Types of Ants Found in Food Processing Facilities

For such tiny pests, ants sure can pose giant problems for food processing facilities. There are more than 12,000 ant species in the United States, which can make identification challenging. One thing that all ant types have in common is that they can establish quickly and can be frustratingly hard to remove. When ants strike, professional pest control is the recommended course of action.

ants in food

Which species of ants might threaten your food processing facility? While the answer to that question can depend largely on your region of the country, season of the year and other factors, here are three common ant species that could be beating a trail to your door:

Carpenter Ants

  1. Can be black, brown and black, red and black to light brown, depending on the species, but the two most common carpenter ant species are black
  2. Feed on a wide variety of foods, especially other insects, including the sweet honeydew produced by aphids, scales and mealybugs
  3. Need a constant source of moisture for main colonies to survive, so are usually located outside in dead wood or indoors near a water leak or in an overly wet, poorly ventilated space
  4. May establish satellite colonies indoors, located in moisture-damaged wood voids with trunk trails to the main colony and between satellite colonies with foraging ants seen along the trails at night
  5. Reproductive swarmers fly out in the spring (usually) to start new colonies
  6. Can be very difficult to control

Odorous House Ants

  1. Generally brown or black in color and one-eighth of an inch in length
  2. Prefer to eat sweets, like honeydew from aphids
  3. Can emit a foul odor when crushed, although a person would need to be really close to the ant to smell it
  4. Can be difficult to control as they often establish both primary colonies and sub-colonies. When you see these ants inside, you’re likely seeing ants from the sub-colonies and treating those alone won’t stop ants from coming back. You must remove the queen, which is found in the primary colony.

Pavement Ants

  1. Generally brown in color and one-eighth of an inch in length
  2. Feed on a wide variety of food, including sweets, grease, dead insects and small seeds
  3. Commonly nests in soil around and beneath sidewalks, slabs and other forms of pavement. Inside, these ants can be found under the foundation and in walls
  4. Piles of soil around baseboards can be a sign that pavement ants have infested your facility

How Can Food Processing Facilities Help Prevent Ants?

Here are some steps that food processing facilities can take to be less appealing to ants:

  1. Store wood away from facility structures and eliminate unneeded piles of lumber, bricks or debris that could harbor ant nesting sites.
  2. Trim dead limbs from trees near the property and remove stumps.
  3. Avoid landscape plants that can attract aphids and similar insects.
  4. Keep landscape mulch under two inches in thickness and 12 inches away from structure foundations.
  5. Have all plumbing, drainage and roof leaks sealed immediately.
  6. Check sprinkler systems regularly to make sure that water is not sprayed directly onto the foundation to minimize moisture collection.
  7. Seal foundation cracks, including those where wiring and utility pipes connect.
  8. Check building voids and crawl spaces for excess moisture.
  9. Direct water from rain gutters away from structures and building foundations.
  10. Eliminate or minimize places where exterior wood meets soil.
  11. Keep a clean facility, regularly sweeping or vacuuming behind large objects and discarding garbage. 
  12. Restrict all food consumption to the break area.
  13. Enlist the help of a commercial pest control partner with experience in treating food processing facilities and using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods.

Terminix Commercial’s IPM program addresses the reasons pests may be present and helps prevent infestations with:

  1. Regular inspections
  2. Recommendations for limiting and preventing pest activity
  3. Continuous evaluation and education for you and your staff to address conditions
  4. Actions that may affect pest activity

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