Learning Center

Ant Control in Oceanside & Carlsbad

Vagabonds. Our local ants here in North County are nearly all highly mobile colonies of Argentine Ants that are descendants of a colony that came here from Brazil near the beginning of the 20th century on a coffee boat. They are lazy diggers, and prefer to move into existing voids such as hollow walls and air pockets under concrete drives, walks, and slabs. Very often you will ants carrying sandwichfind them under boards, sheds, and planters. Like all vagabonds, they move often. Whenever they feel threatened or run out of nearby food sources, they will move all or parts of their colonies to nearby locations. This mobility helps them to reproduce faster, protects the colonies, and serves to seriously complicate ant control measures. Ant colonies can number in the hundreds of thousands and often have hundreds of reproductives (queens).

Indoors, they will first seek out a source of water and then they will set up anywhere from one to five interconnected colonies with an irritating pattern of trails that seem to lead to nowhere! Argentine Ants need seven to fifteen parts of water for each morsel of food that they forage, so we usually see them around sinks, tubs, and pet food dishes. It is especially irritating when we find foragers on our shelves and in our pantries where they seek out and raid open food containers and spills.

Ants that we see Foraging in and around our homes only number five to eight percent of the full colonies and foragers are normally the only part of the colonies that we see. Nearly all of the treatments that homeowners make for ant control, including baits that group-of-antscontain boric acid, are designed to kill visible ants with seldom more than a moderate impact on the combined population of the interconnected colonies. It is essential that ant control measures be designed to effectively target the entire colony, including larvae and reproductives.

When ants find a food or water source that is attractive to the colony, they communicate that by passing on a little taste to their fellow foragers. Then, as in the picture above, they will gather around to make a meal and to harvest this new food for the colony. Here is where it gets interesting … ants cannot eat solid food. Any food that they collect has to be liquefied so that they can drink it because Adult ants have no teeth. Really! An adult ant has no jaws or chewing mouthparts. In order to eat that cat food, they have to take it home to the colony for the larvae to do the chewing. The larvae serve as the food processors for the rest of the family. Reproductives (queens) normally eat nothing that is not “tasted” by the larvae. This is similar to butterflies in many ways. A caterpillar can chew down a tree, while the adult butterfly has no teeth or jaws and must live on liquids only. If you have ever flushed out a colony of ants while you were watering the garden, you doubtless saw them carrying little white larvae. Those were their teeth. In order to effectively control ants, we have to understand that they are totally dependent on the larvae’s ability to chew food for the rest of the colony.

Argentine Ants are cannibals! In this amazing picture, they are dismembering one of their sisters to prepare her for the food processor. Like many other ant species these spend all summer gathering and storing food for the winter, but the food that they store is themselves. Whenever the vagabond colony moves, they have their winter food supply walking along with them. Rainy or cold weather forces them to move indoors, seek out a water source, and begin to feed each other to the larvae so that the colony can survive the winter. Pinpoint’s treatments are designed to take advantage of the ant’s normal behavior. The materials that we use are undetectable to the ants and they become a major part of the colony’s food source as the ants that die are in turn consumed by the rest of the colony!

Winter ant control is usually more difficult than summertime treatments. Ants reduce their activity in the winter; only two to five percent of them will leave the nest looking for water while the rest tend to the jaws (larvae). We rely heavily on gel and paste baits for indoor treatments when it gets cold, but not boric acid baits. We have to use something that will control the colony before all the larvae die!

Most pest control companies have relied on repellent sprays and granular treatments to keep ants out of structures, and to discourage them from establishing trails and nesting sites on your property. Results of such treatments have been marginal since ants are very sensitive to these kinds of insecticides and are reluctant to expose themselves to repellent materials. Often these sprays trap ants indoors and complicate the control problem.

Pinpoint has a better way! We helped to pioneer an innovative treatment system that utilizes the safest material that we have ever used for ant control. Fipronil is totally undetectable to ants and it has become our favorite material for colony control. We apply it in a very narrow band in just the right places and let the ants carry it home to their family; indoor treatments normally consist of the same or a similar material in a bait form. Because of our attention to detail, our annual callback ratio for ant control is less than two percent. This allows us to price our service fairly and affordably.

Carpenter ants are often very difficult to control because their feeding and trailing habits are different than most other types of ants. This large dark colored ant is not at all common in the urban areas of NorthCounty but they appear from time to time in the foothills and in Ramona or Julian. They do not eat wood, like termites do, but they tunnel into wood to make their homes. The nest must be located if you expect to get control, but the nest could be in a hollow door, an attic joist or even an old stump outside of the house. Carpenter ants leave sawdust like shavings of wood just outside of the nest that they are building. When they have a colony indoors you can find out where they live if you can find the sawdust. Another way to find the nest is to place some sweetened oatmeal cereal on the floor or counter and then trail them at night when they take it back to the colony.

Carpenter ants can be controlled with bait, by applying dust to their nesting galleries, or by treating the places that they cross with a non repellent insecticide. Contact us if you live in the northern part of San DiegoCounty. Pinpoint can control Carpenter ants!