Greg Bowman: Argentine Ant Control Options | opinion

One of the most common pesky insect pests in the southeastern United States is the Argentine ant.

It should be noted that a full-blown colony of Argentine ants can have a population of a million worker ants and hundreds of queens. In addition, Argentine ants can form large colonies that can have many nesting sites that can include multiple foraging properties. These ants can travel hundreds of feet from nesting sites to feeding grounds or other nesting sites on well-organized paths. It was found that in Georgia, Argentine ant tracks were measured over 350 feet.

Today I’m going to provide background information on these ants and tips on how to control Argentine ants using a UGA publication by Dan Suiter and Brian Forschler, UGA entomologist.

For starters, Argentine ants are good at finding nesting sites outdoors. Argentine ants are known to nest in mulch, with pine straw being very popular with them in our area.

They nest in leaf litter, compost heaps, rotted logs, and under rocks, patio stones, and potted plants, to name a few. Our information suggests that a common ecological characteristic of all Argentine ant nesting sites is that they retain moisture even when the environment around the nest is dry. In the warm season, Argentine ants feed on honeydew on the tops of trees and bushes.

As most know, honeydew is the high-sugar droppings produced by aphids and scale insects that feed on plant sap. Honeydew is a very important food source for Argentine ants, as well as other species of ants, during the warm season.

As you know, overall 2021 has been a dry year so far, and summers are usually drier and hotter. Note that Argentine ants infestations may be more common in really hot and dry summers. The warmth can encourage colony growth and thus greater numbers of ants. Arid conditions can cause these larger ant populations to forage for limited food resources, giving you a greater chance of ants and human problems.

To survive the winter, Argentine ants move to protected environments. Our information suggests that these protected areas are warmer and the environmental conditions are more stable. This could be an empty area in a structure. When spring comes, the Argentine ants move back to the outdoor nesting sites, where the colony grows again in the warmer months. In our area, colony populations will peak in late summer.

In order to prevent large populations in the late season and the problems that can arise with winter infestation, it is recommended that you follow management practices, especially spring outdoor baiting which continues in the warm season. I want to share some tips that I hope will help prevent Argentine ants infestation indoors.

Go back to the point where I said that honeydew is an important source of food for Argentine ants during the warm season. The ants will forage on trees and shrubs, so you need to keep all vegetation from touching the exterior walls of the building, the gutters, and any other part of the building or house. Any vegetation that touches each other allows access to the interior. It is also advised that due to the location where Argentine ants will nest, you will need to clear out garden debris such as leaf litter. That also means cleaning the gutters. You may need to minimize the use of mulch.

Follow these practices along with the chemical control options.

When treating an infestation chemically, you must first conduct an indoor and outdoor inspection to determine the source or origin of the infestation. The inspection should identify areas where chemical control should be directed.

During the warm season, it is found that many infestations can be traced indoors to nests outside the structure. We understand there are a number of methods that can be used to treat an existing Argentine ant infestation, but no single insecticide-based approach is completely effective. When controlling Argentine ants, it is usually best to follow an approach that uses both chemical and non-chemical methods.

Baits are effective against ants because they share food in an ant behavior known as trohallaxis. Baits are made from a toxin that is incorporated into a food source that is palatable to Argentine ants. According to our information, bait should be placed where ants forage inside and outside structures. Place bait where ants chase but out of the reach of non-target organisms. Read the label of each product to make sure WHERE this product can be used, e.g. B. indoors and also for ALL safety precautions. Outdoors, place bait in areas where ants are known to nest or follow suit. Note that according to our information, a large amount of bait can be used (i.e. multiple placements) because colonies can be large and they can forage for food over a large area.

There are also granular products that can be used in nesting sites such as mulch or leaf litter. Spray treatments can be used but should only be used outdoors where Argentine ants are nesting. When chemical options are used, we understand it is important that property owners read and follow all directions on the pesticide label and never do more than the label allows.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at [email protected]

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