Argentine ants are a very common pest in homes in warm areas. These pests enter homes in search of food through small cracks and openings that people are often not aware of. Argentine ants can make their way through even the smallest openings. These ants can make their way through holes that are just a millimeter wide without a problem.
In spite of being a common pest, they still are considered a huge threat, not only in homes but in local ecosystems as well.
The Argentine Ant
Argentine ants are a hostile species of ants. They kill or at least displace local ants in the area they occupy, causing an imbalance in the local ecosystem. Flowers and plants often rely on local ants to disperse their seeds. Other creatures like lizards and spiders rely on local ants as their food, too.
These ants also cause problems in agriculture. They protect plant and flower pests from their natural predators. To return the favor of such protection, the pests give a sweet excretion called honeydew to their protectors, the Argentine ants.
Scientists call these ants “super colonies” because one Argentine ant colony will not compete with another Argentine ant colony. In fact, they often merge and cooperate, thus forming a super colony.
All Argentine ants have very similar genetic makeups, which is why if you put an Argentine ant from one location into another colony, it can easily mingle and become part of that group.
Argentine Ant Problems: Why You Should Get Rid of Them
When these Argentine ants invade the place you call home, it really is a problem that should be dealt with immediately. They not only build their super colony in your garden, but they too may decide to extend their home into your house.
They will not only attack your chocolates and other sweets. Argentine ants are known to cause damage to electrical equipment in homes, including air conditioners, electrical wiring, heat pumps, washing machines, and telephone cables. They also manage to sneak into clothing and cause damage there, too.
If you have a garden and these pests make it their home, proper action must be taken in order to get rid of them. Otherwise, your plants or flowers will suffer.
Identifying Argentine Ants
Before you go hunting for Argentine ants, you must make sure the ants you see are indeed the pests you are looking for. They might be just your local friendly ants passing by.
An Argentine ant is not that difficult to identify. Worker ants, the ones you will usually see searching for food, are about three millimeters long and their queens are four times their size. Worker ants are often light to dark brown in color and usually have spots. Ants, just like all insects, have three body segments: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.
These ants have antennae that are strongly elbowed and have a noticeable bump or node on their thorax, right before their abdomen. Their thorax has an uneven surface, even when viewed from the side. Another distinct thing about these ants is the musky odor they release if squished.
Once you have identified the ants as Argentine ants, then you can safely proceed with getting rid of those pests.
The Proper Way to Get Rid of Argentine Ants
Getting rid of Argentine ants is not as easy as getting rid of other pests that invade homes. A simple can of Raid or insecticide is not effective on Argentine ants and will even compound the problem.
It is not that these ants are immune to common insecticides; those chemicals will kill the ants, but not all of them. Worker ants, the ones you often see, are the ones getting killed. In response to the decline in their population, the Argentine super colony ant queens will lay more eggs.
When ants detect the residual particles of insecticide, they will get stressed and split up the colony, spreading to other parts of your home while increasing in numbers. After you spray the insecticide, you may have made your problem worse.
You may think that in order to get rid of these pests, you must get rid also of their queen. That is true, but you don’t have to go Elmer Fudd on your house by tearing it down just to find the queen or queens. The best way to kill those queen ants is to use bait, a slow type of poison that the worker ants will mistake for food and carry back to their lair.
Getting Rid of Argentine Ants
Now that you know that a slow-acting bait poison will work to effectively get rid of Argentine ants, then it is about time that you use it on them. There are lots of commercial Argentine trap poisons on the market. The poisonous ingredient in those baits is boric acid, better known as borax. These baits are disguised as sweets to trick the ants in carrying the food back to their nest.
These poisons may take up to a week to wipe out the Argentine ants in your home, depending on their numbers. For the poison to be more effective, you must find their ant trails and place the poison nearby.
Boric acid slowly kills the ants in two ways. First, it draws water away from their bodies, killing them through dehydration. The absence of water in their bodies concentrates the boric acid into crystals, which in turn lacerate their digestive tract.
Although a little dosage of borax is not toxic to humans and animals, ingestion of large quantities can be fatal. When using it, make sure it is out of reach of children and your pets. If the use of chemicals is not practical in your home, the use of talcum powder is an effective way to get rid of, or at least control, the Argentine ants in your home. Talcum powder does not kill the ants, but they hate it and will avoid it in the future. Simply sprinkle the inexpensive powder on ant trails and near the areas you think these ants may come in, and they will never return again to that spot.
Argentine Ant-Proofing Your Home
To prevent further invasions of these pests, you must make sure your home is protected against them. Seal up cracks and crevices with sealants. Remember that even a millimeter-wide opening is enough for an Argentine ant to get through. Inspect your windows, doors, and walls. Spaces between wooden boards should also be sealed.
Install screens in places you just can’t seal up. If you use screens on your doors and windows, inspect them for damage or gaps, then repair or replace if necessary. You might want to check your basement for possible entry points as well. You might be forgetting that these insects live underground in the wild, so checking there is a must.
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