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BITING ANTS IN LAWNS

Controlling biting ants in a customer’s lawn is a relatively straightforward service to provide, and one that will give great satisfaction – and possibly referrals. 

Finding biting ants in the lawn is a very common occurrence in both residential and commercial accounts. As such, offering services to eliminate biting ants from lawns represents a potential regular source of income for pest managers either as an upsell or stand-alone service. With a range of good product options available, pest managers should be confident in delivering the goods.

Perhaps the most common biting ant found in lawns across Australia is the green-head ant, Rhytidoponera metallica (main picture, above) also known as the green ant or metallic pony ant. Nests will be found in the middle of lawns, along the sides of paths and driveways, and in garden beds under rocks and logs. They are typically single-nest, multi-queen colonies, although occasionally you may see more than one ‘nest’ in close proximity – although these are probably multiple entrances to the same nest. The queens look very similar to the workers and will also forage. However, the queens are of less importance in the green-head ant species, as the workers are gamergates, which means they can mate with winged males to produce young.

The green-head ant is generally only seen foraging when the sun is shining. It has a preference for protein (other arthropods, dead or alive), although will forage on seeds and honeydew as well. The green-head ant is known for its particularly painful sting and the itching that may continue for days afterwards. It is known to cause anaphylactic shock in some, so keeping the lawn clear of green-head ants has very real safety benefits.

If you come across fast moving black ants in the lawn they are likely to be one of the tyrant ant (Iridomyrmex) species. They are aggressive, but the bite is only a mild nip with no lasting effect. However, they can be very annoying. The various tyrant ant species have not been fully characterised but multi-nest, multi-queen colony structures are probably the more common.

Of course in southeast Queensland, there is also the battle to control RIFA, the red imported re ant (Solenopsis invicta). Should RIFA become established in Australia, it will no doubt become the number one biting ant pest managers have to deal with in lawns.

The good news is that all of these species can be dealt with using a similar range of products. From a baiting point of view, they will all accept protein and/or oil-based baits, so many of the granular baits on the market will eliminate the nests from a lawn within a 1-2 week period. Granular insecticides and insecticide sprays labelled for treatment of ants in lawns are also an option, but some don’t necessarily deliver colony elimination (especially pyrethroid-based products) and spraying lawn areas with insecticide may not always be desirable. On the other hand, a number of these granular and liquid insecticides labelled for lawn use will also control additional insect pests in lawns, whereas the bait products will only work on ants.

The bottom line is that homeowners want to enjoy their outdoor areas, and if they have children and pets they are particularly keen for the lawn to be a safe area to play. With the products available, eliminating biting ants from lawns is an easy upsell, a service that can be delivered with confidence.

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