Finding the nest is key to successful ant control, but following ant trails in pursuit of a colony is frequently easier said than done.
Locating the source of your ant frustrations – the colony – is not a job for the faint of heart. Even when you leverage every visual cue, you can be left with no clue as to where the little invaders have taken up residence.
“Trails can be extremely difficult to follow, especially when they disappear behind the siding on the outside or flow behind counters and cabinets inside the home,” says Jeremy Kreer of Advanced Pest Management in Elkton, Md. “That’s why nonrepellant products are so valuable to us. In many cases, they eliminate the need for us to find the colony.”
Dr. Laurel Hansen, whose research at Spokane Falls Community College focuses on carpenter ant biology and management strategies, agrees that the transferability of insecticides has made finding the nest less critical to management success than in the past. “Over the past several years, baits and perimeter sprays have become very good at enabling ants to transfer their active ingredients to others in the colony,” she says. “Emphasis has moved from trailing ants to eliminating conducive conditions.”
Still, finding the nest(s) can help you gain quicker control by giving you the opportunity to apply direct treatments. Hansen says that some species of ants are simply easier to track than others. Familiarity with their foraging behaviors is pivotal to locating their source. Knowing that carpenter ants typically forage in the late afternoon or early evening, for example, helps you know when to start following them. “It’s often helpful to offer ants a food source,” adds Dr. Philip Koehler of the University of Florida. “Then you can follow them as they carry the food back to the nest.”
Some interesting ant trail tales:
“While most ants will follow along a runway aligning with straight lines in sidewalks, patio lines or concrete walkways; between the mortar joints of brickwork; or along pheromone trails, others do not follow this sequence and instead lead you on a journey to seemingly nowhere. One client told us emphatically that the ant colony was located at the base of a tree in his yard about 75 yards from the house. There were ants there, for sure; however, the colony was actually located about 150 feet away in the front right side of the house. The ants had been traveling along the cable wire under the insulation and into a remote corner of the attic, where they had ample warmth, moisture and protection from the harsh winter."
-Dennis Mastrolia, Dennis the Mennis
“We once had an ant nest pop up in a homeowner’s living room carpet. We kept baiting the nest inside but couldn’t figure out where the exterior source was located. Eventually we pulled up the carpeting to find a quarter-inch crack in the structure’s foundation slab. We treated and sealed the crack, and later found the source of the infestation to be 30 yards down the driveway. The ants had tunneled under the driveway, under the footers and up into the living room.”
- Brian Wescott, Director of Pest Operations, Inspect-All Services