Argentine Ants

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) are one of the most common ants around the house and garden. An invasive species from South America entering North America in the late 1890’s.

Argentine ants have built three supercolonies, one in California, the other two in Europe and Japan. This is one of the reasons we have ant problems year round!

Argentine ant "farming" aphids

Argentine ant tending an aphid

Identification and Habitat

Argentine ants lack a spine on their thorax. They have one dark colored node (nodes are between the thorax and abdomen, some ants have two nodes). These ants are about 1/8 of an inch long, light or dark brown, and produce a faint, greasy odor when crushed.

In California, Argentine ants have become the most common ant around and inside of the home. They can be found in the kitchen pantry, bathrooms, children’s rooms, closets, electrical outlets, even in the freezer during the hot summer months!

Food Sources

Besides sweets, the Argentine ant will eat meats, eggs, oils and fats. Also, when foraging for food, Argentine ants are very good at leaving pheromone trails everywhere they go, not just from the nest to the food source.

Argentine ants search out protein as well as sweets.

Argentine ants search out protein as well as sweets.

Argentine ants are excellent communicators; their trails of pheromones ensures them that they don’t waste time visiting the same area twice!

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These ants are a little different than other species; they have more than one queen and the queens assists the worker ants in foraging for food, whereas in most species, the queen ant has lost the ability to forage and depends on her worker daughters for sustenance.

Invasive War Tactics

Argentine ants have become a serious threat to the Coast Horned Lizard which relies on large, native ants like the Harvester ant for its main food source. Argentine ants have destroyed and displaced the Harvester ant and caused a significant decline in native ant population.

Argentine ants are vicious soldiers; they fight native Harvester ants and other species over territorial rights. When engaging in battle, Argentine ants use special war tactics; they first surround their enemy, then one ant rushes in and grabs the enemy’s leg, the other ants quickly follow and bite off all of the legs, leaving the enemy ant immobilized, the Argentine ants then continue biting to completely dismember their victim, causing their enemy to die a very slow death.

Damaging vs. Beneficial Insect

Argentine ants can cause damage to air conditioners, and other electrical items when they get inside the units. They often become electrocuted and lodged between the contacts of relays which causes the equipment to malfunction.

Argentine ants, like other ant species, are farmers of aphids for the honeydew they secrete. The ants actually encourage these garden pests to multiply and even protect them from other predators!

One redeeming quality of Argentine ants, however, is how they help control dry-wood (aerial) termites by searching out their nests and eating the termites.

Pest Control for Argentine Ants

Spraying alone will not control a colony of Argentine ants. Hearts Pest Management technicians are able to identify the type of ant invading a home and use the appropriate methods for eliminating ants. The best way of controlling Argentine ants is through the use of slow-acting poison baits, which once the ants eat or get it on their skin, they carry the bait back to the nest and eventually, the poison eliminates the other workers and even the queen.

It may take up to four or five days to completely eradicate a colony. It’s important remove any food sources, especially sweets and caulk or use petroleum jelly on any holes where they can be seen coming in. You can also use soapy water to wipe up any invaders until your technician is able to treat with the appropriate baits.

Call today at 1-800-986-1006 for help with an Argentine ant infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.

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