Winter Time Ants
“It’s freezing, and I have ants literally marching around my kitchen” are probably not phrases one expects to hear together. But what can I say? Weird things happen. So let’s look at this strange phenomenon and figure out what is going on. Oh…and grab a blanket, it really is a cold day here in Georgia!
What Are These Little Ants?
Most likely what you are seeing is Argentine ants. This particular species came over in one of our most beloved culinary pastimes…coffee. Argentines are thought to have been introduced first in New Orleans about one hundred years ago in a coffee shipment. But they obviously did not stay in New Orleans since they happily made their way across the southeast and even to California and Hawaii! They are masters of travel.
Argentines are very small at about three-sixteenths of an inch in length, but what they lack in size they make up for in persistence. A mature colony can be composed of millions of workers and queens can number in the hundreds. And it likely won’t comfort you to know they are known to be extremely difficult to control and are one of the most common nuisance pests in our area. At least you know you’re not alone. Now that you know your enemy, let’s look at the habits of this wiley variety.
The Habits of the Argentine
Typically, the ant colony has a number of nesting areas that encompass a vast foraging field. Traveling hundreds of feet to find feeding sites is not uncommon at all for this variety. Now perhaps you are thinking that’s not actually all that vast, but may I remind you of the size of the ant. Argentine ant trails in Georgia have been found greater than 350 feet. Just for curiosity I researched and found that an “ant mile” would be about 38 feet. 350 is a long way to get dinner my friends, especially on foot, or feet as is the ant’s situation.
But I digress.
Back to the nesting habits of this ant. Pinestraw, mulch, compost piles, and even under stones or plants are all choice nest sites for the Argentine. In other words, they take their nesting opportunities where they find them. And just what are they looking for in their real estate? Food, water, and shelter are the priorities when it comes to the house hunt specifics. This is survival, and survival means focusing on the basics.
Let’s close our eyes and imagine a warm, spring day. During the warm weather months, you will see the Argentines out and about, finding food and water for the colony. Honeydew from the tops of trees and bushes are a favorite food source for the ant and a common place to find them during the warmer months of the year. If you are wondering what honeydew is…well it’s basically aphid poop. Gross maybe but quite resourceful. Aphids and other scale insects eat the sugar rich plant sap and this is a great source of steady food for the area’s ants. During the heat of summer, we often see large population increases due to warm temps accelerating colony growth. The problem is the lack of water in the dry Georgia summer, so that is where you see the ants searching for food and water inside your home.
Warm to Cold Weather Shift
As the cooler weather begins in the fall, we often see an influx of ant activity in September and October as they search for a place to overwinter. For the Argentines, the winter means finding a more protected place to survive the cold weather. In the outdoors, ants slow their activity as they find a nice tree stump or similar space to hunker down until spring arrives. This is the natural and normal situation, but what if they find a place with warm temperatures, plenty of moisture, and a stable food source year round? If the ants happen to find the welcoming mat laid out for them at your home, well, they just might invite the gang for a long winter party.
Where Are Ants Likely to Live in My Home?
Ants are looking for water, food, and shelter from the elements. Wall voids, window and door frames, inside some appliances like heating and air conditioning units, and under floors are some of the choice locations for ant colonies inside a home. Often home owners will find them in cabinets and behind appliances such as a refrigerator. And why not? We keep the heat nice and steady, water and food are usually not that hard to find in kitchens and baths, and the rent is fairly cheap. In the simplest of terms, if the ants find easy access, they will take full advantage of the arrangement. Don’t lose heart. There is hope for the Georgia homeowner with a house full of ants!
What Can I Do to Prevent Ants?
Let’s start by talking proactively. BEFORE you have a problem, there are some steps you can take to minimize the possibility of a difficult to get rid of infestation. And here we go! First of all, watch out for water leaks. Multiple homeowners have discovered ants and even termites because they found a leak that was causing all kinds of damage to the structure of the home. Repair leaks as soon as possible. Second, keep the food source limited by taking the trash out regularly, sealing up all food sources for you and your pets, and making sure dishes are washed and spills are regularly cleaned. Next on the list is constant home maintenance. Check your window and door frames for damage, make sure cracks and crevices are properly sealed. Lastly, cut back bushes and trees away from your home’s foundations and roof. You can literally create a ladder for the ants to simply walk right over to your home. Keep mulch and pine straw away from the foundation of your home as well. Remember, this is a common nesting site. Lastly, having ongoing pest control means a professional is watching the most common problem areas and practicing preventative integrated pest management to keep out of control infestations from taking over your home.
But I Already Have Ants!
Okay, don’t panic but also don’t try to handle this on your own. You can do the revenge killing scenario and feel pretty good about the situation, but the reality is that you are not getting to the root of the problem. The ants are still nesting somewhere in your walls or floors. Call a professional. A licensed professional has experience and knowledge in dealing with ants in the safest, most efficient way. Canton Termite has been dealing with ants for over 30 years! Our team would love to help you.
If you are dealing with ants or any other pest, give us a call at 770-479-1598 and let us help you live pest-free!