Tag Archives: Ants

New Invasive Ant Identified in Fort Lauderdale: Little Yellow Ant

New Invasive Ant Identified in Fort Lauderdale: Little Yellow Ant

As a South Floridian homeowner, you probably know more about ants than you care to, as the tropical climate you enjoy supports over 200 ant species. While not all of these ant species are considered nuisance household pests, you have also probably encountered some of the usual suspects including white-footed ants, Florida carpenter ants, crazy ants, fire ants, ghost ants and other pesky foragers that enter your home in search of food.  Now, it seems, there is another contender on the horizon for the most annoying pest title.

According to the University of Florida’s (UF) press release, UF researchers are concerned about the discovery of a “new invasive ant species in south Florida.” A Madagascar native, the little yellow ant, Plagiolepis alluaudi, “is already invasive in several Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, St. Lucia and Nevis, among others,” said Thomas Chouvenc, UF/IFAS Assistant Professor of Entomology. Chouvenc said that in addition to the Caribbean, the little yellow ant has also been detected in Hawaii and Australia.

First US sighting of yellow ants occurred in a Ft. Lauderdale neighborhood

Discovered in early 2017 in the Riverland neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, Chouvenc said this is the first sighting of the little yellow ant in the continental US, but that “over a period of six months, the big headed ants that were dominant in that area were apparently displaced by this tiny yellow ant, which was quite surprising.” Based at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, Chouvenc revealed that subsequent surveys indicated that yellow ants may have been establishing a presence for “several years without being detected.”

What does this mean to South Florida homeowners?

On the upside, the little yellow ant does not bite or sting; however, these ants are so small that they can reach extremely high population densities before being detected which can cause them to become difficult to control. Like many invasive species, little yellow ant populations can grow rapidly into super colonies “due to their intricate nesting system with multiple queens,” Chouvenc said, adding that because little yellow ants go undetected for such a long time, by the time that they are noticed, colonies containing upwards of three million members can spread out in a network of nests that are difficult to control.

Hurricane Irma may have contributed to the yellow ant’s infestation in the Riverland area

Researchers think that because Hurricane Irma’s winds and rain flung massive amounts of plant debris around as she wound through South Florida, little yellow ants from the Caribbean may have been dispersed to the Riverland area during and after the storm. Chouvenc said that because the little yellow ant is a tropical species, the hope is that this species will be contained to South Florida. However, Chouvenc indicated that “looking at the patterns of invasive ants in the southeast US over the past 50 years, it may be a small ant, but is still going to be a big problem.”

Researchers found that baits can knock out home infestations temporarily

In the Riverland neighborhood, researchers found little yellow ant nests in dead vegetation that included dead branches on living trees, as well as dead wood as small as twigs, lying on the surface of the soil. Eventually, researchers detected little yellow ant foragers inside a home and used baits to stop the infestation.  While baits worked to initially control the home infestation, within a week the home was reinfested with little yellow ants, as the bait only affected a small percentage of the foraging ants and had no effect on the established population outside the home. Chouvenc speculated that homeowners could regularly bait little yellow ants “with sweet bait liquids but in areas with high ant densities, recurrent infestations may be unavoidable,” saying that little yellow ants are probably another invasive ant species “that will cause homeowners problems down the road.”

Also, researchers speculate that because little yellow ants are attracted to insects like aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects, all of which produce honeydew, this invasive species may potentially impact agriculture by harming crops and ornamental plants. UF/IFAS plans to publish more information about the little yellow ant as they learn more about its habits and potential impact on homeowners, the industry, and the environment.

Contact a licensed pest control professional

In the meantime, Hulett suggests that homeowners contact a licensed professional pest control company to tackle ant infestations, especially large ant populations that involve a network of nests. South Florida’s owned and operated Hulett Environmental Services utilizes an integrated pest management system that uses environmentally conscious methods and materials to manage pests in and around your home.

Under the direction of a Graduate Entomologist for over 35 years, Hulett technicians are trained and licensed in the most current and effective materials on the market. Using granular and gel baits, our professional staff addresses the source of your infestations: the nest, or nests, and the queens. Once the queens are gone, the colony collapses. Strategic bait placement and skill in locating nests are some of the ways Hulett can save homeowners a lot of money, time, and peace of mind.

Homeowners can do a number of things to prevent household pest infestations

Little yellow ants, like some other ant species, are attracted to sweet, sugary substances in your home. Making your home inaccessible to little yellow ants and other household pests begins with:

  • Excluding pests by sealing or caulking entryways, such as cracks and crevices in your foundation and around doors and windows
  • Regularly cleaning all surfaces where sugar and sweets are consumed in your kitchen and dining areas
  • Storing all dried goods in glass, metal or hard plastic containers with air-tight lids
  • Keeping pet bowls cleaned between feedings
  • Eliminating clutter and debris from the interior and exterior of your home- Get that Hurricane debris picked-up.

Hulett’s Healthy Home program helps prevent pests with regular treatments and monitoring

Keep little yellow ants and other household pests away from your loved ones and off your property. Hulett’s Healthy Home program involves pet and people-friendly pest prevention protocols that create a pest barrier around your property. We quickly deal with any current infestations and monitor pest prone areas for any sign of further pest activity. We are so confident you will be so satisfied with your Hulett Healthy program, we guarantee it! Protect your home and loved ones from little yellow ants and all household pest invasions.

Just call Hulett!

Ant Spotlight: Ghost Ants

Ant Spotlight: Ghost AntsNot really as spooky as they sound, ghost ants, Apinoma Melanocephalum, are an invasive species thought to originate in Asia or Africa. According to the University of Florida’s (UF) Entomology and Nematology Department, one of the most prevalent and persistent ant species, “ghost ants are associated with a complex of ant species, known as tramp ants.” It is an invasive species with widespread global distribution in tropical and subtropical regions.

Ghost ants introduced to South Florida most likely by boat in shipping containers

Introduced to the US in shipping containers and potted plants, ghost ants were well established in South and Central Florida as well as Hawaii by the early 1990s. They made their way to Texas by 1995 in a shipment of potted tropical plants from South Florida. Since then, ghost ant populations have been found in most southeastern states, as well as Arizona and California. Traditionally, ghost ants have only been found in northern climates in heated greenhouses and in one instance in an apartment block in Winnipeg on the Assiniboine River. However, with global temperatures rising, scientists predict that ghost ants and other invasive tropical species will likely spread north.

The scariest thing about ghost ants

According to a UF/IFAS (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) study in South Florida, ghost ants now run a close second to fire ants as major nuisance pests. Unlike fire ants, ghost ants don’t bite, sting or pose health threats to humans, but their tenacity and persistence have been known to cause mental and emotional distress to South Florida homeowners.

Ghost ants infesting quarantine greenhouses have proven impossible to eliminate because of restrictions on using toxicants in these greenhouses. Ghost ants defending honeydew producing plant pests, such as aphids, against introduced biological control organisms present a problem for growers.

Ghost ants in a Gainesville, Florida lab preyed on small beetle larvae and have been shown to be a significant predator of the two spotted mite in greenhouses. Aside from these minor benefits of ghost ants, they are one of the most prevalent nuisance pests in South Florida homes that you can’t see.

Pale ants with secretive habits are a little spooky

Ghost ants get their name from the fact that they are extremely small, 1.3-1.5 mm, or .05-.19 inches. These tiny ants also sport pale legs and gasters or abdomens, with black thoraxes and heads, making them difficult to see. Ghost ants tend to trail behind carpet and along exterior foundations, building nests indoors behind wall voids, in spaces between cabinetry, around baseboards and between books on shelves. Outdoors, ghost ants prefer to build nests in moist soil, under rocks and in dead trees or other yard debris. Disturbed soil in potted plants makes an excellent nest for ghost ants as ghost ants are readily adaptable to many environments, as long as it’s warm and moist.

No big surprise here, ghost ants like sugar

Preferring honeydew and honeydew-excreting insects, ghost ants will eat dried insects and also substitute their organic diet for your store-bought sugar and fruits. Baked goods, breads, spills in your pantry or just straight up sugar, ghost ants don’t discriminate. Hmm… could this be the reason worker ghost ants, when disturbed, run around rapidly and erratically? Under normal circumstances, trailing ghost ants move in slow, deliberate lines. On closer inspection, researchers found that some of the workers were carrying larvae and pupae. Looks like someone’s moving in.

Multiple queens can produce many offspring in a network of nests

Like most invasive ant species, ghost ants can build a network of nests underground but due to ghost ants’ small size, these nests don’t exhibit the stability to become mega-populations, like invasive termite species. Still, with multiple queens in a network of sub-colonies, eliminating ghost ants can be challenging to attempt without professional assistance.

Hulett Environmental Services Healthy Home Guarantee

At Hulett, we believe that exclusion is the best way to prevent all household pest infestations, including ghost ants. Along with some basic DIY pest prevention techniques, regular treatments by Hulett’s entomologist–trained technicians, we create a barrier around your property that keeps pests out of your home. Using environmentally responsible materials and treatments whenever possible, Hulett’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, utilizes the most current technology and methods in household pest control in the industry today. Unlike other companies that merely use smelly sprays to eliminate ghost ant infestations, Hulett’s programs have been developed from 45 years of experience. As a South Florida family-owned and operated business, Hulett provides responsible results that protect your home and family from Florida’s extensive array of household pests.

Hulett treats the source of your ghost ant infestation

Hulett goes to the source of your ghost ant infestation. With odorless baits and liquid treatments, Hulett strategically targets ghost ant nests that may consist of multiple queens. When ghost ants track liquid materials or bring baits back to their nests, other ants will become contaminated until, eventually, the queens are killed, causing the colony to collapse.

A few DIY things you can do to prevent ghost ants from haunting your home

Make your home unattractive to ghost ants and other household pests, you can:

  • Regularly clean up crumbs, spills and table scraps from food prep and dining areas.
  • Store sugar, syrup and honey in metal, glass or hard plastic containers.
  • Keep sweet treats such as candy, cookies and other baked goods in secure containers or in the fridge.
  • Repair or replace leaky pipes and faucets.
  • Trim branches away from your home, cutting off routes of entry.
  • Maintain secure and sanitized outdoor trash receptacles.
  • Remove left-over construction materials and other debris from your yard.
  • Keep grass cut short.
  • Remove plants that attract aphids, whiteflies and other honeydew-loving insects.

With Hulett’s convenient, regular preventative treatment programs, we guard your home against ghost ants and other household pests in Southeast and Southwest Florida. Contact us to schedule a free inspection today! Just call Hulett!

Jenga! The Building Blocks of Ant Tunnels

Jenga! The Building Blocks of Ant Tunnels

Fire ants with their painful bite are a particularly nasty pest to confront. But now it turns out this simple pest may be an architectural genius. Daniel Goldman, a physics professor at Georgia Tech, and his colleagues were impressed when they conducted a study of fire ant tunnels recently. These invasive creatures may just be nature’s best excavators with their prowess in building intricate tunnels and mounds. What’s more surprising is the new discovery that the fire ants’ digging process uses the same concept as childrens’ building block games.

Similar to the concept of building Jenga towers, the fire ants carefully construct their tunnel walls by balancing each particle precariously on top of another. And just like the wobbly Jenga towers we used to build as kids, the ants’ tunnels immediately collapsed when they were prodded with a metal rod.   This intricate design explains why they are able to so deftly squeeze around each other within the tunnels…as long as one clumsy ant doesn’t knock the whole tower down, of course.

So, does this mean we simply need to stomp around foiling fire ants’ Jenga tunnels with metal rods? Would they cry and yell in frustration as we do when their precarious tower falls?

South Florida Ant Control Tips | Hulett Environmental Services

Homeowners must pay close attention to signs of an infestation and take action if ants are found. The first step to eliminating an infestation is to identify the ant species, which will help determine the necessary course of treatment. However, this can be a challenge for someone without proper training.

Experts from Hulett Environmental Services recommend the following steps that homeowners can do today to thwart an ant infestation.

Ant Control Tips
Fort Pierce Pest Control Company
  • Block off access points. Take time to inspect the outside of your home for cracks and crevices, paying special attention to areas where utility pipes enter. Seal any small holes or gaps with a silicone-based caulk. Keep tree branches and other shrubbery well trimmed and away from the structure.
  • Eliminate sources of water in and around the home. Indoors, routinely check under sinks for areas of moisture and repair any leaky pipes. Consider using a dehumidifier in damp basements, crawl spaces or attics. Outside, ensure that downspouts and gutters are functioning properly so that water flows away from the home’s foundation.
  • Keep a clean kitchen. Wipe down counter tops and sweep floors to remove crumbs and residue from spills. Store food in sealed containers, and keep ripe fruit in the refrigerator. Also, make sure to dispose of garbage regularly.
  • Don’t forget about the pets. After mealtime, keep pet bowls clean and wipe up any spilled food or water around them promptly. Store dry pet food in a sealed plastic container rather than the paper bags they often come in, which can be easily accessed by ants, rodents and other pests. 

Helpful or Horrid? Why Ants Can Be the Ultimate Nightmare

Ants can be nightmare pestsAnts are one of the few bugs that most people seem to be able to, for the most part, live with peacefully. Even if someone hates ants, they are not likely to panic when one or two are encountered.

Why Aren’t Ants as Vilified as Other Bugs?

There are several theories about this, though there isn’t any real scientific research to back it up. Some think that growing up seeing parents just swat at or sigh over ants as opposed to shrieking and running away from spiders taught us that they aren’t that big a deal.

But Ants Aren’t Really Harmless Are They?

Most ants are fairly aggressive and are more likely to bite a handler than a spider is. Some species of ants are incredibly destructive and need to be “taken care of” as soon as they are discovered.

Which Ants Should I Worry About?

In North America, there are several species of ants that should merit at least a modicum of concern. For example, if you live in the gulf regions of Florida and Texas (and, to a lesser extent, the other states that border the Gulf of Mexico) you definitely want to worry about Crazy Ants. Crazy Ants are ants that swarm by the millions and can do tons of damage to electrical systems.

Carpenter Ants are perhaps the most common and one of the most destructive species of ants that you’ll find in your home. These ants burr into wood and create intricate living structures. Keep in mind that they don’t eat the wood. They eat other dead bugs and decaying materials so, in that respect, they can actually be fairly helpful. The amount of damage they cause by building their homes in your home, though—that’s enough of a reason to want them out.

Fire Ants (sometimes called Red Ants) are found all over North America. While fire ants prefer to live outdoors and away from humans, they can still do quite a lot of damage during an encounter. Their bites and stings can make the victim feel like he or she is on fire.

There are, of course, other types of ants that are problematic and pose threats to you and your home, but these are the most prevalent and likely encountered.

What Should I Do If I Find a “Bad Ant?”

First of all, if you encounter an ant that is known for being “one of the bad ones”, don’t panic. Trap it under a glass so that you can get close to it and figure out what kind of ant you’re dealing with. The type of ant you have in your home will dictate a lot of your next actions.

Next, try to find the source of the ant. Is this ant merely a scout or is it part of a line or a swarm? Do a close inspection of your house, starting with the area in which the ant was found.

How to Get Rid of Ants When You Find Them

There are all sorts of natural and “DIY” methods that you can use to discourage or eradicate the ant population that has invaded your home. These are just a couple of them.

Use Powder: you don’t have to use toxic powder—anything powdery (like nutmeg, baby powder, etc) will work fine because it will suffocate the ants as they try to walk over or through it.

Diatomaceous Earth: it’s the stuff you see used often in fish tanks—it’s actually the fossilized remains of diatoms and is incredibly sharp. As the ants try to walk over or through it, it cuts into them causing them to dehydrate and die.

When to Call a Pro

At some point—if you are part of the population that is afraid of ants or if natural eradication methods have failed, you should call a professional pest control expert. If the population is incredibly large or you find an extensive nest, you’ll want to call a professional. If the ants are crazy ants, it’s time for a professional.

Basically, you’ll want to hire a pro to help you with anything that isn’t “just a few here and there.”

Ants and Termites: Spotting the Difference

Spotting the difference between ants and termites

Ants and termites are both incredibly common pests. They are so common and look enough alike (termites and flying ants in particular look eerily alike) that, at first glance, many people confuse the two. It is important, though, that you learn how to tell the two apart.

What Does the Science Say?

Even in terms of entomology, the differences between ants and termites are subtle. Both live in social swarms that typically revolve around the reproductive agent known as queens in ants and swarmers in termites. The Kansas State Entomology Department has a great page that goes into detail about the scientific differences between these two creatures.

How You Can Tell what’s Crawling on Your Counter

The good thing about ants and termites is that, while they have wings, you don’t have to worry about them buzzing your face when you lean over to get a better look at them (the first step in figuring out which pest you’re dealing with). The three parts of the pest’s body you need to focus on are the antennae, the waist and the wings.

Spotting the difference between ants and termites.With Ants: the antennae are typically bent or arched. Their bodies narrow down at the waist and their frontal wings are larger than their wings in the rear.

With Termites: their antennae are usually straight. They have broad waists and their front and hind wings are of equal size.

Basically, a termite looks like a chubby and more proportionate ant.

What You Should Do with What You’ve Found

Deciding how to handle an invasion of ants or termites is going to depend largely upon which pest is plaguing you and how many ants or termites you are dealing with. With that said, there are plenty of things you can do yourself to prevent and defeat both ants and termites.

How to Deal with an Ant Infestation

If you have an ant infestation, things can get a little bit tricky. While cleaning and sealing up your home can do quite a lot to deter ants from forming colonies inside your home, if the colony has already been built, more action is going to need to be taken.

The good news is that you’re probably going to notice the flying ants for a few days while they explore your house and yard looking for places where they can mate and build new colonies of their own. You’ll start to notice “mounds” and that’s where you should focus your actions.

Create a “toxin” of honey and artificial sweetener to attract the ants along with borax, which is deadly for ants but not for humans or most pets. You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the mounds—it will dry them out and kill them when they come into contact with it. Also use turmeric. Turmeric is completely harmless for pets and humans and acts as an antiseptic and discourages flying ants.

How to Deal With a Termite Infestation

Even if you work hard to prevent termites from getting into your home, sometimes they win anyway. This is why if you start to notice termites in or around your home, you should hire a professional pest control expert to do a thorough inspection and help you come up with a plan for eradicating the infestation. A good expert will know how to “fix” an infestation in a way that has as little impact on you and your family as possible.

It is important to act quickly. The less time these termites and flying ants have to crawl over your walls, the easier it will be to get rid of them.

A Closer Look at Ant Species

Argentine Ants: Colonies of Argentine ants are found throughout the southeastern parts of the U.S. and California usually in wet environments near a food source. Argentine ants do not pose a health threat, but they can contaminate food and give off a musty odor when crushed.

Types of Ant species

Carpenter Ants: This aggressive species of ant is found nationwide, especially in the northern region. Carpenter ants attack wood and can cause severe property damage, which is usually not covered by homeowners’ insurance.

Crazy Ants: First found in Texas in 2002, crazy ants have spread to other southern states, nesting in both dry and moist habitats. This species does not pose a health threat, but they can become a nuisance.

Odorous House Ants: This species is found in every region of the U.S. and commonly nests in basements, crawl spaces and adjacent structures. Odorous house ants do not pose a health risk, but they give off a strong, rotten coconut-like smell when crushed.

Pavement Ants: These black ants are found throughout the eastern portion of the U.S., and in California and Washington. They get their name from making nests in or under cracks in pavement. Pavement ants can contaminate food and should be avoided.

Red Imported Fire Ants: These red ants are found in the southeastern U.S., from Virginia to Texas, as well as California and New Mexico. They are commonly introduced to new areas through potted plants, shrubbery and trees. Fire ants will sting humans who disturb a nest, often causing painful welts.

If you suspect an ant infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to identify the species and recommend a course of treatment. For more information on ants, please visit: Bug Database: Ants