Ants are one of the most common pests in Malaysia. As the majority of ant species prefer sunny atmospheres, this environment is ideal for ants to grow.They are social insects that live in colonies in the ground, houses or any other places. Ants can give nuisance to human beings when they are found in foods, drinks or inside the house because they move in a group. So, it is always important to choose the right strategy to keep ants away.
Common Ant Species
The most familiar ant species in Malaysia are:
- Pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis)
- Big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala)
- Ghost ant/ Tramp ant (Tapinoma melanocephalum)
- Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis)
- Fire ant/Red ant/Ginger ant/Tropical fire ant (Solenopsis spp.)
All the species mentioned above are polygynous colonial.Pharaoh ant has light yellow to reddish brown body color. Sting & Mandibles present in their body but rarely exserted. It is considered as Indoor and outdoor inhabitant. Big headed ant is an indoor inhabitant which has reddish brown to nearly black body color. It does not sting and their bite is painless. Ghost ant is an indoor inhabitant too. It has dark head and translucent abdomen. It does not sting but emits rotten coconut smell when crushed. Crazy ant is an indoor and outdoor habitat which has dark brown to black body color. It does not sting as well but can bite and secrete formic acid to wound. Fire ant has copper brown head, darker abdomen body color. It is an indoor and outdoor inhabitant. It does sting, inject venom and bites.
Ants are a social insect which live in a colony. They undergo a complete metamorphosis comprises of four stages of life cycle; eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. The life cycle can take few weeks or up to a year to complete, depending on the surrounding environment (temperature, humidity and foods).
The ant’s life cycle begins with Eggs. Eggs are small, soft, whitish and oval shaped. For a new established nest, queens will survive by depending on their body fat, surrounding moisture and they might consume their shedded wings for a source of protein. They will not leave the nest until their first broods are ready to forage for foods. Unfertilized eggs will become male drones.
Second stage is Larvae. They are legless, similar to maggots. They move by creating a wiggling motion. Queens and workers are responsible in feeding them. As time passes by, they undergo several molting stages and differentiate themselves into different castes; queen, workers or soldiers.
Third stage is Pupae. They are whitish ants, it looks like adult ants. Their exoskeleton will gradually darken as time passes by. They are weaker than adults as they are not fed much enough. In most ant species, the pupae are enclosed in a silken cocoon for protection.
Finally it turns into Adults. They are differentiated into different castes. Each caste has their own responsibilities. Such as Queen, Worker, Soldier, Drone.
Queens can store sperm from males. Once mated, they can stay fertilized for years, laying eggs. They are the largest individual in the colony and stay in the core of the nest and are fed by workers.
Workers are sterile females known as minor worker. They do not reproduce, but they do the most work such as brood caretaker, nest housekeeping and foods storing. They are lifetime wingless.
Soldiers are sterile females known as major workers and they are recognizable by having a big head in a polymorphic species. They have strong mandibles used to protect the colony from intruders and to cut off and carry larger objects.
Drones are the only males in the colony. They arise from unfertilized eggs. They do not do works in the nest, but they fly in the sky and responsible for mating during mating season and will die soon after mating.
Ants’ compound eye makes them having poor eyesight. Thus, they communicate through pheromone secretions. Food guidance pheromones will be secreted along their pathways to guide the others towards food sources and back to nests, whilst protective pheromones are secreted when their colony is disturbed and triggers them to sting or bite intruders. Sex pheromones are secreted by flying alates to attract their mates.The effectiveness of the baiting system can be improved by trophallaxis activity of the ants. Trophallaxis is a ‘kissing-like’ activity where the members of the colony share foods to others by mouth-to-mouth or by anus-to-mouth basis.
Different ant species prefer different type of foods, depending on the development of that species. Such as Pharaoh ant likes sweets, proteins, fats. On the other hand, Crazy ant likes sweets and proteins only.The chosen foods can give important information on the control of pest ants in the baiting system where it can be used as attractant in addition of chemical pesticides.
Ants can give nuisance to human beings when they are found in foods, drinks or inside the house because they move in a group. Venom injecting or biting ants can cause anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction. The symptoms include itchy rash, throat swelling and low blood pressure. The sting and bites also can cause serious pustules and blisters. Ants also might become a mechanical vector for pathogens as they forage on garbage and food wastes.
Getting Rid of Ants
As ants forage for foods, control can be made by eliminating all sources of food and maintaining hygiene. The best way to control ants is by treating the whole colony. However, the colony is very hard to be traced because they forage far away from the nest. Thus, spraying and killing the individuals will not help in eliminating the whole colony. Hence, the suitable way to control ants can be done by residual spraying and baiting.
Ridpest’s Approaches to Control Ants
- Residual Spraying
Ridpest uses residual pesticide that is slow-acting and has a long-lasting effect. The pesticide can act as contact poison and stomach poison. The ants will be poisoned when they move along the treated substrates. The chemical will be delivered onto their exoskeleton, and absorbed into their body fluids. The chemical also can be passed among the colony members when the affected individual gets in contact with the others. The slow-acting effect of the chemical makes the poisoned individuals to transfer the chemical to others while they are still alive. Stomach poisoning can take place when they groom themselves and the chemical will be delivered through oral entry. Poisoned gut can lead to poisoning of others through trophallaxis activities.
The chemical will be diluted with water and sprayed onto the ant trails using a compression sprayer. The nozzle of the sprayer is designated to cover a wide area of application. The poison has a low mammalian toxicity.Thus, it is safe to human beings. However, right after treatment, the chemical should be left undisturbed until it is completely dried. The spraying will be repeated every two or three months according to the contract agreement.
Ridpest uses gel ant bait for ants baiting system. The gel is made up of attractants, pesticide and moisture. It is also slow acting, similar to the residual chemical. Unfortunately, the gel is not long lasting and the attractants will lasts only up to 2 weeks. Thus, it is applied directly where ants are found. The gel will be applied in several small spots on ant trails or near cracks and crevices where ants are seen accessing the building, but must consider places that are not exposed to heat, rain and sunlight which will cease the effectiveness of the gel or in places that are exposed to infants or pets. The best place to apply the gel includes under sinks, around pipes, along the baseboards and around door and window frames.
This baiting system also takes advantages of trophallaxis when foraging workers bring the bait into the colony and feed the larvae. The larvae then ingest the bait and regurgitate it back to the workers which then will be fed to the other members including the queens.