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Archive for the ‘Ants’ Category

Are The Ant Species That Swarm Within Homes Usually Pests?

Around 14,000 ant species have been documented worldwide, and less than half of these species have been thoroughly studied. Just like termites, the ant community is made up entirely of eusocial species that dwell in colonies. Ant colonies are inhabited by numerous individuals, all of which are offspring of the original founding queen and a dispensable drone that dies shortly after mating. Each individual within an ant colony belongs to a specific social caste that is responsible for carrying out a set of duties in service of the colony. These social castes include the queen, reproductive male drones, sterile female workers, and once colonies reach maturity, queens begin to produce reproductive females known as alates.

Queens live for a long period of time, as long as 30 years for some ant species, and they spend their entire life laying countless eggs on a daily basis. Drones remain within the primary nest for the sole purpose of mating with the queen, and they die shortly after performing this task. Sterile workers exist solely to carry out laborious duties, such as nest construction, foraging, and brood care. Reproductive alates take flight from mature colonies each year in order to initiate a new colony elsewhere. Alates are poor flyers, and the vast majority of swarming alates die before mating with a drone, but the few that do manage to mate usually survive to become the queen of a new colony. While most ant species can only establish new colonies by swarming, several pest species can readily initiate new colonies at any time of year without swarming.

Swarms that occur indoors usually emerge from a colony nest site that is situated within, or in very close proximity to the structure. For example, some carpenter ant pest species, particularly the black carpenter ant, see workers establish satellite nests within the interior structural wood of homes. Alates in the pupil stage of development can be transported to indoor satellite nests where they sometimes emerge within the infested home. In other indoor swarming cases, alates emerge from a colony nest located in a crawl space, against foundation walls, or beneath concrete slabs. Alates found indoors are almost always pests, as indoor ant swarms generally originate from nests that are also located indoors or in some other problematic location.

Have you ever found dead ant alates within your home?

 

 

 

The Roger’s Ant Is An Increasingly Common Indoor Pest In Louisiana

Hypoponera ants are said to be the most commonly encountered and diverse genus of ants in the subfamily Ponerinae. More than 177 Hypoponera ant species have been documented worldwide, five of which inhabit the United States. Most Hypoponera ant species nest in shallow soil or on the ground surface beneath leaf litter, rocks, and within damp and decayed woods. These ants originate from tropical areas where they exhibit a high tolerance for dwelling in excessively moist soil, and the five species that can be found in the US inhabit the south where they are most prevalent in the southeastern Gulf Coast states. A couple of Hypoponera ant species in the US are abundant on urban and suburban turf grass landscapes, and three species in the US have become somewhat well known for inflicting painful and potentially dangerous stings to humans. These ants are not overtly aggressive, and most Hyponera ant stings are inflicted by winged queens after they become trapped in clothing. Hypoponera punctatissima, also known as “Roger’s ant,” is the most notable species of its kind due to its status as both a house pest and an occasional stinging pest in the US.

Roger’s ant is the only Hypoponera ant species in the US that is categorized as a “tramp ant,” which is a name given to the very few ant species that have successfully established habitats in urban ecosystems all around the globe. Tramp ant species include odorous house ants, Pharaoh ants, Argentine ants, and Tawny crazy ants. All tramp ant species are pests due to their acclimation to urban environments where they enhance their survivability by exploiting human activity and structures. In response to extreme weather conditions, the Roger’s ant readily establishes nests within inaccessible indoor areas, most notably within wall voids. These ants are unique for breeding on organic waste, particularly human and animal excrement, which explains why Roger’s ant is commonly found infesting compost piles and horse stables. Their habit of utilizing organic waste for the purpose of breeding and nesting is also why Roger’s ant has successfully established a worldwide distribution like other insect pests of organic waste, such as house flies and cockroaches.

The Roger’s ant filthy living conditions explains why these ants regularly carry disease-causing microorganisms, such as Streptococcus lactis and the mold species Cunninghamella elegans. Unfortunately, winged reproductives (alates) of this species have been known to swarm into homes where they often inflict painful, and sometimes, medically serious stings. Roger’s ant alates have been responsible for several mass envenomation incidents that have occurred in various public settings in the southeast including schoolyards and sporting events. These ants have only recently started to infest Louisiana homes, and they have a rich history of infesting hospitals where they pose a serious medical threat to patients.

Have you ever found dead winged ants in your home?

 

 

 

Red-Imported Fire Ants In Coastal Areas Are More Aggressive, Venomous, And Dangerous

Red-imported fire ants are already infamous among ants for their aggressive behavior and painful bites. Unfortunately, according to a recent study, it seems they are getting even bigger, more aggressive, and venomous in coastal areas. Flooding and the consistently rising sea levels seems to be triggering a physiological and behavioral adaptive response in red-imported fire ants that makes them breed larger and more aggressive ants. This spells bad news for Louisiana, as after the South American species was accidentally brought over to the United States via Alabama in the 1920s, they spread quickly across the south, their numbers proliferating throughout the state of Louisiana over the last century. Add to its massive red-imported fire ant population the fact that Louisiana is becoming increasingly flood-prone and faces the highest rate of relative rising sea levels and things begin to look bleak indeed.

Linda Hooper-Bui, a wetland ecologist at Louisiana State University and lead author of this recent study, first noticed the difference in red-imported fire ants after flooding during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Red-imported fire ant populations seemed to boom in New Orleans after Katrina, and Hooper-Bui began to notice that people that had walked through the flood waters had huge unexplained rashes that turned out to be many, more severe fire ant bites.

Hooper-Bui discovered that both fresh and saltwater flooding increases the already aggressive nature of red-imported fire ants and upgrades their arsenal by giving them a larger head so their bite is stronger and much bigger venom sacs that make those bites more painful and increase the swelling. However, while freshwater flooding that occurs inland causes an increase of 34 percent in the volume of venom sacs, coastal saltwater flooding causes a whopping 72 percent increase. Coastal flooding also causes the red-imported fire ant colonies to breed larger and more aggressive ants than colonies located inland. Fire ants are able to cling together to build floating rafts made up of entire colonies in order to survive flooding, but this also forces them to subsequently locate and build a new nest. Hooper-Bui concluded that since frequent flooding disrupts colony life and makes it harder to find food, it is the stress caused by the increased flooding in the state, and particularly by the coast, that is forcing red-imported fire ants to adapt and breed larger, more aggressive ants that can better handle the harsher environment.

Unfortunately, things are only going to get worse in the coming years, with the Gulf of Mexico expected to raise sea levels along the state’s coastline by 4 to 7 feet by the end of this century, increasing tidal and storm-related flooding. The risk of flooding from rivers and rain is also steadily increasing throughout the state. Basically, if you live by the coast, you want to stay as far away from those red-imported fire ants as you possibly can.

Have you noticed red-imported fire ants being larger and more aggressive than in the past?

 

The Fire Ant Pests In Louisiana That Are Not Red-Imported Fire Ants, And How They Can Be Recognized

Numerous ant species are well known indoor pests in Louisiana, and while most of these species only pose a nuisance within homes, a few species are potentially dangerous to humans. The red-imported fire ant is the ant pest species best known for inflicting medically significant stings, but Louisiana is home to other potentially dangerous fire ant species. For example, the native southern fire ant (solenopsis xyloni) can be found throughout the southern states where their stings have landed people in the hospital, and have even resulted in death. The tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata) can also be found in the south, especially the Gulf Coast states where this species has been known to inflict medically significant stings to humans.

The southern fire ant is the most common native fire ant species in the country, and workers of this species can be recognized for their reddish-yellow head and upper body, and black abdomen. Workers range in size from 2 to 6 mm in length, and their bodies are quite hairy, especially on the abdomen. Historically, southern fire ants have been common indoor ant pests in Louisiana, but recent years have seen invasive Argentine ants displace southern fire ant populations in the south. Despite this, southern fire ants remain prevalent in Louisiana where they frequently appear in great numbers in areas where Argentine ants have been successfully eradicated.

Tropical fire ant workers have square-shaped heads, they are orange to reddish-brown in color, and they are between three and eight mm in length. This species used to be abundant in the Gulf Coast states where it was a common household pest, but they have been largely displaced by their invasive red-imported fire ant relatives. However, tropical fire ants can still be found in Louisiana on occasion, and while they are similar to red-imported fire ants in appearance, they are not nearly as dangerous or aggressive to humans.

Have you ever encountered red-imported fire ants within your home?

 

 

 

 

How To Recognize Pyramid Ants And Prevent Them From Invading Homes

While they are found throughout the United States, Dorymyrmex pyramicus, also known as “pyramid ants,” are much more common in sunnier southern states. They prefer to nest in open, dry, sunny areas, making them prone to places like big lawns, pastures, and any other bare or sandy area. They are not the worst ants to have infest your home, as they actually eat other insects such as fire ants and are highly predacious. They do not have a stinger and are nonaggressive in nature, although they will bite occasionally if they perceive a threat towards the colony. So, in one sense, they are beneficial to have around. On the other hand, because of this very diet, a large infestation could indicate that those more dangerous ants are also nearby. They also give off what many consider a foul odor similar to rotten coconut when disturbed or crushed. In a perfect world, no insects would ever cross into our homes and we wouldn’t even have to think about these things…

Pyramid ants are fairly easy to recognize. They are around 1/16 to ⅛ inch long, with a head and thorax that run from brown to reddish black and an abdomen that is generally darker than the rest of its body. The pyramid-shaped projection near the rear of its thorax makes this ant species easier to identify and is the reason behind their common name. Luckily, they generally only nest outside, building those nests near those of other ant species. Their colonies are not terribly large, with each having a single queen and a couple thousand individuals. During construction, pyramid ants tend to create cone-shaped mounds, which can mess with lawn care and ruin landscaping.

While they don’t usually nest indoors, they have been known to enter homes to forage for sweets. To keep pyramid ants from foraging inside your home, it is best to seal all possible points of entry into your house such as small cracks or crevices around doors and windows. Seeing living or dead pyramid ants could be a sign of an infestation, but a sure bet that they are building nests below ground are the volcano-shaped mounds left behind in the ground they’ve disturbed. If you see this, then you need to contact a pest control professional to come in and check out the situation.

Have you ever had to call in a professional to deal with a pyramid ant infestation?

 

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