Pavement Ants: An Unwanted Introduction
This pest isn’t a North American native but that hasn’t stopped it from making a home here. They forage into our homes, nest under our walkways and generally create an annoyance with their presence. They sting, too! It’s too bad we can’t send them back.
Pavement ants are native to Europe but were introduced to the New World, likely from the holds of ships as they docked. Rocks and soil were often used as ballast in the holds of big ships to keep them steady in the water when they didn’t have a heavy cargo. One they docked, the ballast would be offloaded and the riches of the New World loaded up for the return voyage. Pests like the pavement ant got offloaded too.
The typical place these pests live is underneath something. They like getting underneath paving stones, logs, bricks and patio boards among other things. They can also get underneath mulch by your foundation. Your walls and insulation offer a nice, cozy home with plenty of food too. You’ll know they’re there by the mound of dirt or materials they leave on the surface, showing evidence of their excavations. You could also see them swarm if the conditions are right.
Swarming occurs when there is ample moisture and warm temperatures. Outdoors, this usually happens in the spring but can occur several times throughout the warm seasons. The first swarm is usually the biggest. If you are unlucky enough to have an indoor nest, it can happen nearly anytime.
This is basically a mating event. The drones fly high into the air to mate with a female who hopes to become the queen of a new nest. After this “nuptial flight”, the new queen finds a good nesting spot and starts laying eggs. The newly hatched ants will spend about two to three months tending their queen. Once they get older, they start foraging for food.
Their natural food is the honeydew produced by aphids but any kind of “people food” is just fine with pavement ants. Greasy food is a particular favorite but they aren’t that picky. They’ll eat sweets, nuts, grains, cheese or just about anything else you leave within their foraging grounds.
You might not be able to send them all back home but you can treat your home and yard for pavement ants. Their habit of nesting under big, heavy things makes finding their nests a difficult task. Baits are usually the best bet for elimination of pavement ants.
Foraging worker ants find the bait and carry it back to the nest. It is fed to all the ants in the colony including the queen, effectively killing off the whole nest. Baits take a little patience and sometimes reapplication, but in the end they are quite effective. You’ll need a professional’s help to administer the strength of bait it will take to eliminate a whole nest.
Don’t despair. Pavement ants can be managed with the right tools!