Small steps for eliminating ants

Effectively managing ants inside and outside facilities
Monday, June 27, 2016
By Alice Sinia

When thinking about the most dangerous and irritating pests, ants may not come to mind and are often brushed aside as a simple nuisance. However, these small, seemingly unthreatening insects are Canada’s biggest pest problem.

Ants can inflict painful stings, cause structural damage to buildings and pose health threats ranging from anaphylactic shock to spreading dangerous pathogens. With more than 700 species across the country and up to 500,000 ants in a single colony, they should not be overlooked when it comes to keeping your facility clean, safe and ant-free.

Though Canada is home to many ant species, the top pest species include carpenter ants, pavement ants, pharaoh ants, moisture or cornfield ants, argentine ants, velvety ants and, most recently, the European fire ant.

Carpenter and velvety ants favor trees and dead wood, and can infest the structure of a building. Pharaoh and moisture ants tend to nest in warm, moist areas, while argentine ants have the ability to adapt to the indoors. Little is known about the European fire ant, a new ant species spreading across North America, but it does pose health risks and can kill small animals with its stings.

No matter the species, prevention is key to effectively managing ants as infestations can be difficult to control once inside a building. Ants, like all pests, are constantly seeking the three survival elements – food, water and shelter – and your facility provides all of these.

They can squeeze through the tiniest cracks and nest in areas often out of sight, such as in walls, closets or landscaping surrounding a building. They can also be brought into facilities by individuals, shipments and deliveries. Once ants find their way inside, they leave an invisible trail of pheromones for their colony to follow.

To ensure your facility isn’t the next stomping ground for an ant colony, work with your pest management professional to establish an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. IPM focuses on preventative, proactive sanitation and facility maintenance measures that mitigate pest activity before it becomes a problem. Your pest management professional will create a plan customized to your facility and the species of ants it’s susceptible to.

Effective management of ant infestations is dependent upon correct ant identification, however there are many preventive steps that can limit your risk of an ant infestation regardless of the nature of your facility or the species of ant.

Exterior of Facility

  • Inspect the exterior of your building regularly to ensure it is free of trash. Any trash or food should be put away in covered trash cans or recycle bins.
  • Trim back bushes, trees and other vegetation at least one-metre from exterior walls to prevent ants from accessing indoors using limbs or bushes that brush up against the building.
  • Evaluate vegetation around your facility. Certain plants attract insects such as aphids and mealy bugs, which produce honeydew, a preferred food source for ants.
  • Power-wash parking lots and sidewalks surrounding your facility to rid them of the sugars, fats and proteins ants are attracted to.
  • Work with your pest management professional to identify and seal any crevices, gaps and cracks on the outside of your building that could serve as entry points for ants.
  • Install window screens and weather stripping on doors, and seal holes with copper mesh and weather-resistant sealant to further prevent ants’ access to inside.

Inside a Facility

  • Clean-up spills and crumbs immediately as leftovers serve as appealing meals for ants.
  • Ask staff to keep any food on the premises in tightly-sealed containers.
  • Create a written sanitation program that includes all staff members and educate staff on their role. Even the smallest closet should not be overlooked in sanitation efforts.
  • If you or a staff member spots ants inside the building, collect a sample for proper identification and alert your pest management professional immediately.
  • Have your pest management professional train staff on ways to identify and prevent pest activity – many providers offer staff training at no extra cost.
  • Correct water leakage problems and eliminate unnecessary moisture sources.
  • Don’t let ants colonize your facility. These small, but fierce insects will gladly make anywhere with adequate food, water and shelter the home for their 500,000 family members. In fact, there are only two places in the world where they cannot survive – the North Pole and the South Pole.
  • Work closely with your pest management professional to take proactive, preventative action and keep ants marching away from – not into – your building.


Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is the resident entomologist – regulatory/lab services for Orkin Canada, focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada, and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. Alice can be reached at [email protected]

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