According to National Geographic, there are approximately 10,000 known species of ants across the world. Chances are you've come across several common species in your own backyard, including carpenter ants and odorous house ants. However, there is another type of ant that is becoming more common in the United States, and you may find them lurking on your property: the Argentine ant. Here is some valuable information about this increasingly common pest, including how to identify them and keep them out of your house:
Identifying the Argentine Ant
The male, or worker, Argentine ant is typically around one-eighth of an inch in length, according to the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The males will be uniformly the same size and will be light brown in color. The female Queen will be twice as large as the male and also light brown in color.
If you find a small brown ant in your home or backyard and aren't sure if it's an Argentine ant or another species, one of the best ways to identify it is by crushing the insect. When crushed, the Argentine ant will give off a distinct musty odor.
Although the Argentine ant is typically found in the far southern areas of the United States, including Florida and Texas, don't be surprised if you find a colony in your backyard if you live in Montana or Minnesota.
The Argentine ant prefers sweet types of food, including fruits. However, if there is a limited food source, the colony will feed on just about anything, from vegetables to your dog's food. Like the majority of ant species, the Argentine ant has a single queen and several workers whose sole purpose is to mate and gather food. However, if the colony becomes too large, the queen will leave the nest and split off to start another colony. When this occurs, the multiple colonies typically merge, creating what is called a "super colony."
The Argentine ant is an aggressive type of insect that is known to attack and destroy other ant or insect colonies. Additionally, the Argentine ant will also bite humans and pets if it feels the colony is threatened.
Typically, the Argentine ants will keep their colonies in areas that are moist, such as the damp soil found underneath your garage or the cracks of your sidewalk. However, if the ants are having difficulty finding food or if the conditions outside become too dry or too wet, the colony will begin to move inside homes and other structures.
Getting Rid of Argentine Ants
If you notice a colony of Argentine ants in your backyard, it is vital to act quickly. Begin to eliminating any attractive habitats that are near your house, including trees, shrubs and other vegetation. The ants will nest in these areas and if their food supply is threatened, they will eventually make their way inside your home. Additionally, you should check the exterior of your home for any cracks and other vulnerable spots that the ants could enter. Seal these areas immediately.
Next, choose a bait trap that contains boric acid and is specifically produced to attract and kill Argentine ants. Remember, although the colonies will consume just about anything when food sources are scarce, they prefer sweet, sugary foods.
Place the bait traps around the perimeter of your house or near any trails or concentrations of the Argentine ants. Do not place the traps inside. Their sweet smell will attract the Argentine ants to enter your home.
Finally, if you notice a large colony of Argentine ants or are having trouble controlling them on your own, don't hesitate to contact a professional. Remember, Argentine ants are aggressive and will take over your yard if left untreated. Once the colony becomes too large, a professional is typically necessary to regain control of your property. Contact a company like Albemarle Termite & Pest Control for assistance.