Lawn Care Guide

Controlling Ants of North America

Ants of North America

There are many more beneficial insects than there are destructive or injurious ones. There are predacious insects, insects that act as plant pollinators, insects that provide medicinal benefits, insects that feed on dead organic material, and insects that provide aesthetic benefits. Many insects may be pests at times, but they can also provide numerous benefits. A prime example is a spider in a house. Seeing a spider causes many people to reach for a shoe or newspaper to dispose of it quickly. Spiders are more likely to capture and devour many more injurious insects, such as fleas, bedbugs, and flies, than cause a threat to humans. Another greatly feared insect is the ant. The Argentine Ant is a notorious home invader in the west and south. They feed on many other pests, such as subterranean termites, in and around the  house. They recycle dead organic material to the soil, providing assistance with lawn fertilization. On one hand they can be a nuisance, but on the other, a great benefit.

Over 400 species of ants inhabit North America

All ants are social creatures, meaning they live in colonies with a queen, workers, and males. Some species, also, have soldiers to guard and protect the others. It is estimated that there are 12,000 to 14,000 species of ants, but only about half have been identified. In round numbers, it is estimated that over a quadrillion ants exist on the planet. An even more interesting estimate about the insect world, is that the number of ants comprises only about 0.1% of the total insect population. Out of all the species on the planet, ants are one of the dominant forms of life in our lawns and homes.

There are over 400 species of ants that inhabit North America. Some are parasitic to other insects including other ants, and some are plant eaters. Many others are omnivores and feed on both plants and flesh of vertebrates and invertebrates. Their food source may be alive or dead. Most of the species do not cause direct harm to humans, but a few can cause a painful sting, such as the Fire Ant. There are some that do bite and inject a secretion into the wound.

Many of the home invaders are mainly a nuisance and generally do not cause excessive damage, except for carpenter ants. They may enter a home through cracks or holes in the foundation, or around unsealed openings of an outside water spigot or air conditioning line. The best defense against ants is usually prevention. Seal food containers and do not leave food out, uncovered. Seal cracks and outside openings that may allow them to enter. Ant control can be as easy as wiping them up with a damp sponge, or as extensive as hiring an exterminator.

Ants are mainly beneficial to our well-being

One of the species that are found in lawns is the Little Black Ant that makes a crater of very fine soil around their nest opening. They rarely enter homes. The damage they may cause to a lawn is minor and usually not worth worrying about. Occasionally, their nest can get large and may cause some aesthetic damage to the lawn. If the area is flooded with water, it will often reduce the populations and the grass will recover. In extreme cases, a chemical insect control can be applied. It is best to consult the local county extension service for regional recommendations.

The other species that concerns many homeowners in the warmer climates of the south is the Fire Ant.

Insects are part of our natural world. They cause more psychological discomfort than physical problems. Ants are mainly beneficial to our well-being, even though they can be a nuisance. It is better to try managing their populations, rather than eliminating them entirely. The lawn service experts at your local Spring-Green can help advise you on the best strategies for effectively managing ant populations in your lawn.

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