Pests news from BPCA

07 March 2019

SERVICING STORIES: Empire of the ants

Pest control | PPC94 March 2019

Three blocks of flats. Multiple colonies. Hundreds of thousands of invasive ants. Nigel White, Operations Director of member company Tactical Environmental Services, talks to us about a block treatment of epic proportions.

Empire of the ants

>Ring, ring<

“Boss, can you help me calculate something?”

“Yeah, sure. What’ve you got?”

“Errrm, how many bait points for 50+ flats, over three blocks, communal areas, and one giant plant room that connects them all?”

“Come on, you’ve done this a thousand times. What’s the mouse activity like at the moment?”

“Its Pharaoh ants.”

“Oh. This may take a while...”

The problem lies in the ants’ habits. They nest almost anywhere and in some unusual places. Under plants. In appliances. In bins. In voids.

Nest sites are usually located within favourable conditions, not within proximity to food. Their quest for food can take them over 100 feet away from the colony.

Pharaoh ants have some ingenious habits that enable them to spread out within a single or multi-story dwelling and make it difficult for a PCO to locate their base. Their nests nearly always contain multiple queens and new colonies are created by a portion of the old colony, simply moving away with one of the queens.

The case had us scratching our heads. What product should we even use, and in what quantity?

We’ve done a few Pharaoh ant jobs over the years, but never on this scale or quantity of ants per flat.

On this job, some of the flats had six or seven active colonies. The nests have been active low level, high level - every level. We had nests in bins, extractor fans, under carpets, and even in a dried toilet.

The survey was long and repetitive. 50 different access keys and a whole heap of communal areas.

It was incredible how well the Pharaoh ants had established colonies throughout. We don’t know how long they’d have been active for but it’s safe to assume it was a fair while.

We also had issues with cleaning staff buying domestic ant powder. This obviously created more issues and is probably part of the reason the ants are so prolific throughout. We made everyone involved aware that this wasn’t a good idea even before our treatment was authorised.

After talking it through with our supplier, we decided on an insecticide with a hygroscopic water retaining formulation. The active ingredient imidacloprid is meant to offer long-lasting control in comparison to other gel type baits that tend to lose moisture immediately.

The gel has a delayed action kill meaning the ants would return to the colony to feed the bait to larvae and the queen, which we hoped would lead to the eradication of all the colonies.

Compared to our usual gel this one was very liquidly, and it took an age to set up over the number of bait points we used. The team was sceptical about not using our usual insecticide.

We had a bit of resistance from a few tenants that had single treatments inside their own flats with no success. They’d also used a gel treatment, but only in several locations in their own kitchens.

We had access to all areas in all blocks and intended to make good use of it!

The results have been brilliant. We’ve had a dramatic reduction in reports and limited occupants reporting sightings.

I know when looking at block treatments sometimes we worry about our costs versus trying to keep the customer happy. But I definitely feel as a rule of thumb, most sites can be solved with, professional products, a great team and time spent on site.

A tricky situation solved by a simple strategy

  1. Inspect everywhere
  2. Bait prolifically but responsibly (as per product label)
  3. Conduct numerous inspections over a 12-week period
  4. Educate tenants and seek cooperation (we made letters outlining dos and don’ts)
  5. Dedicate adequate time on site and draw upon a full team of qualified technicians.

GOT AN INTERESTING PEST STORY?

If you’ve had a job that our readers could learn from, tell us about it!
hello@bpca.org.uk

Source: PPC94

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