Ant extermination begins with identification. While there is a nearly limitless number of ant species, a few are common to household infestations. Carpenter ants and fire ants are among the most common. Most ants, like carpenter ants, do most of their damage by taking up residence in or near your home. Fire ants are like mines waiting to go off and sting you. Carpenter ants will hollow out your wood to create their nests. Ant extermination is best when done early and can make the cost considerably more manageable.
Fire ant identification usually begins with finding one of their mounds. These mounds are generally a few inches high, fluffy, and typically first form the day after a heavy rain. They have no opening at the top of the mound, unlike most other ant mounds. Fire ants travel through underground tunnels. If you accidentally dig up a fire ant mound, you'll see white objects. These are the eggs and ant larvae, also called the brood. If you think you've accidentally dug up one of these mounds, don't hang around because as many as several hundred fire ants are on their way and they will crawl up the first vertical surface they find and begin biting.
Fire ant extermination is generally focused on mound drenching and broadcast treatments. There are several fire ant extermination products on the market. You should drench a mound with at least one gallon per foot of mound diameter. It is extremely important that you don't disturb the mound before you drench it. The queen will escape and your extermination will be less effective.
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Broadcast treatments involve canvassing your entire yard with granules. These granules should then be watered to cause the granules fall onto your soil's surface and will ensure fire ants come into contact with them. With both forms of treatment, you will also need to keep people and pets away from the treated areas until they are dry.
Fire ant extermination can also be done with baiting, but the process is usually time-consuming and more expensive. No matter what treatment used, complete fire ant removal is notoriously difficult. You will probably need to treat your yard from 1-3 times a year.
Carpenter ants are difficult to visually identify because they come in different sizes and different roles within the colony. Carpenter ant colonies include workers and winged swarmers. The workers almost always appear first. These carpenter ants are black and between a quarter inch to a half inch in size. If you can get a really good look at them, these ants also have a circle of hair at the end of their abdomen.
The good news is that seeing carpenter ants is not necessarily a sign that you have an active infestation. These worker ants can travel quite some distance foraging for food and water. The bad news is that if they're not dealt with they may keep coming back and because of the distance their nest isn't always easy to find. If you begin to see winged swarmers, you have an active infestation and a nest is probably already established inside or near your home. Well-established carpenter ants also create sub-colonies. As many as a dozen satellite colonies can branch off from the main nest.
Once you have identified carpenter ants in your home, the first thing you should do is cut off any available water and food sources. Carpenters ants do not eat wood, they only use wood to nest in. After you eliminate these food and water sources as much as is possible, you should try to find the entry point. Carpenter ants can enter your house from almost anywhere, but the most common ways are dropping onto your ceiling from nearby branches and holes or cracks in the foundation. Try to find these entry points and seal them off and/or cut back any nearby trees.
If you don't have an active infestation, this may be enough to take care of the problem. If you continue to have a problem or if you have an active infestation, it's time for carpenter ant extermination. Several different types of pesticide treatments are available. Some target killing the carpenter ants that are present in the home. Others target the perimeter of the home and prevent further infestation. Multiple treatments are often applied, but at least should target infecting the colony itself to make sure a complete ant extermination is achieved.