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Preventing Ants From Joining Your Memorial Day BBQ

Before we uninvite family Formicidae, we might want to give a quick nod to the important role ants play on our planet. They do:

– Create topsoil by breaking down, consuming and transporting organic material.
– Prey on other insect pests, such as termites, for example.
– Serve as a food source for other creatures, from insects, birds and reptiles to mammals, marsupials and even plants.

However, the last place we want to see these highly social insects is in the midst of our own social gatherings—inside or out. Here’s why they so often come and what you can do to prevent a disastrous showdown.

Foraging Ants

Truly social creatures, ants live in colonies. While queens and winged males populate the colony, workers are responsible for tending and feeding all the ants in it—eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. That means sending workers out to forage—to discover a food source and bring it back to the nest.

As foragers, ants are very good at what they do. A Stanford University study discovered that foraging ants returning to the nest with food bumped antennae with additional foragers waiting at the entrance. Like a relay, the more quickly ants returned with food and bumped, the more rapidly additional foragers were dispatched. All workers had to do was follow the pheromone trail to mine the food source.

Uninvited Guests

Barbeques and other food-centered outdoor events are the stuff of an ant fantasy. Food is plentiful and often messy, balanced on flimsy plates later abandoned. The likelihood of windfalls—dropped food—is extremely high, particularly if children or pets are present. Add sugary drinks and melting desserts, and it becomes Formicidian nirvana.

Ants in Attendance

Ants all share the trademark characteristics of bent, or elbowed, antennae and a tiny, pinched waist between the thorax and abdomen. However, these six-legged insects come in a variety of colors and sizes. Out of more than 12,000 species, several have a real sweet tooth, a taste for human food and an appreciation for our northeastern habitat:

– Odorous House Ant—usually under sinks or dishwashers indoors and under flowerpots, garbage cans or rocks outdoors.
– Pavement Ant—usually seen on sidewalks or other surfaces swarming over or even covering sweet foods.
– Pharaoh Ant—usually found using wiring or plumbing to travel to and from sweet or greasy food sources.
– Cornfield Ant—usually found in moist areas, favoring sweet food sources.
– Carpenter Ant—usually found where wood is rotting or compromised, with wood its food of choice.

Preventing an Invasion

Although ants are a challenge, there are things you can do to make your gathering as ant-proof as possible:

– Treat outdoor areas well in advance, before introducing food or guests. You don’t want to poison food or cause someone to have an adverse reaction.
– Station easily visible garbage bins in convenient locations. Make sure they’re large enough to prevent overflows.
– Use moats. Ants don’t like water. Place the feet of food-bearing tables in small trays of water, barring access.
– Clean up spills, and police up food windfalls as well as abandoned plates and cups.
– Cover or put away food once mealtime is over.

Long-Term Ant Control

The outdoors are meant to be enjoyed—without swarming, biting armies sending guests scrambling indoors or heading home early. The best way to prevent ants from crashing your gatherings, however, involves long-term maintenance and preventive measures like:

– Keeping your yard free of debris and leaf litter.
– Trimming bushes and trees so that they don’t touch your home.
– Inspecting for and replacing rotted or compromised wood on structures.
– Removing rotting stumps and brush piles.
– Keeping woodpiles at least 30 feet from your home.
– Sealing foods and staples that draw ants, especially sweet or greasy items.
– Cleaning grills and smokers after each use, particularly grease traps.
– Bagging and disposing of garbage, especially food scraps, both inside and out.

When standard practices aren’t enough, baiting and other professional interventions may be necessary. Abarb Pest Services serves the greater counties of New Jersey and New York. Don’t let ants ruin your Memorial Day or any other holiday. Call 973.552.4187, or visit our website today. You can trust us for all of your pest control needs.

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