Ants vs termites: both can affect your business by damaging your property and reputation, but which should you be most worried about? Read our blog below to find out.
'Tis the season...
It's termite season in Gauteng and that's certainly not something about which to be jolly... We've already written a couple of posts warning businesses and homeowners in Gauteng about the extensive physical damage termites can cause during the rainy season - and what to look out for.
(In case you missed them, take a look at How to spot the signs of termites and Attention Gauteng: After the rains come the termites for more on how to spot the warning signs of a termite infestation.)
But what about ants?
The warmer weather can also bring with it increased sightings of ants. Ants are certainly more visible (most of the time, anyway) than termites, and the sight of ants marching across your restaurant tables, or across your deli counter is definitely not going to impress your patrons. But while ants might be an annoyance, they certainly aren't going to cost you nearly as much in repairs as a termite infestation.
While most ant species aren’t thought to carry disease, they can be a particular nuisance if they get into your business. Considering that ants frequently travel through unsanitary areas before they end up on your countertops, you won’t want them marching anywhere near food or customers.
Know the difference!
In order to establish whether its ants or termites which are most likely to affect your business, there are a couple of things to consider. First and foremost is whether you are based in a region of SA that has termite problems. There are various different species of termites found in different areas of South Africa, but only two cause significant problems to properties.
- Subterranean Termites: Subterranean termites are found predominantly in Gauteng and the Western Cape, and are one of the most destructive termite species in South Africa. They attack all timber structures in buildings and damages trees. They will move about below the surface of the ground as much as possible and build tunnels for shorts distances to get from one point of cover to the next making detection challenging.
- Dry wood Termites: Dry wood termites are found predominantly in KwaZulu Natal. If a piece of lumber is infested with dry wood termites, the whole colony is sealed inside the wood. Galleries are eaten from the inside out until all that is left is the outside shell of the wood, making a dry wood termite infestation very hard to detect. Activity is usually detected when is too late and usually requires a piece of the wooden structure to be replaced as well as a large part to be treated.
If you are based in these regions, then a critical step in protecting your business is to know what to look for - especially because many people confuse termites with ants.
As you can see, ants, like wasps, have a constriction half way down their body, whereas termites have a body that is uniformly broad, and straight (rather than elbowed) antennae.
I think we can probably agree that if you are in a termite hot spot, the risk of termites is going to be a bigger financial worry than the risk of ants. However, that's not to say that an ant infestation should be ignored.
There are approximately 550 species of ant in SA, but most of them are not much of a problem. The two species of ant that are especially problematic for businesses are problematic because of how difficult they are to eliminate completely.
Ant species that are problematic for businesses:
1. The pharaoh ant
The pharaoh ant is associated with humid conditions. It is a polygynous ant (meaning they can have many queens in their colonies) and this allows them to form new colonies at a rapid rate. This makes a pharaoh ant infestation difficult to eradicate as they have small, hard to detect nests that can divide, relocate and re-populate when needed.
New colonies are often formed through nests that have been disturbed - for example as a result of insecticide spray treatments. Their nests are often deep seated in cavities in heated buildings, and are often found in hospitals. Their colonies can range from a few dozen to 300,000 individuals.
They lay well–defined trails which are often associated with heating systems, and they feed indoors on high protein foods: meat, fats, blood, dead insects, etc.
2. The black sugar ant
The black sugar ant prefers to live and forage for food in suburban areas - this is what makes it a particularly problematic pest. The black sugar ant has thousands of workers active at any given time. These ants will be found in every area around a property as they search for food.
Complete elimination of this species is near impossible as they are so widespread and breed extremely fast.
Let the experts help
Regardless of whether it's termites or ants you're worrying about (or, heaven forbid - BOTH) the experts in pest control can help. Our technicians are highly trained in pest identification, and are able to identify the species of ant or termite from which you may be at risk. Once identified, they know exactly what to do to stop a small problem from become a huge, costly infestation.