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Archive for the ‘Ants’ Category

Which Methods Are Most Effective For Long-Term Ant Control Within And Around Homes?

The first step in ant control involves collecting specimens for the purpose of identifying the species. Ant control methods differ significantly depending on the species targeted for elimination. For example, some ant species like odorous house ants and little black ants are well controlled with sweet baits, while Pharaoh ants are dark rover ants cannot be effectively controlled unless sweet baits or baits containing insect growth regulators are strategically placed in specific indoor and outdoor locations. When controlling these insects it is also necessary to use baits in conjunction with additional control measures including sticky traps for monitoring and insecticide dusts for eliminating nests in wall voids. Only those who have received proper training know how many and which type of bait stations are necessary and where to place them in order to achieve optimal results.

Ants that live in large colonies can become tremendously numerous around homes, and in these situations, repeat infestations are the norm. Modern pest control professionals practice integrated pest management, which is an approach to pest control that stresses infestation prevention and only makes use of insecticides as a last resort. When it comes to heavy and/or repeat ant infestations, applying an insecticide barrier around the perimeter of a home is sometimes necessary. Barrier treatments are commonly used to prevent infestations by Argentine ants, Pharaoh ants, Dark rover ants and occasionally carpenter ants.

Long term ant control always requires a combination of methods and patience, as the most effective ant control method, baits, can take weeks to substantially reduce ants within heavily infested homes. Homeowners can avoid ant infestations in several ways, such as eliminating accessible food sources, sealing entry points on the exterior walls of homes, and by modifying yard landscapes to be less conducive to ant pest activity. In addition to keeping stored foods in tightly sealed containers, kitchens should be regularly sanitized to keep food from gathering beneath appliances, and moisture should be well controlled. Preventing vegetation overgrowth around foundations and keeping shrubs trimmed will reduce moisture levels around the ground level, basement or crawl space of a home where ants can gain easy access indoors.

Do you notice an increase in insect sightings when you don’t maintain a well groomed yard landscape?

How Did Red-Imported Fire Ants Become A Public Health Threat In Louisiana?

The red-imported fire ant (RIFA) is the deadliest ant species in the United States, and while 280 fire ant species have been documented around the world, the RIFA is considered the most aggressive species of all. RIFAs often attack and kill rodents and even small pets, like kittens, and according to entomologist Mike Raupp, five percent of all RIFA sting incidents induce a deadly reaction, most often anaphylactic shock.

The RIFA is native to South America, but they were accidentally transported into the port of Mobile, Alabama from Brazillian cargo back in the 1930s. After arriving in the southeast US, RIFAs began to expand their invasive habitat in the region by 120 square miles per year. Today, these invasive ants can be found in 15 states in the southern half of the country, and as much or possibly more than 1 billion dollars per year is spent on RIFA eradication programs in the US.

RIFA arrived in Louisiana during the 1950s, and today, they have established colonies throughout the entire state. While RIFA colonies cannot be eradicated once they establish an invasive habitat, officials with the LSU Ag Center have been successfully controlling fire ant infestations with baits that contain insect growth regulators. According to a recent nationwide survey of pest control professionals, fire ants were the sixth most commonly managed ant pests during 2016.

Bait is the only RIFA control measure that can be placed throughout a residential yard. All other control measures, such as wettable powders, emulsifiers, and liquid insecticides must be applied directly to existing nesting mounds. Eliminating RIFA colonies is easier in wide open landscapes than in individual residential yards, and once one neighborhood yard becomes infested, neighboring yards rapidly follow. This is why pest control professionals treat entire subdivisions as opposed to single yards. Today, US federal and state agencies are working together to develop a biological RIFA control program involving predatory and parasitic phorid flies.

Have you ever sustained stings from fire ants?

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?

 

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