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Home > Professional > Pest Management > Ants as Pest

Ants are everywhere and occupy a great variety of habitats, with more than 12,000 known species worldwide. These creatures, are an important and indispensable part of our ecosystem. However, with growing anthropogenic activities, some of the ants have emerged as pests.

Currently, four ant species namely Monomorium pharaonis, Monomorium indicum, Paratrechina longicornis and Tapinoma melanocephalum have emerged as weedy species in India with few more turning to be notorious as well. These ant species have remarkable adaptability to cope with environmental stress, thus leading to their rapid proliferation. Although in recent years various management practices have been launched to control these weedy species, but none of these has been effective so far.

The sole focus of pest control agencies has been to eradicate the population as and when encountered. Thus the approach has been a short-sighted one with long term negative implications in terms of resistance and resilience. There has to be a holistic approach which is eco-friendly and everlasting. For effective control of a pest species at scientific level, we need to know the following aspects:

  • Life history – season of occurrence and proliferation
  • Adaptations – Temperature tolerance, Habitat preference, Dietary patterns and preferences and their ability to exploit different resources
  • Foraging behaviour
  • Ecological shifts
  • When to attack (seasonal occurrence)
  • Which stage to attack (immature stage/adults)
  • How to attack (for different stages, need different curbing methods)
  • Where to attack (habitat preference)
  • Resilience
  • Resistance

But unfortunately none of these aspects are taken in to account whenever control strategies or insecticides are designed by various companies. For control of pest species of ants following precautions are quite effective for a layman:

  • Remove garbage from buildings daily and change liners frequently.
  • Remove food fragments from kitchen and clean the surface with any soapy solution.
  • Look for indoor nesting sites, such as potted plants. If ants are found in potted plants, remove the containers from the building, then place the pots for 20 minutes or more in a solution of insecticidal soap and water at a rate of one to two tablespoons of insecticidal soap per quart of water. Submerge so the surface of the soil is just covered by the water-soap solution.
  • If ants can be thoroughly washed away and excluded from an area, an insecticide is probably not necessary.
  • Vacuuming up ant trails or sponging or mopping them with soapy water may be as effective as an insecticide spray in temporarily removing foraging ants in a building because it removes the ant’s scent trail, especially if thorough cleaning is done at the entry points.
  • Some soap products such as window cleaners can kill ants on contact but leave no residual toxicity.
  • Certain plant-based oils are also applied for this purpose, but their odor can be offensive.
  • Locate entry points of ants and try to plug them with petroleum jelly.
  • Apply turmeric powder to break ants trail.
  • A common method used to prevent ants from coming indoors is to apply a perimeter treatment of residual sprays around the foundation. Commonly used insecticides include the pyrethroids bifenthrin and lambda-cyhalothrin.
Dr Himender Bharti
Department of Zoology
and Environmental Sciences Punjabi University

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