What are Pavement Ants?
Pavement ants (tetramorphis immigrens) are one of the most common species of ants, native to Europe and introduced to North America. Their size is around 2 ½ to 3 mm long, and they can range in colour from brown to black.
These insects have six legs and are segmented with oval-shaped segments. You can tell the difference between Pavement ants and other segmented ants of a similar size as they’re distinguished by small spines on their back, and parallel lines on the head and thorax. Drones and queens have wings and are larger than the workers, which are smaller and do not fly.
In the spring and summer months drones and new queens will fly out to form new colonies by finding suitable nesting locations. It’s important that your ant-proofing be at its best in these months, in order to discourage new nests from being built near your home.
Where do Pavement Ants live?
These types of ants get their name from their behaviour in North America – a tendency to nest under paving slabs, as well as in cracks in pavement and driveways. In the wild they prefer places with little vegetation, meaning the urban/home environment is well-suited for their living. Their preference is for soft soil with plenty of aeration, so planting vegetation can help
These ants build their nests deep underground, with their presence being given away by little piles of dirt surrounding the entrances that has been removed so that the nest can be built – think a construction site, but in miniature.
For homeowners, it’s important to realise that these ants don’t tend to nest inside the house itself, but rather under foundations or paving. You might also find them under patios or decking, but they will only enter the house itself if they are attracted by food. Generally, they will enter through cracks in the foundations which can be hard to spot, but are easily noticed once the ants are through.
How dangerous are Pavement Ants?
Pavement ants can bite, and while they pinch, they rarely break the skin. Worker ants do have small stingers, but they are often no more than a nuisance and shouldn’t cause more than mild discomfort. These ants are among the less aggressive species (to humans), and will only sting as a last resort.
How to prevent Pavement Ants?
The first step in preventing their entry is to seal any existing cracks, as pavement ants mostly enter through cracks in foundations. These can be hard to find, especially if the foundations are not easily accessible, so it’s best to consult a professional on this. The ants can also enter through gaps found near windows and/or doors, especially in older houses without proper sealing. If you find yourself feeling small draughts even with the windows and doors shut, chances are you have a minute crack which might allow entry.
In terms of yard design, there are several things you can do to discourage or stop pavement ants from nesting near your home.
Avoid having any large rocks, wooden structures or paving slabs directly adjacent to your home, as pavement ants find these to be ideal sites to build nests under. If you do build or place these structures, there are a few things you can do to discourage ants around the site.
Firstly, if you’re using a layer of sand as the base (this is common in paving) you can mix it with borax, which is toxic to ants. Please note that borax is also toxic to humans and other animals, so keep any pets or children away from the site while you are doing this.
Secondly, you can place a layer of concrete or asphalt underneath the structure, making sure it is completely sealed. Pavement ant nests require cracks in the base, so sealing it off will stop them getting to the soil underneath. No seal will be perfect, but the fewer gaps, the less chance of ants finding their way through.
Finally, something else to keep in mind is any existing plant life – trees, shrubs, etc. – that are close to your house. While they may seem innocuous, they can serve as a means of entry, especially to the winged forms of pavement ants that appear in summer times. Trimming back any shrubs or trees that come close to the walls of your house serves as a means to stop this, but you should also take care to properly seal windows on the upper floors – ants can enter where you least expect it.
How to get rid of Pavement Ants?
If you do have a pavement ant infestation, you’re unlikely to be able to get to the nest itself to remove them as it will be buried underground. This means you’ll have to take more indirect approaches.
Here are some tips on how to kill Pavement Ants:
- Seal Cracks.
If the ants are nesting inside your driveway or somewhere similar (as indicated by little piles of dirt above the cracks) you can pour boiling water down the cracks. This will kill some of them, but also make the surrounding soil moist and clumpy, preventing their exit through these cracks. This is a stop-gap measure and shouldn’t be used as a permanent solution, but can give you time to find a more effective method without worrying about them spreading further.
- Sugar and Borax or Commercial Ant Bait.
If you know that the pavement ants are in the house, you can mix sugar with borax and leave it out near where they come through. Ants love sugar, and will take it back to the colony. Borax is a poison to them, but is slow-acting and so will spread through the colony before any ants die. This method is only really effective if the queen of the colony ingests the borax and dies, so you may have to leave the borax and sugar mix out for several weeks or even months before you see any effect. However, you don’t want to be using this mix outside unless you are using it in a dry, sheltered area such as a porch or covered deck, as any rain or moisture will wash away the sugar rendering the method useless. Commercial ant baits are also an option, with the slow-acting ones being the best for this job.
If the ants are appearing outside your home, an insecticide is your best bet. There are two types – repellent and non-repellent. In this case you want a non-repellent spray, which won’t kill on contact and will act in a similar manner to the borax-sugar mix. Remember that once the queen is dead, the colony cannot grow, so you might see a reduction in the numbers of ants before they die off entirely.
Why Choose Professional Pavement Ant Control?
Safety and permanency are the main priorities when implementing any pest infestation solutions. The difficulty of reaching underground nests and targeting the colony queens is best handled by licenced specialists and with professional-grade equipment and treatments. Skilled pest control can guarantee high treatment efficiency with long-term results, as well as minimal disruption to the surroundings and safety of your target area.
Provincial Pest Control offers free pest inspections in the Toronto area, where we consult and advise on Pavement Ants and other pest problems. Our residential and commercial pest control services range from preventative measures to exterminations – all at an affordable price with a result guarantee! So before using non-commercial products or attempting pest control on your own, call us first.