There are many kinds of ants that are common around the house. There are 455 different types of ants found in North America and around 8,000 worldwide that have been identified. They are brown, black or reddish and range in sizes from 1/32 to an inch long. Their most recognizable physical feature is their thin waist between the abdomen and the thorax. They have elbowed antennae. They form colonies in the soil near the house foundation, under concrete, in small dark spaces, in structural wood, in the yard or garden and in trees. They produce thousands of eggs. The eggs are laid continuously throughout the spring, summer and fall, and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
According to the Ohio State University Extension Entomology office ants have three castes; the queens, the males and the workers. "The queen and the males are reproductive while the workers are sterile females. New ant colonies are started by a single fertilized queen that lays eggs and tends her brood (larvae and pupae) that develop into worker ants. Tending of the brood is then taken over by the worker, which may shift the brood from place to place as moisture and temperature fluctuate in the nest. When workers forage for food for the queen and her young, they often may enter houses and become a nuisance by their presence and contaminate food."
Some ants have wings and are often confused with winged termites. Distinguishing features are the thin waist of the ant. The termite has straight antennae opposed to the elbowed antennae of the ant. The ants front wings or forewings are larger than their hind wings. The termites wings are equal in size and shape.
Carpenter ants are the most common of the ants to cause homeowners to seek help. Carpenter ants are the largest found in Ohio. Wingless queens are about 5/8 inch, while winged queens are 3/4 inch, large major workers 1/2 inch and small minor workers 1/4 inch. Workers have some brown on them, while queens are black. Workers have large heads and a small thorax while adult swarmers have a smaller head and large thorax. Oklahoma has it's own problem with Red Harvester ants are the largest, approximately 1/3 in long. They may denude vegetation in the area of the nest. They also inflict a vicious sting.
Carpenters are often found in kitchens, bathrooms, and living room. They are often thought to eat wood but they actually remove quantities of wood to make room for nesting. This can cause structural problems.
Ants by themselves don't do a lot of damage to your yard or garden but they are indirectly responsible for other issues in your landscape. Ants find favor in sweets and they are particularly fond of honeydew which is produced by the aphid. To keep a constant replenishing supply of honeydew, ants will kidnap a herd of aphids and hold them captive near the nest. These aphids will then attack your plants. It's been said time after time and one more time; if you can control the aphids you can control the ants.
Make a sugary solution with a half cup of sugar mixed with a cup of warm water. Soak a sponge in this solution and place near the entrance of the nest or colony. As the ants come running and begin to collect on the sponge dump the sponge in a bucket of soapy water made up of 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap, 4 teaspoons isopropyl alcohol to one gallon of water. The alcohol will help to penetrate the external layer of the ant. Rinse the sponge well, reapply with sugary solution and set as a trap again.for another round of ants. Repeat as necessary.
Another home remedy and the most effective way to get rid of the ants is to kill the queen. Make a mixture of 50% borax (found in your laundry aisle in the store as an additive to detergent, not as a pesticide) with 50% sugar. Then place on a piece of newspaper near the ant colony. Ants will collect the sugar/borax mix and take back to feed the queen. Soon they are all dead. KEEP THIS AWAY FROM PETS AND CHILDREN!
Another method for ridding yourself of ants is to drown them with a hot pepper bath. Boil two cups of water with a half cup of finely chopped hot peppers, like jalepeños, then pour directly from the stove into the entrance to the nest. On a side not: Do not touch any part of your body if you handle the peppers without gloves. Once I rubbed my itching eyelid after dicing hot peppers...yeowza! I now use latex gloves when chopping peppers.
Predatory insects can be helpful in combating ants.
Many insects eat ants. Woodpeckers are large, portion ant eaters. When you plant your garden with diversity you will attract a diverse number of insects. Then just sit back and let nature keep things in order.
There are a number of different commercial insecticides to get rid of ants. Spectracide® Bug Stop® has great results and a long lasting effect. It works for months after an initial application.
But your best bet is to contact a professional if you don't mind spending the coin, so to speak. They are better equipped to handle specific pests while not causing collateral damage to beneficial insects or the surrounding environment.