Are Army Ants Invading Us?
Ant’s behavior has long inspired military metaphors; ants hunt, invade, attack, and colonize. And while it may be a stretch to imagine those teeny tiny ants in your yard as an organized fighting force, just watch a video of army ants on the move. While they might lack tanks, maps, battle plans, grenades, or code talkers, army ants are terrifying conquerors.
Army ants are 3 to 12 mm long and have sharp scissor-like mandibles. They spray their prey with a toxic acid which turns their victims into an edible slush. Colonies numbering between 150,000 and 24 million move with military precision in coordinated raids. They form bridges with their bodies to overcome obstacles such as streams or valleys. They send out search parties for food. And they devour every insect, bird, and small animal in their path including pigs, goats, and chickens.
There are over 200 species of army ants which live in lowland tropical forest in Africa, Central America, and South America. These marching munchers prefer a hot climate and have been spotted in Florida, Arizona, Texas, and parts of Southern California. Fortunately, the army ants invading the United States are less numerous—and aggressive—than the carnivorous hordes eating their way through the jungles of Brazil. However, this might provide little comfort if you’re troubled by army ants.
There’s good news and bad news when dealing with army ants. The good news is, they are constantly on the move. They pass through an area, feed, and move on. The bad news is, if you want to get rid of them, you need to lay down granular pesticides with a fertilizer spreader over a large area when they are present. Army ants will return if there is food to be eaten so, as with other ants, it may be necessary to thoroughly clean your kitchen and cupboards, patch up screens and cracks between doors and windows, and caulk up holes and cracks in the foundation.