Ants are mainly beneficial to our well-being. There are over 400 species of ants that inhabit North America. Some are parasitic to other insects-including other ants, and some are plant eaters. Many others are omnivores and feed on both plants and flesh of vertebrates and invertebrates. Their food source may be alive or dead. Most of the species do not cause direct harm to humans, but a few can cause a painful sting, such as the Fire Ant.
One of the species that are found in lawns is the Little Black Ant that makes a crater of very fine soil around their nest opening.
The life cycle of the ant consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Fertilized eggs produce female ants (queens, workers, or soldiers); unfertilized eggs produce male ants.
Egg: Ant eggs are oval shaped and tiny (they are on the order of 1 mm long, but the queen's egg is many times larger).
Larva: The worm-like larvae have no eyes and no legs; they eat food regurgitated by adult ants. The larvae molt (shed their skin) many times as they increase in size.
Pupa: After reaching a certain size, the larva spins a silk-like cocoon around itself (against a solid object, like the wall of the chamber) and pupates. During this time the body metamorphoses (changes) into its adult form.
Adult: The pupa emerges as an adult. The entire life cycle usually lasts from 6 to 10 weeks. Some queens can live over 15 years, and some workers can live for up to 7 years.
Ants are generally not a problem in lawns, and can contribute significantly to the control of other insect pests by feeding on their eggs or larvae. Occasionally, their nest can get large and can cause some aesthetic damage to the lawn.
The ants can create mounds on the surface which can smother the grass, and the tunneling creates galleries in the soil which disturb the roots, dry the soil and cause the grass to thin out.
The mounds can also be a nuisance when mowing as they can damage the mower blades.
Imported fire ants are a big problem in the southern eastern US but are not found in the northern US and Canada, so far. Fire ants can cause nasty stings and create large mounds within a lawn that can damage mowing equipment.
Ants prefer dry, sunny locations, so ensuring adequate soil moisture is important. If the area is flooded with water, it will often reduce the populations and the grass will recover. Good soil moisture will deter ant colonies, and ensure adequate moisture to roots that may be disturbed from tunneling ants.
Integrated Pest Management with Pest Control
If populations are extremely high and damage is evident then spot treatment of the damaged areas is recommended. We strongly recommend to only spot treat the damaged areas because ants, when the populations are moderate, are beneficial insects that help control populations of other turfgrass pests.
Fire ant controls are varied and include spot treatments to suppress populations as when as ant bait applications.
If you suspect that you have an ant problem, but are unsure, contact your local Nutri-Lawn and we'll come out and take a look for you.