Ants in Your Pants
Recently I got a call to help a homeowner with some ants. She had three pest control companies come by and none of them were able to identify the ants, yet they all treated her house. The problem persisted. I identified the ants for her as Liometopum apiculatum, which are not common household ants in New Mexico, but they do occur. If you don't recognize them, it is impossible to control them. They make nests hundreds of feet from where they are seen and in her case, it wasn't even on her property. The ants were climbing a tree on her property and getting on the roof from branches that were touching the house. The ants feed on the honeydew secretion of various homopteran insects such as aphids, scales and mealy bugs, so they do like sweets. I suggested she make a sweet bait with two tablespoons of honey, mixed with a teaspoon of boric acid, and place it in areas in the house where she sees the ants foraging. I also recommended she pest proof her house, including trimming all the branches on the tree so they don't touch the house. She followed both my recommendations, and her problem was solved.
On another occasion, a homeowner in Corrales had an infestation of acrobat ants, which two companies couldn't identify. This is scary since acrobat ants are the most common species of ant in Corrales. Again, I identified them and gave her recommendations for control.
While most pest control companies are qualified, some of them certainly aren't. I think it is important to call the right company if you need one. However, I also believe anyone can control their own ants if they know what they are. This is what I have done. I just finished a booklet on all the household ants in New Mexico—approximately 30 species that infest homes or are present on the property and can make a nuisance of themselves. Some of the ants mentioned aren't normal pests, but are common and should be recognized. Many ants are beneficial, so it is important to know which ones are present in your yard. The booklet gives information about how to recognize each ant and its habits. It also tells you how to control specific ants without using toxic pesticides, and each ant group (genera) is clearly illustrated. This booklet is absolutely free to anyone in New Mexico or a neighboring state. The ants we have in New Mexico are close to the same ants that are present in all of the central and western states, so anyone from other states can use it. It will be sent via email in pdf form. There won't be any hard copies available. If you want a copy, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I will be sending them out around the middle of April to anyone who requests a copy. Any pest control company that wants a copy can have one as well. Everyone is welcome to print them out and share them with friends and family if they want. The purpose of the booklet is to promote pest control by homeowners and reduce the pesticides that are polluting our planet. Homeowners, with a few exceptions, such as stinging insects and termites, can do their own pest control—and that includes their own bed bug control if they turn up. It isn't difficult at all if you recognize and understand the habits of the pest you are trying to control.