential oils, cinnamon, diatomaceous earth and other repellents for the same reason.

Pollinator Safety

Remember that ants live in colonies just like honeybees do. Use abundant caution if applying any over the counter pesticides outdoors. Use extra caution or do not spray if there are flowers blooming around the foundation of your home. Do not allow spray drift to come into contact with blooming flowers.

For more information and safety tips please refer to our Guide to Pesticides. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to call the ecologically conscious Portland ant control professionals at Pest & Pollinator LLC. We’ll help you finally get rid of sugar ants inside the home while safely managing any hazard to wildlife, pollinators and beneficial insects.

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