Thursday, February 24, 2011

These Can't be from Texas!!!???

Oh, but yes, they are! Texas Leafcutting Ants, Atta texana, a native ant to Texas. They may also be called leaf cutter ants, cutter ants, or town ants. Not many people know about them, but if you do, you DO NOT like them.

Texas leafcutting ants strip plants, especially citrus, fruit, crepe myrtles, and roses. When they are hungry they will eat anything. They don't actually eat the leaves, they take them into the nest, chew on the edges, and grow fungus. The fungus is their food, so we call them fungus farmers. Not only do they strip plants, but they can cause foundation problems, when their nests make their way under the home.

You can find a lot of information about management of these guys. Use sprays, put something sticky on the base of the plant, poor something down their holes. Basically, none of that will work long term. And, when you have them, you want something that works longer than a day!

These are social insects, living in massive colonies under the ground with multiple queens and workers who all have specific jobs. They are really amazing to watch and study, but very irritating if you are trying to grow a garden.

Using baits is a better option for leafcutting ants. I happen to have some good experience working with them in the field. Currently, there are two baits available for homeowners that are effective against leafcutting ants: Amdro Ant Block & Grants Ants.

The key to treat the area when the ants are actively looking for food. In warmer months, this may be later in the day, nearly at night. During pleasant months, this can be all day. Using the recommended rate, apply bait to foraging trails or their crater-like nests. Do NOT pour it directly into the holes or kick in the nests. This will only irritate them and they will move, not touching your bait.

Give them about two weeks and you should see results. These colonies can be enormous, so multiple treatments may be required. In the field trails I performed, I had 6 months of control. At six months, the ants usually came back and required a second treatment.