1. Ant FAQ



What can I do to prevent or eliminate ants?

The key to preventing ants from infesting is preventing entry into your home. Ants are constantly foraging for food and water to share with the members of their colony and may even take up residence in your home in wall voids or other hidden spaces if conducive conditions exist. Check out our blog for tips on pest-proofing your home!

What do you do to treat for ants?

Our treatment options vary depending on the severity of the ant problem and the species of ants involved. Ant control requires an integrated pest management approach, utilizing several strategies to achieve the goal of completely eliminating ants.

Your American Pest technician will conduct an inspection of your property to locate the ant nest(s) as well as recommend changes you can make to reduce ant-conducive conditions in and around your home. (cleaning gutters, fixing window screens and repairing plumbing issues, etc.)Treatment options include exterior sprays and gel or granular baits.  

What are the most common species of ants in our region?

The most common species of ants trying to enter homes and businesses in the Maryland, DC and NOVA area include Carpenter ants, Odorous House Ants, Pavement Ants and Pharoah Ants.

Other ant species of note for this region include Allegheny Mound Ants and Little Black Ants.

Why do ants move in lines?

Ants have to work together to build and support their colony. When an ant locates a source of food or water, they give off pheromones as a signal to their colony members.

Fellow ants that pick up on the scent know to follow it and give off their own pheromones, strengthening the original signal on the trail so that more ants can find it. Once the source of food or water has been diminished, the ants move on to find new resources and the pheromones from the trail gradually dissipate.

Why do carpenter ants eat wood?

Contrary to popular belief, Carpenter ants don’t eat wood! They use their powerful mandibles to excavate moisture-damaged wood to build tunnels where they will nest!

The course sawdust you see near a Carpenter bee harborage is from the wood that was processed by the ant’s mandibles, which would not be present if the wood was consumed.

How do you identify a pavement ant?

Looking closely, you might be able to see the grooves on the Pavement ant’s head and thorax. They are approximately 1/8” long and are dark brown or black.

Pavement ants prefer to stay outdoors, especially beneath flagstone patios and sidewalks.

How do you identify an odorous house ant?

Odorous House Ants are approximately 1/8 of an inch long and range from being dark brown to black in color. They give off a distinct odor that smells like rotten coconuts when they are crushed.

How do you identify a carpenter ant?

Carpenter ants are one of the largest out of the most common North American species, ranging in size from ¼ to ½ of an inch. They tend to be black or bi-colored. 

Do ants bite or sting?

Most ants in our region do not bite or sting. Certain species do bite, like Carpenter ants or Fire ants, which can be found in Maryland. Carpenter ants are likely to be found nesting in or near your residence, but Fire ants generally do not try to come indoors and will only attack if their colony is disturbed.

How do you tell ants apart from termites?

Many residents of DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia see swarming insects on their property and are not sure whether they have a termite problem or an ant problem! Both types of insects will swarm, but if you can get a good luck at a few of the insects, there are some key differences.

Ants have a distinct “pinched” waist, elbowed antennae, and two pairs of wings of unequal size with visible veins. They have three distinct body segments, the head, thorax (middle), and abdomen. On the other hand, termites have two pairs of wings without visible veins that are of equal size and double the length of the body.

How do you identify an acrobat ant?

Acrobat ants can be identified most easily by their distinct heart-shaped abdomen held in the air.

I've heard that ants are considered "social" insects. What does that mean?

Ants live in colonies that are comprised of hundreds or thousands of individuals. Every ant is assigned to a caste in the colony and is assigned a specific task which could include foraging for food, caring for the young, or reproduction.

Every ant is obligated to do her part (Most ants are female!) to ensure the success of the colony. This social structure poses some INTERESTING CHALLENGES when it comes to controlling them.

Who cares what kind of ants are in my home? I just want them gone!

We totally get it. Unwelcome house-guests need to be shown the door-fast. But your American Pest technician needs to correctly determine which species have invaded your property because proper identification is the key to the pest’s undoing.

Control strategies developed for one species of ant may not work for another species. After your technician has identified the ants invading your home, he can develop a customized treatment program that will ensure the elimination of the ants trying to get into your home.

I'm pretty handy around the house. There are plenty of over-the-counter products available to eradicate ants. Can't I control an ant problem by myself?

It can be done, but it is very difficult. Ants live in colonies, meaning that every individual ant you see potentially represents thousands of ants in or around your home. In order to achieve complete relief from these pests, the entire colony must be eliminated.

Also, over-the-counter baits and gels may sometimes be too potent, which means the ants that come into contact with it will die before they can share the food source with their comrades and especially their queen, the primary reproductive member of the colony.

In addition, over-the-counter DIY products work under the assumption that all ants will be attracted to the same bait, which is not true. The species of ant and the time of year are important factors in deciding which type of bait would be attractive to the pest ants in your home.

What can I do about flying ants?

Flying ants are the only ants that are able to reproduce and the swarms you see every year are the only chances ants have to mate before pairing off to form colonies with the inevitable offspring.

If the swarms are too close for comfort, you can vacuum up the insects and dispose of the vacuum bag promptly. (Keep in mind that flying ants are a sign of a colony nesting nearby!)

I had a treatment for ants, why do I see more?

It is not uncommon when utilizing non-repellant baits for ants to see a sudden, sometimes seemingly drastic increase in the volume of ants within days of the initial treatment. Non-repellant bait materials are targeted towards interior ant infestations and are especially effective in getting rid of ant colonies.

When non-repellant baits are used, the worker ants transport the active ingredient back to the colony where it is fed to other members, including juvenile ants. It is important during the initial treatment phase to allow these ants to feed on the bait material in every effort to control colony development.