How Do I Still Have Ants in Winter?

Ants are cold-blooded. In order to thrive and survive, they need an external source of warmth. Obviously, it gets considerably harder for ants to find these external sources in winter. Especially the ants that happen to live in Michigan. 

Despite the considerable adversity facing them each winter, ants are determined creatures. Subzero temperatures don’t stop their relentless drive to find food, shelter, and water. In order to find what they need this winter, ants will often attempt to infiltrate homes. Including your home, if you’re not careful. If you’re asking why you still have ants in winter, you’re in the right place. We’ll answer that question–along with how those ants got in and how to throw them out–below.

Why do I still have ants during the winter?

You have ants during the winter for the same reason you have them during spring, summer, or fall. Your home was easy to get inside and offered them the things they were looking for. If ants can’t find a home to infest, they’ll build their colonies and cluster under rocks, tree bark, decomposing leaves, or deep within the ground. If they can find a home, well… then there’s a problem. 

If they find a warm place (your house, for example) to nest in the winter, ants won’t need to cluster. They’ll instead be able to remain active throughout the entire year. Inside homes, they’re most commonly found inside walls, near pipes, inside molding, or under baseboards. They got inside by finding a breach in your home’s perimeter. It could have been crumbling brick, old boards, or a crack in the foundation.

What do they want?

Ants want what all common problem pests want: food, shelter, and water. If you’re reading this, it means you’re likely already facing an ant problem. That means they’ve already found one of the things they were looking for: shelter, warmth, and cover from the cold. That’s what brings them in. 

What makes ants stay after they get inside will be how well they can find food and water. Ants like sugar, fat, and protein-dense foods like meat, cheese, dried goods, peanut butter, baking materials, or pet food. Water is a less significant motivator since they require very little to sustain themselves. Ants are commonly found near hidden plumbing leaks because they like its easy, consistent moisture access. 

What can I do to prevent them?

That’s the most important question. If you don’t already have an ant problem, how can you prevent one from happening? Here are a few of our best ant exclusion tips:

  • Keep surfaces clean. Ants are scavengers. Their favorite places to find sustenance are on floors, garbage cans, and countertops. Keep dirty dishes out of the sink, wipe crumbs off the table, and mop residue off the floors.
  • Practice perimeter maintenance. Ants are tiny. It doesn’t take much for them to find a way inside your home. Just because it’s difficult to bar their entry doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, however. Follow their trails to see where they’re coming in. Find perimeter breaches and fix them with caulk, putty, or plaster as needed.
  • Spot the scouts. If you ever see a lone ant, it’s a scout. Scout ants are sent out by the colony to find sources of food or water. You want to prevent it from having a chance to communicate with the nest about anything it may have found.

Winter is a surprisingly busy time when it comes to pest infestations. That’s because, like ants, many other pests are seeking shelter from the cold. If, despite your best efforts, one of those pests finds its way inside your home – give Griffin a call. Our experts can both help you remove existing pests and prevent future ones.

[cta]

Why Can Some Ants Fly?

Why can some ants fly?

Ants are one thing. You get ants. You’ve seen their mounds, watched them swarm around food, and probably even shooed them out of your kitchen. Flying ants are… another thing entirely. Are those things even ants?! Are ants supposed to be able to do that?! Why here?! Why now?!

We get being intimidated by flying ants. Particularly when there are a lot of them, and they’re flying right at you. Despite flying ants’ somewhat frightening (and sudden!) appearance, however, they’re nothing to be worried about. Here’s what you should know about flying ant swarms, and how they might affect you:

What are flying ants?

Flying ants aren’t a particular species of ant, but they are a particular caste of many ant species. Flying ants make up the reproductive caste of their ant colony, or “alates.” Alates can fly in order to leave the colony and seek out mates effectively. Ant colonies produce both male reproductive alates and winged virgin queen ant alates. Male alates seek out queens from other colonies, while queens start new colonies of their own.

Ant species like carpenter ants produce alates during mating season. Particular alate appearance may vary from species-to-species, but they’ll generally be ¼ to ⅜” long and black, dark brown, or dark red. Alate wings are clear, translucent, and unequal in length. Alates usually leave their colonies in large swarms during mating season in order to protect each other from predators. If you see flying ants near your home, then there’s probably a developing colony nearby.

When do flying ants become active?

When do flying ants become active?

Last year, we wrote a blog about “flying ant day.” On flying ant day, huge swarms of alate swarms suddenly appeared all over Detroit. A version of “flying ant day” happens every year around Labor Day. Now that you know what alates are all about, it isn’t hard to guess why: mating. Every year around late summer, alates become very active very quickly in order to mate and start colonies.

Despite its relative predictability, ant mating season doesn’t start on a particular date. Instead, it begins when conditions are just right. The ideal condition for ant mating is a summer day with high temperatures, sunny weather, and no wind. When that perfect day comes along, all kinds of ant colonies start mating at once–hence the sudden swarms. Ants tend to reproduce in late summer to prepare for winter, but it isn’t the only time they reproduce. You may occasionally see swarming alates even during the “off” season.

How can flying ants affect you?

Seeing a flying ant around your home isn’t necessarily a telltale sign of ant infestation. Flying ants… can fly, after all. During mating season, ant swarms may range quite a ways from their colonies to seek mates. If you see an alate inside your home during spring or summer, it might have wandered in accidentally. In all likelihood, that ant will die before it finds a mate and you won’t need to worry about it.

Ironically, you should worry about winged ants if you see them during the off-season. If you see alates in your home during winter or early spring, you may have a larger problem. Alates shouldn’t be active at all unless it’s mating season. If they are, it’s because they don’t need to wait for nice weather to begin the mating cycle… because they’re living in a temperature-controlled environment. If you see swarms of flying ants in your home all year, then you probably have a carpenter ant infestation.

What can you do about flying ants?

What can you do about flying ants?

Carpenter ants are one of the few ant species that could infest and mate inside your home all year. This is possible because carpenter ants hollow out tunnels in wooden structures to live inside. Carpenter ants attack moist, rotting, or unprotected wood. Infestations usually start outside and end up inside after the ants tunnel deeper through the wood. Flying ants may emerge from these tunnels at any point once they’re warm enough inside.

Carpenter ants require nearly constant moisture sources in order to remain active. They attack moist wood because it allows them to stay hydrated while they work. The best way to keep carpenter ants away, therefore, is to make sure they can’t access wet wood. Look for any sources of excess moisture around your home, including leaks, condensation, or humidity. Protect any exposed wood outside your home, too, particularly if it touches the ground. By protecting wood from carpenter ants, you’ll be able to keep alates out of your home.

 

Just like everything else in nature, flying ants have a specific purpose and context. Now that you know that context, alate swarms won’t seem nearly as intimidating. …At least, in theory.

In practice, well… we believe in you! If you’re worried you have a carpenter ant infestation, give Griffin a call any time. We’ll figure out where the infestation came from, wipe it out, and make sure it can’t come back. You won’t have to worry about flying ants. In theory, or practice!

Why Flying Ants Show Up in Fall

Flying ants on a blade of grass

Every year around Labor Day, swarms of flying ants begin appearing all over west Michigan in huge droves. For the next couple days, they’re flying around everywhere. You might even remember the infamous “flying ant day” of 2017, when the swarms descended on Detroit. Then, as mysteriously as the ants appear, they seem to vanish without a trace.

What are these winged ants, exactly? Where did they come from? Where do they go after they’re done darting around all over the place? Most importantly, are they going to try to infest your home this fall? Here’s everything you should know about the enigmatic winged ants you’re seeing this September.

What are they?

The flying ants that you’re seeing right now are the reproductive swarmer (or alate) variety of yard ants. Yard ants are related to carpenter ants, but they nest in the ground instead of chewing through wood. Swarmers are around ¼ to ⅜” long, look reddish brown, and have a hump between their heads and thoraxes. They look like normal ants in every way, except that they have wings. Swarmer wings are clear and translucent. They fold behind the ants’ backs when the ants aren’t flying.

There are more than 50 different species of common yard ant native to Michigan. The ant swarms you’re seeing represent many different types of species that all become active this time of year. Different swarms come out at different times, which is why it seems like the swarming doesn’t stop for days. You’ll often notice swarms seem to gather or even collide in midair and then begin moving as a group.

why do flying ants show up in Michigan every fall around Labor day?

Why are they here?

Flying ants exist for one reason: to reproduce. Alates spend most of spring and summer inside their ant colonies, where they’re fed by workers. In late summer and under the right conditions, they fly out of the nest to seek mates. The ants require high temperatures and humidity and clear, sunny weather without much wind to begin swarming. They’re particularly prone to begin their swarming on the first clear day after several days of rain.

Most yard ant species reproduce around late summer because that’s when their ideal swarming conditions happen. Ants also tend to begin reproducing in late summer to prepare for winter. When conditions are just right, many different species’ will begin the mating process all at once. Although late summer reproduction is most common in Michigan, other ant species may swarm at other times of year. Some flying ants swarm in spring, fall, or even mid-summer.

What are they doing?

Flying ant swarms are either actively mating or in the process of seeking out mates. Flying ants mate in midair in a process called “nuptial flight.” On “flying ant day,” unfertilized flying queen ants (sometimes called “princesses”) leave their colonies and begin secreting attraction pheromones. Male and female alates purposely fly away from their nests to help ensure outbreeding. The pheromones secreted by princesses attract nearby male reproductives (sometimes called “drones”).

Princesses actually often fly away from males, forcing them to pursue her in order to mate. The swarms you see are groups of male drones pursuing one of these princesses. Mating itself occurs very quickly and in midair. Male drones die very soon after mating. The fertilized female will fly to the ground and begin making a new nest. Soon after, she will lose her wings and begin laying eggs. The first of these eggs will hatch into workers, who will lay the foundations for a new colony.

are flying ants dangerous?

Are they dangerous?

No. Swarms only have mating on their mind. They won’t bite, sting, or attack you. Swarming ants aren’t aggressive, territorial, or defensive in any way. Even if swarms appear to be flying right at you, it’s only because they’re pursuing a princess. Swarms are more-or-less totally uninterested in people, though they may congregate on human structures. Swarmers may also accidentally flutter into buildings through openings like cracks and crevices.

Yard ants can’t make their nests indoors. To form a nest, a fertilized queen must dig into soil. Queens may build their nests near your home, however. Often, ants build their colony sites near human structures because of the natural cover they provide. Queens are particularly vulnerable when they start building nests, so they may seek cover and darkness near your home. When yard ants establish colonies near you, you may encounter their foraging workers inside your home. These workers aren’t dangerous, either, but they could be annoying.

Despite how frightening it can seem, swarming season is nothing to worry about. Flying ants aren’t dangerous, and they’ll die off and disappear very soon. If you’re very bothered by ant swarms this year, we recommend staying inside whenever possible while swarms are active. Luckily, you won’t have to wait long until they pass.

Swarms may be more-or-less unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean ant infestations must be. If you have an ant problem in your home, give Griffin a call any time. We’ll find out why you have ants, where they’re coming from, and how to stop them.

Carpenter Ants in Michigan

Carpenter Ants in Michigan

Carpenter ants are the undercover saboteurs of the pest world. Disguised as the unassuming pavement or field ant, they infiltrate your home. Quietly, slowly, they establish themselves, building their base of operations. Year after year, their colony grows, until… your home is their home.

…Ok, so it’s not as dramatic as all that, but carpenter ants really are bad news. Despite their propensity to inflict serious damage all over Michigan, carpenter ants are far less well-known than their wood-munching rival, the termite. It’s time that changed. Here’s everything you should know about Michigan’s wood-tunneling terror, and how you can keep it away from your home.

What are carpenter ants?

What are carpenter ants?Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) are some of the largest and most common ants in Michigan. Adults have multiple “job” classifications depending on the role they perform for their colony. There are three distinct “castes”: workers, drones, and queens. Generally, ants of each caste range in size from ¼ to ¾ of an inch. They’re usually black, but they can also be dark brown, red, orangish, or dull yellow.

Carpenter ant workers resemble typical “sugar” ants, except they’re larger. Drones are larger than workers and have flight-capable wings.  Drones may be mistaken for termites, because they fly in swarms when mating. Carpenter ant queens are the largest and least numerous caste. It’s possible to distinguish carpenter ants from other species by examining their waists and thoraxes. Carpenter ants only have one “petiole” or waist segment separating their abdomen from their thorax. These thoraxes are evenly rounded and look smooth or uniform.

Why are they a problem?

Carpenter ants build their colony nests by carving tunnels through wood. Workers bore through moist, rotting, or damaged wood to create hollowed-out spaces for colony members to live. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat the wood they chew through. Instead, they break it down into a sawdust-like substance and transport it out of the tunnel. As carpenter ant colonies grow in size, workers continually expand their colonies’ tunnels through the infested wood.

Over a long enough period, tunnels carved by carpenter ants compromise the structural integrity of infested wood. It may even break, collapse, or fail, sometimes leading to expensive and potentially dangerous damage. Carpenter ant don’t usually do as much damage as termites, but they still pose a threat to wood in your home.

When are they active?

when are carpenter ants active?Carpenter ant workers actively build their nests whenever they’re warm enough to move around. Drones and queens emerge from their nests to swarm and mate during early spring. After mating, carpenter ant queens’ wings break off and they begin building a nest for their eggs. While the queens search for a nest, they are more visible than usual and may be encountered indoors. Don’t panic! That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve infested your home… yet. If you find several flying drones in your home, however, chances are they came from an indoor nest.

Carpenter ants usually spend winter dormant; they return to their nests and wait for temperatures to warm back up. If they’re nesting in a warm place such as your home, however, several workers may remain active all year. If you encounter carpenter ants indoors during the winter, they are most likely infesting wood in your home.

How do you get them?

Carpenter ants need moisture to survive, and chewing through wood dries them out in a hurry. Consequently, carpenter ants are only attracted to moist wood, or wood that is rotten and softening. Wet wood is easier, faster, and less resource-intensive to tunnel through. It gives way easier, and the colony can remain hydrated while expanding.

Outdoors, the ants primarily nest around rotten tree stumps, dead tree limbs, firewood, old fence posts, or rocks. Indoors, they’ll seek out any wood that’s already been compromised by water or humidity. If you have carpenter ants, it’s probably because some of the wood in or around your house is water-damaged. Plumbing leaks, humidity, drafts, puddling, and poor insulation all promote the environments that make wood appealing to carpenter ants.

How do you prevent them?

How do you prevent carpenter ants?The first thing you should look for when you have carpenter ants is a moisture problem. Make sure you don’t have any plumbing leaks. Check your home’s humidity, especially in your basement, attic, pantry, or crawlspace. Ensure your gutters, downspouts, sump pump, and drainage are all working properly. Look for puddles in your basement. Address any drafts you feel in your home, especially if it’s winter. Consider investing in a dehumidifier for particularly humid parts of the home.

If you happen to find water-damaged wood, dispose of it immediately. The longer carpenter ants infest a structure, the further they’ll spread. It’s possible locate a carpenter ant colony by finding the sawdust-like material they produce after boring through wood. Remove the nest by detaching and disposing of the damaged wood. If damage is extensive, you may want to enlist the help of a professional to avoid hurting surrounding structures.

The most dangerous thing about carpenter ants is their ability to go unnoticed. Now that you know what to look for, you’ve disarmed their most valuable tool. Don’t stop there. Next time you think you might have spotted a carpenter ant, trust your instincts. Track that little wood biter down and flush it out to save yourself a big headache in the future. This is your house!

And remember: if you ever need some back-up in the war against the wood monsters, give Griffin a call anytime. Any win we can snatch away from carpenter ants is a win for us!