When it comes to invasive pests, few are as big a nuisance to the school environment than ants. Many schools, whether private or public, have several educators, students and faculty members passing through the halls every day, bringing food items and leaving behind trash that acts as a beacon for any ants in the area to claim.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at why school grounds are often a hot spot for ant activity, what you can do to limit ant infestations throughout your school, and how American Pest can help.
Why Ants Are a Problem for
Public & Private Schools
The school environment is where students spend the most time during adolescence.
This means students and teachers will treat their space as a home, food and all. Many schools have a teacher and (or) student lounge area or room, even allowing or providing students with refrigerator use in some cases – which makes ants inevitable when they fail to store their food items properly or clean up crumbs and spilled drinks.
Of course, completely preventing students from bringing food into school is a difficult task as students and teachers often bring food and drinks into their classrooms. With the ease of simply slipping food and drinks into a backpack or purse and walking through the door, students could be tracking in ants right under the nose of the staff. When those food or drink items get spilled or left out, ants are sure to follow.
Making matters worse, many schools can host a community of hundreds of students, meaning that doors are always being left open for after-hours events and more - providing constant opportunities for ants to follow you inside. This problem is compounded for older-style historic school buildings that are difficult to renovate or that have had improper maintenance, as wear on the building itself often leaves plenty of gaps for ant invaders to squeeze through.
Once one ant finds a food source, it will leave a pheromone trail that the other colony members will follow; before long, a few pieces of discarded food can quickly spiral into a massive surge of hungry ants. Some of those ants may go on to form other colonies nearby, inevitably causing a huge infestation in and around the school.
What Happens When Ants Invade
Educators across the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. area typically see activity from one of three ant species, with each bringing its own unique problems:
- Sidewalks and other paved areas around the school grounds are commonly filled with pavement ants during the warmer months. However, multipurpose rooms and cafeterias are at risk once temperatures drop and ants forage for food and shelter contaminating everything they come into contact with.
- Kitchens and concession stands are also at risk of being contaminated by odorous house ants. These ants not only contaminate foods and drinks they come into contact with, but they are also known for the foul odor they emit when crushed.
- Historic buildings throughout school grounds are at risk of a far more destructive pest—carpenter ants. This wood destroying insect will nest in decaying wood that has been softened by moisture over time. Any historic buildings not protected from wood destroying insects are at risk of costly damage to the wooden structures throughout the building.
If you’ve seen ants around your school but are unsure which species you’re dealing with, don’t hesitate to contact a specialist to help identify the problem and help you find a solution.
Sealing Off Buildings and Classrooms
The first step toward preventing any pest infestation is always to create physical barriers to entry, and ants are no exception. Whether you’re a teacher or faculty member, it pays to know the best strategies for preventing pests from getting inside, which include:
- Keeping doors and windows closed at all times when not in use
- Applying caulk to any cracks or holes in the walls or floors, especially those close to ground-level
- Place sticky traps by doors and other suspected entry points to catch ants as they attempt to enter the building
There are a variety of DIY solutions out there, however, cheaper alternatives won't solve the problem and can sometimes make it more difficult for pest professionals to stop the problem at its source. Keep in mind that these tips are not a guaranteed measure to stop an ant infestation and are in many ways a temporary fix. Always follow up with a service technician following any DIY ant elimination efforts in order to eliminate the problem.
Encouraging Prevention Efforts
A big part of successful ant prevention entails educating and encouraging the faculty, staff, and students that will be using the classrooms, and other facilities around the school on the proper methods for preventing ants.
- Ants are always on the hunt for food, especially sweets or proteins, so discourage students and faculty members from storing or eating food items in classrooms or outside of cafeterias or other designated eating areas.
- If students are carrying food items for later, it should be stored in tightly-sealed containers and never left out.
- Enforce rules against littering both as a pest deterrent and a green initiative.
Share some of the following strategies with your staff to assist in mitigating risks for ant infestations:
Tips for Maintenance and Groundskeepers
- Keep trees and bushes trimmed to allow natural sunlight to dry rainwater that could be collecting around the building or buildings
- Ensure that gutters are regularly checked for proper water flow channeled away from the walls and foundations of their given structures
- Have any leaking pipes or faucets reported and repaired immediately
- Ensure that there are plenty of trash cans and recycling bins around the building and that these are regularly emptied to keep the potential for litter to a minimum
- Place napkins in all common eating areas to ensure that any spilled drinks or crumbs are cleaned up immediately
Tips for Faculty Members
- Make sure all floors are swept and vacuumed regularly so that no crumbs or small food items are present
- Clean tables and countertops regularly with sanitizing wipes to eliminate any pheromone trails left behind
- After using facility kitchens or break rooms make sure to thoroughly clean the sink to leave no leftover food or standing water
- Inspect the hallways and classrooms after each session for food or drink items that have been left behind
Why Schools Turn to American Pest
Unfortunately, even the best preventive efforts can only do so much to stop ants from invading. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.
American Pest has been protecting schools across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. from ants and other pests for almost a century. With our experienced technicians and access to the latest pest elimination technology at our disposal, we can solve any pest problem you may be facing.
If you’re an administrator or education professional that wants to create an ant-free learning environment for students, contact American Pest today to find out how regular treatments can keep your school protected.
Questions about pests? We can help. (855) 212-3677