Identifying, Locating and Controlling Argentine Ants
Due to their small sizes, the best way to identify Argentina ants is by their color, tails and the fact that they smell when squashed. Argentina ants are highly busy when looking for food. They trail in a group of five or more ants, and they can move on buildings and trees. Research has shown that at every given time, there are about ten quadrillion ants alive and roaming on earth. Some people may find it hard to believe, but those who have dealt with Argentine ants invasion may even feel like the number is an underestimate. These are prolific breeders, and the worse thing is that they are aggressive too.
The Argentina ants’ colonies are easy to identify due to their massive sizes, but individually, they are only 3mm long. They are wingless, and their color ranges from light to dark brown. The males and queens are larger and darker. They can be distinguished from the other ant species by the following features;
- They do not sting, though they can bite
- Their antennae are divided into 12 segments
- Their mandibles are lined with 5-8 large teeth
- Their eyes are set below the widest point of the head
- A single node separates thorax and abdomen
- Emits a musty smell when crushed
- They move in vast ant trails
The Argentine ant queens are different from the other ant species. Some of their unique features are;
- They are small about 1/6 to ¼ inches in length which are smaller than the species of ant queens
- The winged Argentine ant queens mate only once with a winged male after which they produce fertile eggs for the rest of their lives. Other ant species have a seasonal swarming flight, but these species do not form new nests instead they mate inside the nest.
- Ever Argentine ant colony has several queens, and each of them can lay as many as 60 eggs per day
- The Argentine queens help workers by feeding their young one with the other species, the queens lay eggs and depend on the ant worker to feed and take care of the young.
- They are mobile and get out of the nest with other workers
The males hatch from the queen’s fertilized eggs, and their lives are short. Their function is to mate with the queen, and they die soon after mating.
Their habitat and diet
They have made homes in 15 countries on six continents. These invaders have adopted in urban areas in the United States, especially in California. They can nest in many places both moist and dry regions. You can find them in living soil, debris, mulch, underneath wood and cavities at the base of trees and shrubs.
Their colonies contain hundreds of queens, and instead of constructing new nests through swarming, they build them around the original but remain connected to the Queens’ old territory. With this reconnection, they can easily create and expand to form many colonies. Each colony contains millions of insects, and together with the many queens, they can destroy an entire city block. They love feeding on aphids due to their sugar secretions.
How to know if you have an Argentine Ant infestation
Check your location – Although they can live almost everywhere in the world their survival in cold regions is low. If you live in a warm place like the coastal California, it might be hard to find any urban area that is not infested by Argentine ant, but if you are in a place like North Dakota, there is a big chance that they are not present.
Baiting is the most preferred treatment over the regular spraying scatters unless you use a non-repellent spray. Baiting is the most effective method to get rid f the entire colony. It is best if you chose the sugar-based and protein based baits. You can use other sprays if you are spraying the nest itself.
How to use ant bait
- Begin by finding the trail. The most effective bait is the one placed along the trails they use when foraging for food
- Re-bait even after the ants have consumed the bait and keep checking on daily basis until they are all gone
- Use of spray stresses the colony which causes them to split into sub-colonies and scatter. The scattering multiplies the number of ant colonies and therefore makes your problem even worse.
- When using bait, ensure to use a slow acting one. The quick bait kills the foraging ant and may leave out the worker ants which are out searching food for queens.
- You should be patient as the bait could take a much longer time than you expect
Argentine ants are very dangerous and handling them yourself can be hectic. It is best if you ask for help from a pest management firm near you. The professionals will implement measures that will eliminate the ants as well as advice on what to do to avoid re-infestation.