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Small Ant Extermination and Control
There are many species of ants in Texas. This page discusses control of some of the smaller ant species that are common throughout the DFW area, and that are more of a nuisance than anything else. Please click the links that follow if you're looking for information about fire ant control or carpenter ant control, both of which have their own pages.
Acrobat ants are small (about 1/8 inch) ants who usually are yellowish to dark brown in color, although some are nearly black.
Acrobat ants get their name from their odd habit of lifting their gasters (the ants' abdomen or "tail end") into a raised position that is believed to be a defensive posture whenever they are threatened or agitated. They are omnivorous, but prefer a diet of honeydew, nectar, plant sap and meats (mainly insects, other small arthropods, and carrion).
In nature, acrobat ants usually live outdoors in damp areas that are rich in decaying organic matter, such as rotting trees or logs, woodpiles, leaf mulch, and sometimes under rocks. Occasionally, however, they invade homes and buildings, where they usually live in wood that has been moisture damaged or in structural voids.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants are common ant pests throughout Texas. Their name comes from the disagreeable odor (similar to the smell of rotten coconuts) that worker ants give off when they're crushed.
Odorous house ants are small and dark in color. They commonly nest outdoors in the soil under stones, logs, mulch, debris and other items on the ground. They'll also nest indoors in wall and floor voids, particularly in warm, moist areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. They forage regularly along well-traveled trails, and feed on dead insects, sweets and meats. One of their favorite foods is the sweet honeydew produced by sap-feeding insects such as aphids and mealybugs.
Determining where a colony of odorous house ants is nesting is important to effective control. If only a few workers (wingless ants) are observed in the house, then it's usually an indication that the nest is outdoors, and the workers are entering the house foraging for food. But if winged swarmers are found indoors, or if workers are consistently seen in great numbers, it's likely that the ants are nesting inside the house.
Pharaoh ants are very tiny ants (usually about 1/16 of an inch). They can be from yellow to red in color, but most often are amber. They usually feed on sweets and dead insects, but they've also been known to feed on blood under wound dressings, vomit, and other bodily fluids in hospital settings. They often travel throughout buildings through wall voids and electrical conduits in search of food.
Pharaoh ants are among the most difficult of all insects to control due to their small size, their large colonies (often numbering in the tens or hundreds of thousands of workers and usually having multiple queens), their hidden foraging habits, and their peculiar ability to select a new queen if a group of workers gets separated from the main colony.
This last characteristic, known as budding, can result in "fracturing" a colony when repellent or irritant insecticides such as dusts or sprays are used. A small number of ants who actually contact the insecticides will die, but the rest will scatter and elect new queens, often making the problem worse than it was before the treatment.
Extermination of Pharaoh ants usually consists of sanitation to remove alternate food sources, and the precise application of baits and non-repellent insecticides. Because of their foraging habits, it's sometimes necessary to treat parts of the building far from where the ants have been seen.
Pavement ants are dark brown to black in color and are about 1/8" in length. They are omnivorous and will eat insects, seeds, honeydew, honey, bread, meats, nuts, ice cream and cheese. Although they are frequently seen on sidewalks and paved areas, the pavement ant is actually named for the longitudinal grooves on its head and thorax, which resemble pavement markings.
Pavement ants are aggressive within their own specie. In the early spring, pavement ant colonies attempt to conquer new areas and often attack nearby enemy colonies. These campaigns between rival ant colonies result in epic sidewalk battles, often leaving thousands of dead ants in their wake.
Because of their aggressive nature, pavement ants often invade and colonize seemingly impenetrable areas, such as the gap between concrete or other paving material and its soil substrate. In summer time, the ants dig out the sand in the pavement cracks and joints to ventilate their nests, resulting in little piles of sand being scattered about the sidewalk.
Pavement ants are usually controlled using baits and non-repellent insecticides.
Argentine ants are dark in color, and the workers are about 1/8 inch in length. They are omnivorous, but they prefer sweets and protein-rich foods. (One of their favorite foods is the yolk of a hard-boiled egg.) They live in huge colonies with multiple queens, and ants from neighboring colonies freely mix and cooperate with each other.
Argentine ants are among the most invasive of all animal species. Originally native to South America, Argentine ants have spread throughout the entire world, and often cause threats to native wildlife and agriculture. They are extraordinarily aggressive, and nearby colonies of Argentine ants will "team up" with each other to form huge armies. These ant armies then attack other ant colonies (including much larger ant species), termite colonies, bees' and wasps' nests, birds' nests (they scare away the mother birds and kill the young), and even some lizards.
Argentine ants also protect plant pests such as aphids from predators in order to harvest the honeydew that they produce.
Extermination of Argentine ants in and around structures usually is accomplished using carefully placed, slow-acting baits. because of the size and range of the colonies, the multiple queens, and the cooperation between nests, it may take anywhere from a few days to more than a week to eliminate an Argentine ant colony.
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