Ants Invading Oklahoma Homes

By |  June 9, 2008

From NewsOK.com: Texans are battling a plague of ants that are wreaking havoc on homes, destroying electrical wiring, infesting computers, fouling up fire alarms and reportedly are resistant to over-the-counter ant killers. Named “Crazy Rasberry Ants” after exterminator Tom Rasberry, who first identified them, the ants are tiny red hairy monsters that travel in a nearly unstoppable zig-zagging path of destruction.

The good news: Oklahomans don’t have to worry about Crazy Rasberry Ants, said Dr. Richard Grantham, director of the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab at Oklahoma State University.

“We have a similar species here,” he said. “But they don’t become a pest here.”

The Crazy Rasberry Ants may not be a problem in Oklahoma, but imported red fire ants can be. Found primarily outdoors, these ants have a sting that can cause a blister at best or death at worst.

“If you’re allergic, all it takes is one bite of any insect,” Grantham said. “In this case, it’s not a bite, it’s a sting. They inject venom like a honeybee.”

Fire ants are the most dangerous ant species in Oklahoma, but other ant species are common in Oklahoma homes and gardens. Inside, odorous house ants and little black ants are most common, though neither species causes much harm, Grantham said.

Harvester ants, carpenter ants and big-headed ants are commonly found outdoors in Oklahoma. Big-headed ants mimic the aggressive behavior of fire ants, but their stings are not nearly as dangerous or painful, Grantham said.

The best way to determine which ant you’re dealing with is to examine the mound. Red imported fire ants build soil mounds that can reach two or more feet in diameter and a foot or more in height, according to Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service reports. The mounds do not have a central entrance or exit hole. The ants enter and leave via underground tunnels that radiate out from the mound.

During hot, dry months, fire ants may enter homes and businesses in search of food and moisture. All ants generally enter homes through tiny gaps in bricks, around windows and through other holes and cracks around homes. They are attracted to food and water and can be difficult to kill. Sealing these openings is a first step in controlling household ants.

“Virtually all ants travel along ant trails that are marked by chemical trail pheromones they can sense. So, all ants travel in packs. However, some ants travel in wider, more distinct trails than others,” Combat entomologist Frederique DeLane said. “The key to getting rid of an ant problem is to kill the ant nest.”

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