There are a huge number and diversity of ant (Family Formicidae) species in Australia. They are one of the most successful and ecologically important groups of insects in the world. They vary in size from just 2mm up to 40 mm (Australian Bull Ant Myrmecia). Ants can be found in all parts of Australia from the coastal strip to homes and buildings and even in the dry outback. Some ants can give a fierce bite with their large and powerful jaws and some can give a painful sting. Although it is estimated that there are somewhere more than 1,300 ant species known in Australia, there are relatively few that are seen as pests. Among these are black house ants, bull ants, carpenter ants, coastal brown ants, green ants, sugar ants and whitefooted house ants.
Exotic invasive ants
There are also a variety of ants that are Exotic to Australia, which are under eradication or management. This group of invasive ant species, including the red imported fire ant, are aggressive, spread quickly and would disrupt our environment and usual way of life. The group includes the African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala), the argentine ant (Linepithema humile), the browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi), the electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) and the red imported fire ant
Although ants vary greatly in size and colour, they all have the following features: their body is divided into three main parts being the relatively large head with compound eyes, powerful mandibles and a pair of elbowed antennae, the thorax – with six legs with three joints each ending in a hooked claw for climbing – which is joined to the abdomen by a narrow constriction called a petiole. Ants have a hard, waterproof exoskeleton, which is made of chitin. They are exceptionally strong for their size some can lift 10 times their own weight.
Correct identification of the problem ant species is critical to effective control as some colonies can have multiple nests and multiple queens while others have only one of each and different species have different diets.
Normally ants only become an issue when they enter buildings in search of food or when they build their nests in or close to human habitations.
Ants are attracted to a wide range of foodstuffs with different species having preferences for different bases in sugars, proteins, fats or oils. In many species once one ant has found a attractive food it will return to the nest and bring many colleagues to help gather the item. This can result in large numbers of ants rapidly appearing, sometimes with long trails between the nest and the foodstuff.
Simple physical measures can be used to limit the number of ants entering a building. Routine, thorough cleaning is a major factor in eliminating ants and discouraging their return.
Infestations often warrant the use of insecticides. A very wide variety of pesticide products are available for controlling ants. Residual insecticides or dusts will give longer term control. Many bait products are also registered for ants.
For optimal results it is important to find the ants nest. If this can be sprayed or dusted directly best results will be achieved, however it is often difficult to locate the nest if it is in wall cavities or underground in a garden. If this is the case, then best results will be achieved by selecting a product that will be carried by foraging ants back to the nest where it will spread and control the entire colony. Ant baits are available as granules, liquids or gels and need to be selected with care. The attractant, as well as the active ingredient, will vary from product to product and it is critical to match the bait to the problem. For example a sugar-based bait is designed for sugar-feeding ants and is likely not to be effective on ants seeking a fat based foodstuff.
Talk to your local Agserv branch to find out what is best for your specific problem. If ant control is a major target for your business, you will need to carry a variety of chemical products for optimal results.
Blog Author: Andy Knox