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Ants, ants everywhere this summer

August 23rd, 2010

Fort Mill, S.C., resident Angela Dykes’ cat, Prissy, discovered the invaders.

It was June when Dykes noticed Prissy playing with something – and when she walked over, she found her cat pawing a trail of ants.

“I saw that the trail led from our breakfast area to our fridge, and when I pulled it out, there were ants everywhere,” said Dykes, who hadn’t had a problem with ants in the three years she’s lived in her home.

Experts say that this summer has been the worst ant season they’ve seen in a decade. And while it may appear their number is up, professionals believe it’s actually that the ants’ visibility has grown.

“During a dry season, they come out of their colony and relocate somewhere with more moisture, like in between the walls of a home where the pipes drip, or under the foundation or hardwood floors of a home,” said Marsh Cassel of Terminix. “It’s not that there’s more ants, but that people are noticing them more.”

Ants are known as structural pests, or those that infest the home. Although they are commonly found inside the home, they can originate from under the concrete slab foundation or around the home’s perimeter. Commonly found in Charlotte are the odorous house ant and the Argentine ant.

Scott Ewers, an agricultural agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, recommends focusing on managing the ant population rather than trying to completely eradicate them. He suggests learning about the type of ant you’re dealing with, and then finding a solution that’s specific to the breed.

“We have people who call us with a description, or even bring in a sample,” Ewers said. “This can help us determine the type of ant and its behavioral patterns and come up with an effective solution.”

Ewers also suggests addressing the problem as soon as you see the first ant in your home, because the ant will leave behind a pheromone trail that helps lead other ants back into the home to forage for food.

Often, homeowners will try the do-it-yourself approach before calling a professional, which can cause the ants to scatter and spread, creating two new colonies.

David Bouniconti of Superior Pest Management has an effective do-it-yourself method: Moisten a paper towel with water and a mild dish detergent and wipe it over the area where the ants have found food and also down the trail of ants. This will kill the ants and also erase the pheromones they leave behind, making it harder for other ants to follow.

He also suggests keeping your cabinets clean, countertops wiped down, and caulking the area of your home where the ants are getting in.

No matter how clean your home may be, experts say ants are still able to find even the smallest amount of food, so wiping down your surface areas is key.

Professionals also say home maintenance, like fixing rotting wood and leaks and keeping the air conditioner condensation line away from your home’s exterior, is an easy preventative measure.

Maintaining your property by replacing mulch with wood chips and keeping trees and bushes off your home’s exterior can also keep ants away.

Dykes had an ant-free home for two months before they recently returned.

She again called a professional – and is keeping her fingers crossed that the ants are gone for good.

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