What Is the Top Pest in the United States?

By Julie Miller
What Is the Top Pest in the United States?

I would argue that bed bugs are the absolute worst pest to have in your home. They’re nearly invisible, vampire-like, and are difficult (but not impossible) to get rid of. But, they’re not the top pest in the United States. The most common pest is the ant. Ants are a superior pest by nature, quite simply because there are so very many of them. The second most common (and perhaps the most detested) pest is the cockroach. (We’ll discuss that invader in a future article.)

Here, let’s talk about what an ant infestation looks like and why this house-invading insect is the number one household pest. Our writing wouldn’t be complete, though, without a “help me” section. Thus, I promise not to leave you hanging and allow those ants to continue marching.

Do You Have an Ant Infestation?

Ants are the top pest in the U.S. for a reason. Like leopard sharks infesting estuaries, ants will happily take over your home. An infestation, according to the Oxford dictionary, is "the presence of an unusually large number of insects or animals in a place, typically so as to cause damage or disease."

Ants are such a threat to infest because they know how to breed well. Queen ants can produce around 800 eggs per day. Generally, the queen is the mother of all other ants in her colony. This queen never stops producing, laying eggs until she goes to her eternal resting place, which could be anywhere from two to 20+ years.

The Ant: Why It’s the No. 1 Pest

Ant

Ants will not be extinct anytime soon. What sets the ant apart from other insects is that they just keep coming. For instance, in the mid 1950s, southern congresspeople received a flurry of letters and petitions complaining of imported fire ant damage to crops and livestock (in the south) and appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help. There is no end to these tiny offenders.

They travel well. Ants, my friends, are great long-distance travelers, whether it be a car, a truck, a train, or perhaps even an airplane, (depending on the plane’s altitude, species of ant, flight length, and location in hold). The black fire ant, for example, was accidentally brought home to Mobile, Ala. from South America in the early 1900s. Did you know that pavement ants originated in Europe, where these stowaways hid in soil used for ballast in merchant vessels during the 1700s to 1800s?

Their colonies are very tight knit. They practically breathe in unison. They’re so united towards their goals of survival, growth, and reproduction, in fact, that they operate very much like a single organism, known as a "superorganism." Their division of labor is highly specialized, each part fitting together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They literally need one another to survive. This super trait allows them to accomplish extraordinary feats and gives them a major advantage over solitary insects (and animals). It also allows for a great home invasion.

Their colonies are massive. A "mature" colony can contain more than 200,000 ants. If it’s a supercolony, though, it can house millions of ants. What’s even more fascinating (and perhaps horrifying) is that there are more ants on our earth than there are stars in our galaxy. The total ant population worldwide is estimated at around ten quintillion ants, or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000, a figure that can be difficult to comprehend. That’s 1.2 billion ants per person in the world.

The Ant: Which Ones Should You Be on the Lookout for?

The top three ant species that will attempt to take over your home are the odorous house ant, the carpenter ant, and the pavement ant.

Odorous House Ant

This ant, which smells like crushed rotten coconut, may be the worst. It feeds on just about anything, will nest practically anywhere, and is notorious for being able to pick up camp and relocate.

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter ants, too, are pretty awful. Their entire lives revolve around biting and chewing moist and soft wood. They’ll excavate this wood, to create galleries for their nests and the nests of their family members, until their dying day. These ants can and will ruin your home.

Pavement Ant

What makes these ants terrible is that they’re literally everywhere. They carry a presence in every single state of the U.S. Their appearance often goes unnoticed until they try to pick up and carry away your picnic lunch. When these picnic-basket-stealers find food in your home, the "scouts" report back to the nest and the whole colony will try to move in.

The Ant: How to Rid Your Home of Its Presence

Here’s how to send those ants marching two-by-two to the hills, whether they’re on your kitchen countertop or walking across your living room walls.

  • Clean up your messes. If it’s that sticky honey jar that you leave out on the countertop or that spray of apple juice that your toddler decorated the kitchen walls with last week, take care of it.
  • Put an end to that 6-legged marching. As soon as a scout ant locates its next meal, it returns to its nest, laying down a scent trail by repeatedly pressing its abdomen to the ground. Its family members sense these secretions (or pheromones) and giddily follow this scented pheromone-rich trail. Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Spray blocks these ant pheromones, thus causing ant panic. All ants literally lose their path to their next meal, to your house, or to their nest, depending on where these miscreants were marching.
  • Shower them with diatomaceous earth. Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster is a superb tool for dispersing this powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Diatomaceous earth (DE) kills by contact. As ants walk across this unsuspecting white powder, its tiny dust particles cling to the legs and body of these small manifoldly intelligent creatures. Later, as the ant attempts to groom the powder off of its body, it poisons itself, as the ant (and other insects that come into contact with DE) is unable to either digest or excrete this substance. They perish from the outside in and the inside out—from both damage to their exoskeleton (outside in) and dehydration (inside out). For ants, death will take 16-24 hours.
  • Wait. Allow Six Feet Under and our Insect Buster to do the work for you. Go ahead and grab that cool drink and head to your back patio, where you can’t see the ants. It’s time to restore your peace of mind.

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