Anyone who has
been bitten by a fire ant can tell you that these well-known agricultural
pests can quickly become a human health hazard. Once fire ants clamp
onto your skin with their powerful jaws, they inject a dose of venom
that causes a burning sensation. These stings can cause blisters
and infections, and can even cause anaphylactic shock or death in
the most sensitive victims. It is also not uncommon for colonies
of fire ants to attack and sometimes kill domestic animals and pets,
as well as livestock and wildlife. And that's just the threat these
tiny little insects pose to humans and animals.
are reddish to black in color and are about 1/8 inch long.
Their characteristics are as follows:
of loose soil, resembling gopher diggings, are found above
are generally numerous and easily sighted.
ants are dark, small, highly variable in size, aggressive,
and sting relentlessly.
have the same body proportions from the tiniest to the largest.
width never exceeds the abdomen width including the largest
mound - can reach up 2 feet.
tiny dark-brown and black ants, which are about two millimeters in length,
are thought to have entered the United States aboard ships carrying coffee
or sugar from Argentina during the 1890s, then expanded throughout California
and the southern parts of the United States. In the Southeast and much of
the South, their proliferation is limited to some extent by the introduction
of fire ants.
They have been reported
to crawl onto people and bite them while they are asleep. Reports from
the early 1900's describe babies being attacked in their cribs.
colony of Argentine ants can contain thousands of workers and many queens.
The queens in an Argentine ant colony live about 1 year. A typical colony
consists of about 90% workers and 10% Queens.
Carpenter ants are
found throughout the United States. The black carpenter ant is common
in the east, the western carpenter ant in the west. Carpenter ants hollow
out spaces in wood to use as nests. Most species nest first in decayed
wood and then enlarge the nest into sound wood. Indoors: nests are in
wood (perhaps softened by fungus rot), insulation, wall voids. Outdoors:
nests are in old firewood, rotting fence posts, stumps, dead portions
of living trees, under stones and logs. A colony has a main nest connected
to satellite nests by a cleared trail about 1/4 inch wide.
This is a picture
of the Black Carpenter Ant. (carpenter ants can vary in color and in size
1/8" - 1/2" for an average worker)
Look for piles
of sawdust-like shavings, sometimes with bits of insulation and insect
Listen for rustling
sounds from within the walls. (A listening device is useful.)
Watch for foraging
trails outside, especially between 10 am and 2 pm.
Be alert to the
emergence of swarmers.
With a tool gently
tap exposed wood and rafters, listening for a hollow sound which might
indicate a nest cavity. A knife blade will easily sink into the wood
if a nest is present.
Check attics, basements,
and crawl spaces. Check wires and pipes. Locate high moisture areas.
(A moisture meter can be useful.)
These light brown
ants are about 1/8 inch long or less. These small ants rarely produce
swarmers or winged forms. They establish small to large nests indoors,
and are common throughout the year. Colonies may consist of a few hundred
to thousands of workers and queens. They are often located in many sites
throughout the infested structure. These ants will feed on a variety of
foods, but seem to prefer meat and grease, and forage during the day and
Treatment with liquid insecticides actually makes the infestation worse
by causing the ants to "bud" or "split" into several
smaller satellite colonies.
one of the most common ants. (workers average size 1/16" - 1/8"
long) This ant
gets its name from commonly locating its nest in or under cracks in the
pavement. (Occasionally they will nest in walls, insulation and under floors.)