Ant Survey Executive Summary: Exploring America's #1 Nuisance PestDr. Jim Fredericks
Thursday, April 19, 2012
In late 2011, the National Pest
Management Association (NPMA), partnered with Dr. Laurel Hansen of
Spokane Falls Community College and Washington State University to
survey a nationwide sample of pest professionals to gain a better
understanding of ant infestations and control measures across
America. This summary highlights the findings of that
Exploring America's #1 Nuisance
By Dr. Laurel Hansen, Jim
Fredericks, and Missy Henriksen
For many Americans,
ant infestations are an irritating nuisance and a source of
disgust, concern and frustration. Recently, pest
professionals across the country explored this issue in an online
ant survey designed to better understand the pervasive nature
of the pest in homes and businesses through the United States.
The pest professionals who participated in this research tend to
serve suburban and urban communities, have firms with fewer than 25
employees and derive approximately one-quarter of their total
revenue from ant-related services. Data for the survey was
collected over a nine-week period, from mid-November 2011 through
early January 2012. Pest management professionals from 37 different
states participated in this research by completing a
self-administered, online questionnaire. The data was weighted to
better reflect known population parameters.
Ants Everywhere. Every participating pest management
professional from Maine to California treated ant infestations
during 2011. Most firms treated several hundred infestations --
some, many more. Though carpenter ants (66%),
odorous house ants (62%) and pavement ants (59%) were treated most
often, more than a dozen other species prompted service calls, as
Ant infestations were especially common in the following
- Office buildings (88%)
- Restaurants (83%)
- Apartments and condominiums (82%)
- Single-family homes (80%)
- Nursing homes (70%)
- Hospitals (58%)
- Schools (58%)
- College dormitories (34%)
Within these structures, the following areas were found to be
- Kitchens (96%)
- Bathrooms (89%)
- Inside walls (73%)
- Bedrooms (61%)
- Living rooms (60%)
- Basements (54%)
- Air conditioning and heating units (37%)
Outside, ants were reportedly pestering home and business owners
on driveways, walkways and in landscaped beds (91%).
Ants on the Rise. More than five out of ten pest
professionals (54%) claim that ant infestations are on the
rise. Among them, nearly six out of ten (57%) have seen more
infestations of odorous house ants. No other species was
mentioned nearly as often, suggesting that these insects are the
primary cause of what many consider a growing problem.
Pest professionals that were surveyed suspect that ant
infestations are on the rise for several reasons. The most
common include an increase in moisture (27%), changing pest control
practices (22%) and new species (14%). Many professionals also
believe that, today, ant infestations are reported more often
because the typical consumer has become less tolerant.
To stem this trend, these professionals offer their customers
IPM tips for preventing ant infestations. The most popular
include clearing shrubs and other vegetation from the base of a
structure (82%) and cleaning up crumbs and spills whenever possible
(81%). Other tips involve controlling moisture (78%) and
sealing cracks and crevices (73%).
Finding and Treating Ants. Visual inspection is the most
common method of finding ant infestations. Indeed, every pest
professional surveyed employs it. Fewer (42%) use glue traps
as inspection and monitoring tools.
When ants are found, pest professionals control them with a
variety of exterior and interior treatments, as well as sanitation
efforts like eliminating the sources of their food and water
Whatever treatment is used, the survey indicates that a single
visit is often not enough. A majority (58%) of pest professionals
report that at least two treatments are required to get an ant
infestation under control, while fewer (20%) find that three
treatments are necessary.
According to respondents, ants are considered one of the most
difficult pests to control, along with bed bugs. In addition,
two out of three respondents (67%) believe that ants and
cleanliness are correlated.
Integrated Pest Management. Nine out of ten pest
professionals (90%) feel that IPM is an effective method of
controlling ants. IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, is a process
involving common sense and sound solutions. The latter
involves three steps: (1) inspection, (2) identification and (3)
treatment. The treatment options vary from sealing cracks and
removing food and water to applying pesticides when
One of the IPM approaches that is particularly important to ant
management is the removal of vegetation in contact with the
structure at any level plus the removal of nesting sites such as
debris, boards, etc. in areas around the structure.
Additional IPM tips include:
- Repair any leaky pipes, especially in areas under sinks where
pests can often go unnoticed.
- Seal up cracks and holes around pipes and wiring.
- Keep all foods in sealed containers, including pet food.
- Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water.
- Wipe counters, floors and other surfaces frequently.
- Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it
- Vacuum often.
Tis the Season. For most pest professionals, spring (64%)
and summer (67%) are the busiest seasons for ant-related service
calls. Only a handful (14%) claim that ants are a year-round
pest, which is especially true for Northern areas as Southern
regions have a longer season for ant-related calls due to their
Regardless of season, consumers contact professionals when they
see ants crawling where they don't belong (96%). Fewer calls
result from flying ants (32%), and fewer still from evidence of
structural damage (10%) or an ant bite (10%).
Public Attitudes. Consumers who encounter ant infestations
often are frustrated, annoyed and irritated. Some are
embarrassed and disgusted, others anxious and concerned.
Therefore, consumers look to pest professionals to eliminate the
problem as quickly as possible.
According to three out of four pest professionals (74%), the
typical consumer knows little about the risks posed by some species
of ants, like painful stings and allergic reactions as well as the
threat of food contamination. However, almost as many (61%)
believe that consumers are well informed about the property risks
posed by ants, especially carpenter ants.
The severity of these food contamination and property risks
depend largely on the species and the region in which it is most
often found. Red imported fire ants, found mostly in the Southern
states, are capable of painful stings that can result in welts and
severe allergic reactions, while carpenter ants are known to cause
significant property damage and are found across the United
In Conclusion. Ant infestations are on the rise throughout the
country, especially in the places we frequent most. Luckily, pest
professionals agree that a mixture of IPM tactics can effectively
prevent and manage most infestations, keeping consumers safe from
the health and property risks posed by these nusiance pests.