MEMPHIS, Tenn., May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Homeowners attempting to beautify their homes and yards may, in fact, be providing new hiding places for the number one pest found in and around homes -- ants. Stoy Hedges, manager of technical services/pest control operations for Terminix and author of "Field Guide For The Management of Structure-Infesting Ants," says, "Ants have replaced cockroaches as the number one household pest for several reasons, including the following." -- More homes now have lush landscaping which is a prime habitat for ants. -- Thick layers of mulch and heavy ground covers retain the moisture ants need to survive. -- Landscape plants, such as roses, fruit trees and many shrubs, provide a food source for ants. -- Homes built on wooded lots often provide contact with carpenter ant colonies. -- Fields and forests that are cleared to build subdivisions may disrupt the natural environment allowing fire ants to become established. -- More homes are being built, providing more opportunities for ants to become pests. For most people, ants are simply a nuisance, but according to Hedges, they can become more than that. Carpenter ants are capable of causing damage to houses and fire ant stings are painful. Of the more than 550 species of ants in the United States, only about 40 are regular invaders of homes and businesses. Preventing infestations should be a priority with homeowners and Hedges offers the following tips for doing so: -- Trim tree and shrub branches away from the buildings. -- Keep heavy ground cover out of landscape beds that are next to the house. -- Rid the yard of potential nesting sites for ants including old landscape timbers, stumps and dead limbs. -- Avoid the use of stones and landscape timbers near the house foundation. -- Keep layers of mulch in landscape beds no more than two inches thick and keep it at least 12 inches from the foundation. -- Seal cracks in outside walls and foundations. -- Install tight-fitting screens on vents and windows. -- Provide adequate ventilation in crawl spaces and attics. -- Replace rotted or moisture-damaged wood. -- Repair leaky pipes to eliminate a constant moisture source. -- Keep food covered and in tight containers. -- Clean up food spills. Successful ant control and prevention, according to Hedges, involves eliminating every ant colony located in or near the home and removing the conditions that contribute to their presence. Regular exterior service by a trained professional may be required to stop ant infestations before they begin. The patented Insider(R), a wall injection system available from Terminix, may be necessary to apply treatments inside the walls of a home where the pests live. Baiting systems can also be effective for some species. "The best strategy," Hedges said, "is an integrated approach using preventive measures and direct treatment of colonies in addition to ant baits." For a long-term solution to an ant problem, he recommends professional pest control services such as those offered by Terminix. "Trained service professionals will be more thorough in initial inspections to locate colonies, identify the species of ant and design the appropriate strategy for achieving the best results. They are more persistent in their follow-up inspections, baiting and other treatments necessary to prevent ants from returning," Hedges said. Since 1927, Terminix has been the leader in developing innovative strategies to protect homes and businesses from pests. With a network of 876 service centers, using the latest techniques and technologies, Terminix is the recognized world leader in pest control. Terminix is part of the ServiceMaster Company, which serves more than 10.5 million customers in the United States and in 41 countries around the world. Its market leading companies include TruGreen-ChemLawn, Terminix, ServiceMaster Residential/Commercial Services, American Home Shield, Rescue Rooter, American Residential Services, Merry Maids, AmeriSpec and Furniture Medic. For more information, call 1-800-TERMINIX or for complete information including an extensive pest library and pest map, visit www.terminix.com.