Pests We Treat - Ants find home in rodent bait station

I was recently dispatched to to perform a routine ”summer service,” which is part of our Home Protection Plan, for one of our Ocean County residential customers who resides in Mantoloking. Upon arrival, no one was home, so I started my exterior inspection. For this customer, we had set up exterior rodent bait stations on each side of the house because of field mice on her property. Normally, before checking the station, I would kick it to see if there was a live rodent inside ready to surprise me. However, checking the account history before I arrived, there was no recent rodent activity, so I decided to live dangerously and just open it up.  To my surprise, there was a full-blown functioning ant colony living inside. The video shows what happens when an ant colony is disturbed. The ants grab as many little white eggs as they can and make a quick getaway. These white “ant eggs” are not the actual eggs. Ant eggs are almost microscopic. These eggs in the video are ants in the pupal stage of complete metamorphosis.  The larvae that hatch from them are helpless, grub-like young that the workers must feed and care for. 

I killed the colony by directly applying a liquid or dust formulation to it. Without a doubt, this is the surest way to get rid of an ant infestation — by killing the queen and everyone else. Of course, the challenge is finding the nest. Often, you need to be a detective, observing and following the trailing ants heading back to the nest carrying food for the colony. Inspecting after dark is sometimes best, since some ant species are more active at night. I also treated the surrounding area with a residual product that would kill any ants that escaped the initial treatment. I then contacted the homeowner on her cell phone to find out if she was having any ant issues inside her home. Fortunately, the answer was no. I let her know that I located an ant colony outside of her home, but it was no longer a threat. I shared with her the pictures that I took of the colony fleeing with the eggs. She was amazed by the pictures and thanked me for my efforts in finding and removing this colony that could have given her a lot of trouble down the road.

A quick review of ants that every homeowner should know: Although you may see foraging ants in your kitchen or bathroom, they are just a part of a big “machine” — the ant colony. Ants are social insects that maintain a caste system with each individual ant programmed to perform a specific task for the good of the colony. An ant colony has worker ants and reproductive ants. The workers are the ants that we most often encounter. These ants, all female, construct the nest, gather food, tend the young, move the colony and defend it when necessary. The reproductive ants have wings and include one or more queens, the egg–producing females. The sole purpose of the male reproductives is  to fertilize the queen. Male ants, just like in the female-dominated societies of bees and wasps, are expendable. They are produced seasonally and in relatively small numbers. Once mating has taken place, males serve no further purpose and are removed by the female workers. Worker ants can live for a few years; queens for significantly longer, a dozen years or more. But ant colonies have a life of their own and can go on for decades. New colonies form when an existing colony produces winged reproductives, commonly known as “swarmers.” After mating, they fly off to establish colonies of their own.