Almost anywhere in the state one travels, ants will be the most common insects that can be found in yards, gardens, fields and forests. Tremendous numbers of ants normally reside in a typical house lot, although most lead unobserved lives underground or otherwise out of sight. Often it is only when they occur indoors or produce their periodic mating swarms that they come to human attention. |
Ants are social insects that live in a colony, usually consisting of thousands to tens of thousands of individuals. Within the colony are various ant "castes" of different forms and function. Colonies are overwhelmingly comprised of workers, wingless females that forage for food, construct, maintain and defend the nest, tend the young and do other necessary colony duties.
Most ants found in homes nest outdoors, sometimes adjacent to building foundations. Heavy mulch, piled leaves or ground covers that abut buildings can provide cover for ant colonies and can increase the likelihood of their subsequent occurrence in a house. Keeping the area around the building foundation free of cover can reduce the likelihood of ants foraging indoors.
Overall, the activities of ants are quite beneficial. Many feed on other insects, including pest insects. Ant scavenging helps to recycle organic matter and their tunneling is useful in aerating and mixing soils. On the other hand, ants sometimes promote the activities of certain plant pests, notably aphids, that excrete sweet sugary honeydew that is favored by many ants.
Ants most prominently become problems when they are found in homes. Most ants found indoors in Colorado are merely foragers, seeking food or water in a home but returning to colonies they have established outdoors. A small number of the ants found indoors may become more permanent residents and establish a nest within a building. This ability to nest indoors is most often associated with pharoah ants; some colonies of pavement ants and carpenter ants may establish within a building.
The swarms of winged ants being pushed out of the colony often attract attention and alarm, particularly when they emerge in a garage or other building. However, these ants never return to the colony after they have left on a mating flight. After they disperse, time the ants mate and the now fertilized females attempt to establish a new colony. The males die within a couple of days of leaving the colony following the swarming event.
Most ants that occur within homes originate from outdoor colonies. An insecticide barrier maintained around the building perimeter can inhibit much of this activity. Such treatments are generally applied as sprays or dusts to the soil immediately adjacent to the building and/or the lower areas of walls. Particular attention should be given to areas where ants are known to be able to enter buildings, such as near foundation cracks or windows. However, such treatments will not be able to well control ants that enter homes through below ground openings in building foundations. Essentially, all such perimeter treatments involve insecticides of the pyrethroid class and these typically may persist to control ants for a week to around month under outdoor conditions. One perimeter treatment with a different mode of action is hydramethylnon, an insect growth regulator.
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