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Archive for the ‘Ants’ Category

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?


The Little Known ‘Nylander’s Crazy Ant’ Pest Species May Swarm Year Round Within And Around Homes, And Workers Commonly Enter Homes To Seek Out Stored Foods

Nylanderia vividula, or “Nylander’s crazy ant,” as the species is commonly known, is an indoor ant pest from Mexico that has become very prevalent in the Gulf Coast states. These ants have been introduced to a variety of habitats, as they naturally colonize mulch piles and potted plants that are shipped throughout the world. The Nylander’s crazy ant has seemingly thrived within every ecoregion where it has been introduced, and they favor manmade settings where the ants readily nest in grass and frequently invade buildings and homes to seek out food sources. This species has been documented in environments as varied as Finland, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Canada, and experts believe that Nylander’s crazy ants are uniquely able to thrive unnoticed for long periods of time within manmade habitats. This is likely due to the fact that researchers usually encounter Nylander’s crazy ants in odd areas where no other ant species can be found.

In the natural environment, Nylander’s crazy ants generally nest in soil below rocks, in leaf litter, and in acorns, but they are able to establish reproductive populations indoors as well. In its tropical to subtropical native North American range, reproductive members of Nylander’s crazy ant colonies often take flight year round. Swarmers (alates) are attracted to lights, so they frequently swarm around and within homes where hundreds or more male and female specimens collect on walls and mate. Unless winters are unseasonably warm and humid, swarms will only occur from May through October, and while the ants are capable of overwintering outdoors, they are known to live exclusively indoors in cooler northern areas. Nylander’s crazy ants workers can be recognized for their yellowish-brown to dark-brown coloring, thick hairs on their head, relatively long legs and antennae, lack of a stinger, and 2 to 3 mm body length. Workers spray formic acid from their abdomen, but they are not dangerous to humans.

Have you ever felt the sensation of being sprayed with formic acid by an ant?


Acrobat Ants Are Very Common House Pests In Louisiana Where They Sometimes Nest Within Woodwork And Seek Human Food Sources

The groups of indoor ant pests commonly known as acrobat ants belong to the diverse Crematogaster genus, and multiple species are common in Louisiana where they serve as important components of the salt marsh ecosystem. Unfortunately a few acrobat ant species frequently establish infestations within homes throughout Louisiana where they seek out food scraps and occasionally establish nests within inaccessible locations like wall voids. Workers from acrobat ant colonies can be seen foraging indoors and they are relatively small to medium sized at around 3 mm in body length, and they can also be recognized for their shiny and reddish brown to black body. Perhaps most striking is their heart-shaped gaster (bulbous rear body segment) which they raise in response to threats, such as being approached by humans.

In the natural environment, acrobat ants nest beneath tree bark and in the hollow stems of marsh grass, but colonies can also be found in logs, stumps, and under bundles of leaf litter and stones. In Louisiana marsh lands, acrobat ant colonies establish large networks of satellite nests that surround a single parent nest that contains the founding queen, and unfortunately, these ants are known to establish multiple satellite nests within homes as well. As pests, acrobat ant workers are able to establish exceedingly small satellite nests in narrow spots, such as beneath roof shingles, and within or around doors and windows. Workers may also establish nesting cavities within wood, but in most of these cases, workers merely move into already existing cavities that had been excavated by other wood-damaging insect pests. However, workers inflict further damage to wood by enlarging interior cavities.

Acrobat ants naturally feed on insects and honeydew, and most infestations see workers enter homes from outside nests in order to collect sweet-tasting foods. When foraging workers enter homes, they usually originate from nests located very close to the foundation, such as beneath porches or beneath piles of firewood stacked against a home’s exterior walls. Although workers occasionally bite due to their defensive nature, stings are rarely reported, but when they become disturbed they emit a distinct odor that is generally considered unpleasant. If acrobat ants establish indoor nests, workers must be followed to their nesting site when they return from foraging expeditions. In cases that see workers invade homes repeatedly, an insecticide barrier is often applied around the perimeter of homes in order to prevent further infestations.

Have you ever smelled an odorous secretion emitted by an ant pest?

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