Common Black Ants or Garden Ants do not bite or sting and have not been known to transmit any diseases. They can, however, cause a nuisance in the home particularly in the kitchen where they may damage food and cause unsightly trails between their nest and a food source.
The Common Black Ant is an inhabitant of virtually every garden, living largely unnoticed in lawns or under rocks and paving slabs. On occasions however, ants may become established indoors where they live under floorboards in cavities or behind fixtures such as gas fires, fitted cupboards, skirting boards, etc.
Ants are social insects and several thousand may be present in a large nest. Workerants build and extend the nest, look after the young and forage for food. The queen ant which is much larger than the worker remains in the nest, her sole duty being to lay eggs. Ants feed on sweet substances such as plant nectar and the sticky secretions produced by aphids or greenfly. In the home, therefore, they are attracted to sugary foods such as jam and confectionery.
In late June or September, Flying Ants are produced in the nest. These are winged fertile males and females which emerge in large numbers on hot afternoons. On leaving the nest they swarm for two to three hours, during which time males die and the females lose their wings and seek outnew nesting sites.
Ant nests are often difficult to locate and inaccessible for control. Look for trails of workers and follow them back to the nest. Open up the nest and treat it and the immediate vicinity with insecticide. Outdoors boiling water can be used.
These are generally of two types, either for flying insects or crawling insects. Flying insect sprays are the best solution for flying ants as they have a good knock down effect. Crawling insect sprays have the advantage that their effectiveness can last for several months but they are often strong smelling and care should be taken to follow the instructions on the can as they are often lacquer based and may stain some surfaces.
They are useful for spraying on vertical surfaces such as skirting boards, door and window frames, etc. Aerosols are useful for spraying into cracks and crevices where they tend to flush out insects which are otherwise inaccessible. Do not spray aerosols in cupboards as their strong smell may taint food.
If a nest cannot be located and other insecticidal treatments fail to cure the problem, a different technique is needed. Special ant baits containing borax can be purchased which consist of a tube of sweet sticky material resembling jam to which ants are attracted, but which contains a substance poisonous to ants. Ants feed on the material and take it to the nest where they feed the queen and emerging worker.