Maddy: How to deal with aggravating Argentine Ants

Published 6:58 pm Friday, October 6, 2017

It’s early morning and your eyes are barely open. Your cat is hungry and you reach for the bowl to fill and you realize that your hand is covered with ants. The bowl is just covered with ants and legions of them are making a trail from an electric outlet to the cat’s bowl. Welcome to a home invasion from a critter called the Argentine ant.

First identified in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1896 by a German entomologist named Gustav Mayr, they have been named one of the world’s worst animal invaders. This invasive pest loves countries with a Mediterranean type climate. They certainly found a home in Georgia. Once established, they will displace native ants and other ant species. That’s why if you have a problem with Argentine Ants, you might have a hard time finding fire ants in your yard.

One reason these ants are so successful is that they seldom attack or compete with each other or other colonies. Their genetic make up is so similar that they can form super colonies, which is unlike other ant species.

They can displace native ants and lizards that compete for the same food supply.

If you notice ants following a trail up a tree they are usually on their way to harvest honeydew produced by aphids sucking on leaves. The ants protect the aphids from predators.

This behavior increases the damage caused by aphid colonies.

You can spot the aphids by looking for sooty mold. The mold grows on the leaves of plants such as hollies or gardenias growing underneath the tree. The honeydew drips down onto the leaves and a black, sooty mold grows on the honeydew.

Argentine ants send out scout ants and when a food source is discovered, more ants follow their pheromone trail to the food source.

The best bet is to remove the food source and keep the ants outside. Trying to find the point of entry can be difficult. They are about three millimeters long and can squeeze through a hole less than a millimeter in size.

The best way to prevent Argentine ants from gaining entry is to control their habitat outside. Keep limbs and shrubs from touching your house. Do not over mulch near the house, do not overwater the mulch and keep the mulch pulled away from the foundation. Treat this area with insecticide. Keep the mulch about two inches deep.

Control the insects on plants that create honeydew.  Inside the house, control the food sources. Keep garbage in plastic bags. Keep all cabinets clean and keep food in insect resistant containers. Spray the thresholds of all the entry points of your house. Also, spray the perimeter around the house foundation.

One of the best ways to kill the colonies is the use of baits. Ants carry the bait to their nests. This takes time. There are liquid and granular baits that you use outside. Place them in cool areas and use lots of bait since you are dealing with large numbers of Argentine ants. Make sure to read and follow all the label directs when using pesticides.

When large numbers invade the pantry, a shop vacuum works well in quickly disposing of them. They will keep coming until you exhaust their population. They love to go up the side of your house and enter by coming down from the attic through electrical openings in the walls. They also like to establish nests in gutters filled with leaves. Keep your gutters clean.

Our 61st Annual October Harvest Fest will be held at Tractor Supply in their parking lot from 8 a.m. to noon.  We will have locally grown produce plus jellies and jams and all kinds of crafts. If you wish to have a booth, call the extension office for further information.

What’s going on in Extension?

• Oct. 12:  MGEV Meeting: open to the public: “Socio-Horticulture: The benefits of gardening to people” Dr. Carolyn Robinson will be the guest speaker at 7 p.m. at the Ag Center.

• Oct. 14: 61st Annual Harvest Sale: Tractor Supply, 8 a.m. to noon Call the office for vender reservations, (706) 883-1675.

• Oct. 16:  Troup County Association of Beekeepers Meeting: 7 p.m. Ag Center

• Oct. 17: Troup County Cattleman’s Meeting: Dr. Brent Credille will speak on Herd Health. Meal starts at 7 p.m., cost $6, call ahead for reservations, (706) 443-7697. The program will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Ag Center

• Nov. 14: What’s a Good Hunting Lease?” UGA Wildlife Specialist Mark McConnell; 7 p.m. at the Ag Center, call (706) 883-1675 to register.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 144 Sam Walker Drive, LaGrange. 30240 (706) 883-1675. Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m.