Ants in N.M. can be annoying
There are 239 different species of ants in New Mexico and probably another 54 species as well that haven’t been found yet. We have more species of ants in New Mexico than they have in all of Europe. Only a small number of them can be considered pests in homes and I want to discuss some of them in this column.
Crematogaster are commonly called “acrobat ants.” This is a bit silly as they don’t do anything acrobatic except occasionally running around on four legs instead of all six. Acrobat ants are small, usually red and black, but there are all black species as well. The abdomen (last segment) appears flat on top when viewed from the side and is spade-shaped when viewed from above. There are two small spines on the thorax (segment between the head and abdomen). Acrobat ants are found over most of the United States. These ants are monomorphic, meaning all of the workers are the same size.
Acrobats normally feed on the honeydew secretion of aphids and related insects that infest plants near your home. They may enter your home from the roof if there are any branches touching the house or from the ground. They will get between vigas and latillas in some homes and kick out a lot of loose sawdust. It looks like they are doing damage, but they aren’t. They are simply making a mess.
They will readily take sweet baits. You can make a bait with honey or Karo Syrup mixed with 2 percent boric acid or borax. Terro Ant Bait is also very good.
This species is commonly called “little black ants,” which is confusing as there are several species of little (small) black ants. Monomorium minimum are very small, shiny black ants that are monomorphic. These ants are found throughout the United States and southern Canada. Usually they nest outdoors where they can feed on the honeydew secretion of some insects, but occasionally they infest homes. In a home they will eat whatever is available, including bread, meats, sweets, fruits and vegetables. They will bite to protect themselves. They can be controlled using a bait made from two tablespoons each of peanut butter and jelly mixed with one tablespoon of boric acid or borax. Outside you can treat any nests with Greenbug for Outdoors, which is a cedar product.
Odorous house ants are small, dark reddish-brown to black ants and are monomorphic. They will follow each other in single file when entering a building. Outside they nest under objects such as rocks, boards or any kind of debris. When they come in the home, they can nest in wall voids. If the house has a crawl space, they will nest in that area and come into the house to forage for food and water. Odorous house ants have multiple queens in a colony and hence, have large colonies.
These ants are found in all of the continental United States and adjoining parts of Canada and Mexico. They are probably the most common ant found in homes, except in areas where Argentine ants live.
They do not bite or sting. The body of the odorous house ant is relatively soft and can be easily crushed. When this occurs, a very unpleasant “coconut” odor is apparently released. I can say that in over 40 years I have never sniffed an ant, so I can’t vouch for the smell. An average odorous house ant colony will have 10,000 to 40,000 members and several queens. Mating and swarming takes place in the nest and new colonies are formed by budding.
A good bait for controlling these ants indoors is two tablespoons each of peanut butter and jelly mixed with a tablespoon of boric acid or borax. A good commercial bait is Terro Ant Bait, which is made from boric acid. Treat areas where they are entering your home with Greenbug for Outdoors, which is a cedar product. Greenbug products are available online from www.greenbugallnatural.com.
Other ants that are found in the Socorro and Valencia counties area include harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex spp.), thief ants (Solenopsis molesta), southern fire ants (Solenopsis xyloni), carpenter ants (Camponotus vicinus) and pyramid ants (Dorymyrmex insana). We will discuss these ants in future columns.