Ant Month: Meet the Argentine Ant

With hundreds of species in the ant family, ant control just isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why at Joshua’s Pest Control, we’re here to help.

This four-part guide to some of the most common household ant invaders will help you identify which species is infiltrating your home. Today, we’re kicking things off with one of the trickiest household ant invaders in the country: the Argentine ant.

ARGENTINE ANTS

COMMON NAME: Argentine ant

LATIN NAME: Linepithema humile

ORIGIN: South America, mostly notably Argentina. These ants are thought to have stowed away on a delivery ship from Brazil, landing in New Orleans in the late 1890s.

DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Argentine ant colonies are notoriously massive, numbering in the thousands on average and reaching a million or more in severe cases.
  • These ants breed quickly, grow swiftly, and their populations increase rapidly.
  • Argentine ants have adapted to a vast variety of conditions and can be found in both rural and urban areas in large numbers.

APPEARANCE

  • Argentine ants are most notably a dull brown, but shades vary from light to dark.
  • Workers are uniform in size—up to ⅛ of an inch on average.
  • The petiole that connects the abdomen to the thorax has a single node.
  • Argentine ant antennae are long and straight with twelve distinct segments.
  • Though easily mistaken for other common ant types, Argentine ants can be identified by their smooth, hairless bodies.

ARGENTINE ANT DIET

  • Argentine ants forage for a wide variety of foods, favoring honeydew and other sweets.
  • Worker ants look for grains, processed foods, garbage, meat, dairy, plants, fruits, vegetables, sewage, and even dead insects and animals to take back to their nests.

ARGENTINE ANT HABITATS

OUTDOORS

Argentine ants thrive outdoors, especially in damp, moist areas. Nesting sites vary by climate, but colonies are most often located underneath logs, beneath debris, on or in trees and bushes, in exposed soil, and under the ground we walk on.

Argentine ants are one of the few pests capable of combining several large nests to develop supercolonies, many of which can take over thousands of miles of underground real estate. Unlike fire ants, these ants are not territorial when it comes to humans. They can, however, aggressively overtake the colonies of other neighboring ant species and invade the habitats of other animals and insects, impressively commandeering the homes of much larger species.

INDOORS

These ants rarely nest indoors, as they need a lot of room to spread out, and indoor spaces can rarely accommodate their large numbers. Argentine ants found nesting indoors aren’t in their first-choice locale and were likely forced to set up shop inside due to the destruction or deterioration of a nearby outdoor nesting site.

While these ants don’t always settle inside, they do often find their way into our homes on the hunt for food and water. A leaking pipe, improperly sealed cereal boxes, and unswept floors are proper ant-magnets, and the Argentine ant is no exception.

RISKS AND HAZARDS

The Argentine ant’s sweet tooth is, surprisingly, one of the reasons it’s environmentally hazardous to homes and gardens. During warmer months especially, these ants feast on the honeydew secreted by aphids and other plant pests. They’ll go as far as defending a population of plant-eating bugs from natural predators in order to maximize the production of their favorite meal. A large population of Argentine ants won’t destroy your plants directly, but an unchecked population of aphids and mealybugs is bad news for your lawn and garden.

The risks that arise from their diet don’t stop there. Argentine ants eat just about anything, meaning sewage and decaying creatures are on the menu. Worker ants trailing along your kitchen floor could have grabbed a few bites from a bacteria-ridden source just hours before digging into your dried goods or marching across your countertops, making your cereal boxes and bags of flour at risk for contamination.

GETTING RID OF ARGENTINE ANTS

  • Argentine ants’ undiscerning palate means baits are highly effective at drawing the worker ants in, and these foragers reliably bring baits back to their nests. Improbably placed bait can worsen an ant infestation, so consult a pest control professional to properly position baits and get the best results.
  • Without a reliable food or water source, Argentine ants won’t have much of a reason to stick around inside. Pick up the broom, grab the vacuum, set up a bucket of soapy water, and do a deep clean of your space. Argentine ants forage in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, or living areas as long as there is a dripping pipe, pile of crumbs, or sticky spill around.
  • Locate potential pheromone trails by following trailing ants back to possible points of entry. Once discovered, do all that you can to seal up any holes, cracks, or gaps that are letting these pests wander indoors. Many of these entry points can be sealed with caulking, but other repairs may require some elbow grease when replacing seals or patching larger holes.
  • Take notes while observing Argentine ant traffic and interrupt the invisible scent trails bringing them back and forth with some deodorizing solutions. Baking soda, vinegar, pine-based cleaners, castile soap, and glass cleaners like Windex can wipe out these scent trails and disorient workers, sending them foraging elsewhere.
  • Because these ants can trail up trees, across gutters, and beneath debris, take another look at your landscaping. Any plants, trees, or bushes making close contact with your home can act as a bridge for these pests straight into your kitchen window. Trim back foliage to reduce contact with your home and keep your landscaping neat to reduce the potential for nesting sites near or beneath your home’s structure.

PROFESSIONAL ARGENTINE ANT CONTROL

Argentine ant control is no walk in the park, and effective, thorough control must be ongoing in order to keep these pests out where they belong. A heaping dose of diligence can keep them away and out of your space, but without proper nest location and treatment, you can almost certainly count on them to be long-term neighbors. Luckily, pest control professionals are here to help. Our experts are trained to locate and treat nests, provide support for indoor control efforts, and design solutions to control ant invasions—regardless of the species. A quick call to our experts can mean the difference between a full-blown invasion and basic ant maintenance.

Check back next week for our next ant species spotlight, and for help with all common household ant invasions, we’re armed with helpful solutions to assist with your battle against pesky pests of all shapes and sizes. Our experts are standing by, ready to help.

SOURCES

https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/argentine-ants/
https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/ww0403.htm
https://cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/argentine-ant
http://ipm.ucanr.edu/TOOLS/ANTKEY/argentine.html
https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%20926_2.PDF
http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoff-burg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/Linepithema_humile.html