Army Ants Scientific Name: Eciton burchellii
All about Army Ants
“ATTENTION! Forward, MARCH!” If the Army ant weren’t so tiny, you just might hear one shouting these commands to its fellow soldiers. A colony of Army ants marching towards you would be intimidating indeed.
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A soldier needs adequate armor, and the Army ant has got it: long, pointed, sickle-shaped mandibles, compound eyes, double-segmented waists, hooks on hands and feet, long legs, and a proper sting. The Army ant is gold to dark brown in color and depending on the rank of the soldier can be anywhere from 3 to 12 mm in length. Like a good soldier would, the Army ant uses its specialized armor to protect its colony: workers will attach themselves to each other using the hooks on their hands and feet, forming a shield of ants.
Where does the Army ant live, and what does it eat?
Army ants are found in many parts of the world, classified into approximately 200 different species. In the U.S. inhabitants of Texas, Southern California, or Florida are likely to battle this pest.
Army ants prefer humid, tropical climates like islands, forests, and swamps, but are fairly versatile and will march just about anywhere in search of food. These ants do not commonly build nests but are more likely to be seen forming a nest of bodies known as a bivouac. This living nest may be found in the trunks of trees or inside burrows and has a surprisingly organized structure. The nest contains passages and cells for the various castes of ants and is dug into the ground to offer the most protection to the colony.
Army ants are always on the march; during the day the colony seeks out food, which could include a variety of meaty creatures including spiders, worms, turtle eggs, and even small vertebrate animals. Working together, these creatures attack their prey using a raid technique in which they swarm the victim and feed all at once. This particular technique is the trademark attack which later inspired the Army ant's name. Once their victim has been swarmed, the ants inject venom to kill. These robust insects spend their days devouring and then spend their evening hours relocating their nest to a new location each and every night
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How long will the typical Army ant live?
While larvae are pupating, the ant colony remains in place for approximately three weeks. During this time, the workers feed prey to the queen as she prepares to lay her eggs. Throughout the entire “stationary phase,” the queen may lay up to 30,000 eggs per day. After three weeks, the eggs emerge and the ants continue their march for more food. The queen of a colony of Army ants has a very long lifespan while the males and workers survive less than one year.
Army ants and Humans
Army ants are almost completely dependent on one another, travel obsessively in swarms, and may enter your house if a decent food supply is present. For this reason, if you find bivouacs near your home you should eliminate them immediately. Army ants can be particularly dangerous to animals.
Although you wouldn’t want to fall victim to an Army ant riding at point in front of its colony of soldiers in a raid, you are not likely to come in close contact with these ants. They have been known to sting humans, however, if they feel their nest is threatened. So don’t fall asleep or step in an Army ant nest – if you do you’re likely to intrude on enemy lines!
How are Army ant bites treated?
A bite from an Army ant can be painful or itchy. Simply resting the affected area is all that is needed to treat this type of bite. If pain or itchiness persist, apply ice to the affected area. Always make sure to properly identify a pest when bitten.
Professional Army ant Control
At Ease, Soldiers! How to Get Rid of Army Ants: Army ants are no more aggressive or likely to forage indoors for food than any other average ant, but can be very pesky if found inside. Additionally, the nest of an Army ant can be a nuisance as the ants become very defensive if humans or animals come near it.
- Ready, Aim, Fire! After identifying all the nesting sites possible, the nests of the ant will be drenched in insecticides containing fipronil, bifenthrin, or permethrin, in conjunction with granular baits. Drenching the nests will usually kill off the ant colony, but this procedure is best done multiple times to ensure termination. Nests are located by following the trails of worker ants back to their colonies.
- Ambush!!! Traps have been proven to be an effective solution to Army ant control. Baits are particularly effective for the Army ant because they tend to carry their food from the source back to their nest. Gourmet Liquid Ant Bait is a brand of sugar bait commonly used by professionals.
- Dust pesticides are applied to nest entrances with an active colony to cover a greater surface area. Dust pesticides commonly used by professionals include silica.
DIY and Green Solutions for Army ant Control
Small ant infestations can be controlled without the use of a professional pest control company, or harmful chemicals. The seriousness of the infestation will help in determining whether or not to seek professional help. Most of all the greatest method from infestation is prevention.
- A Clean Home is an Ant-Free Home: Just like regular soldiers Army ants will actively forage indoors for food, and will instantly be attracted to greasy or sugary foods that are left out; so be sure to clean up any messes.
Important Tip – Keep all food consumption in the kitchen. Keep food items, particularly sugary ones, away from ground level and tightly secured.
- Protect the Perimeter: Army ants are very resourceful and will find any way possible to infiltrate your home. To prevent a breach of Army ants, be sure to keep any entry into the house tightly secure. That won’t completely do the trick so use caulking to reinforce the windows along with any cracks or leakages. Focus on areas around the foundation of your home as this is where Army ants commonly nest.
- Entrapments: Baits are very helpful if the problem is widespread. Several pre-made baits are available for sale at hardware stores, but a homemade mixture of mint jelly and boric acid has been proven to work as well. Once the ants are gone, promptly remove the baits from your home. Baits are particularly effective for this species as they forage at some distance from their nest.
- Exterior: There are many methods to keep the outside of your home free from infestation. Clear piles of lumber, bricks, and other debris from your yard: these are perfect nesting sites for the Army ant. Also make sure to trim trees and shrubs so they are not touching the sides of buildings. Keep landscape mulch at least a foot away from foundations and less than two inches thick. Make sure your sprinklers do not spray directly onto your foundation, as this could rot material close to it and make a nice soft spot for nesting.
- Liquid Insecticides There are many insecticides that can be purchased at your local hardware store, though not a “green” solution, these effective solutions can easily be applied to a nest by anyone. If using such a product, it is important to saturate the entire nests. Use caution when applying insecticides, as this can often cause a “rebound” in Army ant populations. When using widespread insecticides, it is most advisable to contact a pest control professional. Certain “green” or non-pesticide products like Kleen Kill can also be used to drench the nests.
- Call a Green Pest Control Service: There should be local Pest Control companies that specialize in eco-friendly pest extermination. When shopping for the best pest control service, be sure they are endorsed with the “Green Shield Certification” to ensure effective pest control without use of pesticides.
The Army ant is considered a very serious pest, and if left unchecked can grow to be a big problem. Nests are usually obtrusive and the ants themselves can become protective of their colony. Use of do-it-yourself pesticides may be all it takes to get rid of a small Army ant infestation, but if it has become too big of a problem for you to handle on your own, consider professional help.