Household ants are small creatures that do not pose a structural risk to buildings, but may contaminate food and other surfaces they come into contact with. They are much smaller than their relatives, carpenter ants.
Household ants can be identified by several key characteristics. They are small insects with three body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. Between the thorax and abdomen there are little bumps, called nodes. All ants either have one or two nodes and this is the starting point in identifying them. They can range in size anywhere from 1/16" to 1/8'' long. All ants also have an elbowed antenna. The amount of segments and whether or not it has a club (enlarged end segments) also helps in identifying ants. In Virginia, the most common home-invading ants are: Odorous House Ant, Acrobat Ant, Little Black Ant, with the Argentine Ant recently moving into the southern region of the state.
Ants invade homes for many reasons. Sometimes just for food. Other times adverse weather conditions force the whole colony to move indoors. Many species of ants have multiple queens per colony. Most of these queens roam around with the workers and are not egg producers. If the colony is stressed then they can “bud”. A pheromone (hormonal scent) is released that can signal these other queens that the colony is in trouble and they become “active” and run away with many of the workers. This can split one colony into dozens of new colonies.
While household ants don’t pose a structural risk to your home (that’s for carpenter ants to do), they do pose a health risk by contaminating your food. When ants move about your home, they pick up bacteria that can be passed along to any surface they cross, including your food, counters, silverware, and more.
Some of the most common forms of bacteria passed on by ants include E. coli, shigella, and salmonella. All three of these germs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, among other symptoms.
Less common, but equally significant, is to keep in mind that all ants are capable of biting you, and will do so if they feel threatened or are defending their colony. While household ant bites themselves are not harmful (fire ants, however, may inject venom into their victims, of which may cause an allergic reaction), if the bite is not cleaned properly, it may leave your skin susceptible to secondary infections.
First, take preventative measures to ensure ant infestations don’t become a major risk. Cut back vegetation so it doesn’t touch the home. Keep leaf litter and grass clippings out of the yard. Keep a few inches (2-4) of bare soil between the homes foundation and mulch or grass. One way you can protect your food is to store it in sealed containers, and keep fruits and vegetables off the counter or table. It’s also important to sanitize your kitchen regularly so that any existing contamination can be eliminated, as well as always sweep the counters and floors so that loose food particles are not left out.
If you already have a house ant infestation, BioShield can help. We will provide you with a free home inspection from our team of local professionals, and our available green products are healthy for the environment but will effectively treat pests. Contact us for your free consultation today.