Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in a PCT e-newsletter titled “Targeting Ants,” which was sponsored by Rockwell Labs Ltd.
Summertime is meant for trips to the beach, heading out to a ballgame and chilling on the back deck watching the world go by. For pest management professionals, however, summer is when the heat is turned up not only on the dashboard thermometer of their service vehicle but on pest pressure.
And there is one pest in particular that seems to enjoy summer as much we do: ants. As summer approaches, ants remain problem pest #1 for many consumers, thus they are the #1 problem for PMPs.
“Ants inside a home are not a normal thing for customers to experience and that is why their tolerance level is so low,” says Shane McCoy, director of quality and technical training for Wil-Kil Pest Control in Menomonee Falls, Wis.
How does McCoy prepare Wil-Kil’s service technicians to tackle the summer ant onslaught? By sending them back to school.
BACK TO BASICS. Wil-Kil’s ant management programs follow a proactive approach that includes a refresher course on the basic principles of ant management including:
- Do Your Homework (A Comprehen- sive Inspection)
- Proper Identification
- Preventive Treatment Options
McCoy says a 20-point exterior inspection is done to identify conditions that would promote ant activity and/or provide sources of food and moisture.
“We look for tree limbs touching roofs, backed-up gutters, or cracks in caulking around doors and windows that would give ants the access point they need to enter a home,” says McCoy. “We preach awareness with our technicians.”
Only after the inspection is complete can Wil-Kil technicians and McCoy make the proper identification and make treatment recommendations to customers.
“Sometimes all it takes is to have the customer address some of the cultural or structural issues like sealing cracks in the foundation or remembering to keep foods in sealed containers,” says McCoy.
If correcting cultural or structural issues doesn’t solve the problem, pest professionals like McCoy can turn to a broad array of products — baits, dusts and insecticides — to gain control of the situation.
McCoy says new chemistries, especially non-repellent products, are helping boost the effectiveness of PMPs’ ant management efforts. “Ants are social insects and having the adult workers expose the active ingredient to the rest of the colony, including the larvae, without being repelled makes a big difference,” says McCoy.
Another area of focus for McCoy in his ant management efforts is educating the consumer on the shortcomings of DIY, over-the-counter products.
“The temptation is strong to pick up a can of over-the-counter spray and douse the ants on the patio or kitchen floor but this often does more harm than good,” says McCoy. “Over-the-counter products will only kill the adults a homeowner sees but do not offer the residual benefits of insecticides, baits or dust.”
McCoy says getting the active ingredient to the whole nest — eggs, larvae, pupae and queen — is the only way to achieve total control.
“Professional products can take more time to work and explaining that to an apartment tenant with ants scurrying across their kitchen floor can be a difficult conversation,” says McCoy. “We must reinforce the effectiveness of our methods and allow ants to do the work for us in taking the active ingredient back to their colony mates.”