Ants - Common pests

There are thirty-six species of ants in Great Britain including the garden or black ant, the red ant and the pharaoh ant. Only garden and pharaoh ants are found indoors.

Facts about ants

The garden and red ant are probably the most common ants found in the garden. They feed on a variety of vegetable and animal matter including other insects and will nest almost anywhere e.g. cracks in pavements, stone stairways, rotten timber, flower pots, air vents, sheds etc. The colony consists of a queen or queens and a large number of workers. During mid-summer the queens and drones emerge for the annual mating flight, which signals an end of the colony. In spring the queens emerge from their solitary hibernation nests to begin new colonies. The majority of garden ant species will not invade the home although several species have become more common in the home. Some ant colonies are now found to be active all year round within well-heated homes.

How do they affect me?

The most common ant species to be found in the home is the garden or black ant. These ants feed on a wide variety of products found in the home including sugar, sweets, jam, cake etc. Food is taken by the foraging worker ants back to the nest to feed the queen and grubs. The garden or black ant is not known to transmit serious diseases but most people consider them unacceptable inside the home.

How do you control them?

Garden ants can be controlled outdoors using boiling water poured directly into the nest via an enlarged entrance hole or using ant insecticide powders puffed directly down the entrance hole. In the home ants can be treated using insecticide powders, gels or aerosol sprays available from chemists, hardware stores or garden centres. It should be noted that treating for ants in the home can take upwards of five weeks to be effective and it is recommended that advice is sought on how to carry out a treatment correctly. Where possible the first approach to ants in the home should be to seal obvious faults in the structure using mortar/cement or mastic, as appropriate. In extreme cases a pest contractor can be called in to carry out a treatment.