BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Are you finding ants seemingly everywhere in and around your home? The good news is their season peaked at the end of the summer. The bad news is, they’re still going to be around for a while.
Dr. Aaron Ashbrook, assistant professor of urban/peri-urban entomology at LSU, said the LSU Ag Center is still getting many reports about ants and “they are still active early in the fall.”
“During this time of the year, the ant colonies (have) been producing new colony members since the spring season,” he said. “Therefore, the number of colony members are very high at this time. In turn, because there are so many individuals to feed, we see more ant foraging activity at this time as they need to locate more resources to meet the demands of the colony.”
Here’s what you can do to keep yourself, your family, your home and your pets pest-free.
Whether inside or outside, you might come across all kinds of ants in Louisiana. One scientist determined that the state is home to at least 100 species, including the Red Imported Fire Ant. This species is “successful because it can tolerate a variety of environmental conditions,” according to Ashbrook. They are “highly aggressive and capable of delivering painful stings that develop into blisters.”
Where you live would affect what types of ants you encounter. Ants “have different environmental preferences and requirements to survive,” said Ashbrook.
“The warmer temperatures, humidity, longer spring and summer periods in the Southern US allows different ant species to thrive here that cannot tolerate colder conditions in the Northern United States,” Ashbrook said.
Ashbrook said that this allows some ant species to develop colonies with many workers that can take over parts of a landscape, displacing other insects and wildlife from that area.
What can I do to help reduce or prevent ants around my home?
Ashbrook’s tips include:
- Trimming tree branches and vegetation near your home.
- Sealing cracks and crevices on points of entry into your home.
- Lowering mulch to 2-3 inches deep in landscapes.
- Check for ants in anything that you buy for your lawn — like plants or soil — before bringing it home.
He said limiting certain types of plants in the yard can also reduce the risk of ant infestation.
“One way to reduce the number of ants around your home is to also control aphids, scales or mealy bugs. These plant feeders suck the sap from plants and defecate a sugary material that the ants feed upon, called honeydew,” Ashbrook said.
Specific species are drawn to areas with those insects, so avoiding the plants or getting rid of the pest bugs reduces the risk of ants. They love to attack crape myrtles and nectar-producing or fruit-bearing plants, he said.
If you are looking for an insecticide, Ashbrook suggests trying boric acid and “reduced risk essential oil formulations that contain D-limonene” are helpful in getting rid of mounds.
Ok, the ants are in my house. How do I get them out?
When the bugs are everywhere in your home, Ashbrook calls it an “ant takeover.”
“If ants have established in your home, you most likely will not be able to avoid pest control measures,” he said.
If the ants have invaded your home, try to identify what species they are because “they have different food preferences, behaviors and nesting sites,” said Ashbrook.
What type of ant they are can determine how you should control them. If you have any further questions on how to identify or deal with ants around your home, give the LSU Department of Entomology a call.
Is it possible to win the battle against invading ants?
“With proper identification of the ant species, recommendations can be provided, or pest control services can be contracted that will ensure control of the ants within your home,” Ashbrook said.
How do I keep ants off me?
If you must work outdoors and protect yourself, Ashbrook has some suggestions.
Wear boots and thick rubber gloves that go past your wrist and apply talcum powder to both your boots and gloves. It might not prevent you from being stung, but it will make it more difficult for the ants to climb on the clothes treated with talcum.
Ashbrook emphasized that caution is needed around Red Imported Fire Ants as “some people are more sensitive to fire ant stings, and their venom is capable of inducing anaphylactic shock, which has resulted in death in severe cases.”
He said the elongated twig ant also stings but doesn’t attack in numbers like fire ants.
“The other ant that you could argue is threatening to humans are carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.). They do not directly attack humans but do excavate and nest in structural wood. This excavating activity by the ants reduces the structural integrity of the wood, increasing the risk of collapse and causing financial losses,” he said.
“Ants provide a variety of services, such as scavenging and consuming a variety of dead organisms in the environment, they control pests in many cases, they aerate soils through their tunneling activity, and certain native ant species will help deposit seeds in the soil,” Ashbrook said. “The majority of ant species are not pests, but of course some are, and we tend to encounter those.”
Along with the LSU Department of Entomology, you can also contact your LSU AgCenter Parish agent to find answers to your questions about insect identification and recommendations for controlling them. The LSU AgCenter also publishes Bug Biz and sells the “Pest Ants of Louisiana: Identification, Biology and Control” booklet.