The common Black ant or Garden ant has a black-segmented body 5mm long. The queen ant is 15mm long.
Ants are found throughout the world and occur with great frequency throughout the United Kingdom. The species has a social structure and it is the infertile females (workers) that you see away from the nest.
Ants often occur indoors during the summer months and sometimes throughout the year near fireplaces, boilers and hot water pipe runs and they are usually confined to the ground floor of a property.
The nest is situated where an even temperature can be found and this may be a long way from where the ants disappear into the structure of houses or buildings.
For this reason the nest is likely to be well out of reach of direct contact with insecticides.
In late spring a mated female lays a large number of white eggs, which hatch into white larvae after three weeks. The larvae are fed by the queen and when fully grown pupate.
The first of the young become worker ants and they tend the queen and subsequent larvae. They collect food and materials for the nest and clean out excreta and inedible rubbish. They actively protect the queen and larvae and will move them to safety if threatened.
In the late summer winged and sexually mature males and female emerge from the nest in large numbers usually in the afternoons and fly away mating in the air. The males then die and a small number of females survive to found new colonies. Winged ants will emerge from many nests at the same time.
If there are two nests in close proximity they will often join together and one female will assume dominance and kill the others.
The life cycle is complete in two months and in favourable conditions the nest may persist for several years.
In the cases of ant penetration into buildings all obvious cracks and crevices should be sealed with mortar or mastic, then treated with residual insecticide. Areas to pay particular attention to are around drains, grates, pipe entries and under floors.
Boiling water will kill visible ants but in the long term it is not very effective as you need to treat the actual nest to have any success.
Most ant baits rely on foraging ants feeding the poison to the rest of the colony and if used will sometimes prove very effective to a nest, the worker ants carry the poison deep into the nest where you may not be able to reach.
Insecticide powders can be effective if used outside at the base of external walls.
Inside the home a residual spray containing an appropriate insecticide can be applied along the angle between the floor and skirting board, making a continuous band around every room where the ants have been seen, to help prevent the ants from entering the room.
Winged ants are easily destroyed with an appropriate flying insect spray.
The Council does not treat for ant infestation and for professional treatment you should approach an independent pest control company. Their details can be found in telephone directories and local newspapers.
Ants can be successfully treated yourself, with hardware stores selling a range of effective products.
If you intend to carry out your own treatment read the label of the insecticide container before you buy it to ensure it is suitable for the pest you are treating.
Always follow the manufacturers instructions carefully when applying the insecticide so that you do not cause harm to yourself or furnishings.