What is America’s #1 Household Pest?
By Chris Williams on March 12, 2013.
The number one pest in homes and buildings? Cockroach is a good guess—but wrong. And despite all of the publicity, the bed bug isn’t even close. According to a survey of pest control companies all over America, it’s the lowly ant. And 54% of those companies say ant complaints are on the increase.
There have always been ants of course. Having watched the evolution, and rise and fall of various pests over a 30 year career, I’ve had the feeling that the ants just sit back and smile smugly, knowing that after the bed bugs, the stink bugs, the Asian lady beetles and all the other exotic pests have come and gone, there will always be ants.
More than a dozen ant species, in all, were implicated by the professionals with the top three ant species requiring treatment being the carpenter ant, the odorous house ant, and the pavement ant. Of all the ants, the odorous house ant stands out among its peers as the current number one pest control challenge. Its success as a pest is attributed to its adaptability: it feeds on just about anything, it will nest just about anywhere, and it is notorious for being able to quickly move its colony to a new location.
So why are ants in general on the increase as pests in buildings? The most common reason given by the pest control companies was increased moisture. Odorous house ant calls seem to increase after heavy rains wash away the honeydew (secretions from aphids and other plant pests) that the ants rely on for food. Heavy rains that also affect nest sites and the loss of their primary food can cause odorous house ants to move their colonies indoors looking for better conditions.
The pest control companies polled also felt that a change in pest control practices themselves may account for some of the increase in ant complaints. In recent years, pest control services have shifted to the outside of homes with customers preferring exterior treatments rather than indoor service. Plus, pest control treatments indoors are now targeted to cracks and crevices where most pests hide. The fact that less pesticide is used indoors and the pesticide is not broadly applied to baseboards as it used to be may also account for more ant problems indoors. Another reason for more ant calls is the increase in new invasive ant species from other countries, like white-footed ants, ghost ants, and Caribbean/Rasberry ants.
The pest control companies surveyed felt that calls for pest control have gone up as peoples’ tolerance levels for pests have gone down in recent years. Ants are particularly difficult to control. The professionals described their ant customers as frustrated (18%) and wanting quick results (18%). Only 16% of their customers preferred “green” or non-chemical pest control methods. Eighty-one percent of the pest control companies said that it typically takes them two or more service visits to get control of ants.
The online survey was conducted by the National Pest Management Association in late 2011 and early 2012. More than 200 pest control companies from 37 different states participated in the survey.