Getting to Know Ants

by Carolyn Allen

There are many species of ants which occur in lawns and natural areas. Most ants do not require controls and are considered beneficial. The most obvious exception is the Fire Ant...but that is a separate issue from this issue.

Ants improve dirt

...ants move approximately the same amount of soil as earthworms, loosening the soil in the process and increasing air and water movement into the ground. They clean the ecosystem of dead insect carcasses and help decompose plant and animal matter. By carrying bits of plants and animal remains into their nests, the soil is fertilized and nutrients recycled through the ecosystem. And finally, ants are among the leading predators of other insects, helping to keep pest populations low.

But...ants sometimes decide to live where humans don't want them, kind of like wildflowers that grow where we call them weeds...

"Ant Management" is a more noble goal than ant eradication

To avoid some of the worst ant hills that appear above the grass tops -- rake or "wash" (with a water stream from the garden hose) on a regular and frequent basis. The need for such maintenance is greatest during periods of prolific ant nesting activity (such as during periods of wet spring weather). For the worst cases it is possible to spot treat ant hills with insecticide. General lawn treatment specifically for ant colonies is seldom necessary.

But these fascinating little creatures are worth learning about. They will seem much less bothersome when you appreciate their uniqueness and their role in the wholesomeness of your environment:

And for some international appreciation...and great conversation at parties...... Japanese ants...

BNN Reader's question:

I would like to know a safe way to get rid of the ants, too. They are very destructive to trees and wood in Michigan. Please include me in any info regarding getting rid of black ants.

Treating carpenter ants

Begin by trying to locate the nest. This is easier said than done, but the effort pays off. Look at both indoor and outdoor sites, and look at night when foragers are most active. Look for ant trails or a general direction of movement or feed foragers small dabs of honey and then follow them to the nest. If necessary replace damaged or decayed wood at the infestation site and correct moisture problems.

Homeowners can treat with 'ant and roach killer' insecticide sprays or boric acid dust. Treat wall voids and other hidden spaces where ants are entering by spraying the liquids or puffing the dust into cracks and gaps or through small drilled holes if necessary.

Dust applicators may be available in a hardware store or you may resort to a plastic squeeze bottle with a narrow tube or tip (an old cafe ketchup bottle, for example).

If you can not locate the nest, make a general application of spray or dust to cracks, crevices and room edges where ants are most numerous. Dust can be injected into wall voids via the holes surrounding electrical outlets. Use extreme caution around electrical wiring. Spraying outlet openings is not recommended.

Find more info on carpenter ants in trees here.

Source: Iowa State University Extension Home Pest Control...Carpenter ants -- large black ants

Carolyn Allens edits Backyard Nature notes. If you enjoy nature you'll want to visit her website and subscribe to her free ezine. Send a blank

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