Black Ants are taking over!!

deb_in_az52August 17, 2014

has anyone had trouble this year in their yard with those big black ants? I would say they are carpenter ants, but they have holes in the ground - no mound, just a hole - and seem to be scavenging for leaves and such. I found out the hard way that I'm allergic to them, and they are all over my yard. I can't go outside to water plants without getting bit. I have sprayed them with ant killer, set out handmade bait, storebought bait, and nothing is killing them. the ant killer will do the job, but there's no way to get all of them...they also attack when you spray them - they run directly for you. I don't want to take an epipen with me when I water my plants. these ants are large and black, almost half an inch long. oh, and recently there has been two episodes of flying black ants in the fenced in area where my dog goes out. there were so many of these flying ants that I could HEAR them walking across the leaf litter. anyone got any ideas how to kill them? we've been in this house for 10 years and live in northern Surprise (Phoenix area), on acreage in the desert, and I've never had problems till this year... never seen these flying ants either, till this year. I've tried the borax mixed with jelly (and also pnut butter) and they won't touch it.. any ideas???? thanks for any info you have.

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Aviddamy AZ Zone 9B

We have really bad ants here. Many species including a black fire ant. The only thing that works for us is AMDRO. I don't know if you have tried it, but I wanted to mention it. Its a dry bait that you sprinkle around your yard but not on the actual mounds/holes. I bought my last one at Lowe's. My kids react to them, but it isn't life threatening.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:42PM
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thanks for your reply, aviddamy... I have tried Amdro, didn't work, but it had been sitting in the garage for a couple years so might have lost its "punch". i'll pick up a new batch and try it again. I've talked with others that say Amdro is just "ant candy" - they love it, but nothing happens. these ants are aggressive, and I've been bitten. i burn like fire for two days, have to put ice on it... then i have a red spot the size of a silver dollar for a couple weeks with pain and eventually itching. i would hate to think what would happen if i got bitten several times.. I've never had reactions to ants like this, not even fire ants when i lived back east. i don't think it would help to call an exterminator, as they usually just put out bait (like amdro). thanks again!!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 12:59AM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

I think you should at least talk to an exterminator, they really know their bugs! We recently had SOS come out to talk about eradicating the wood tic problem we have. He was very informed about bugs and talked about how and why the tics showed up, what to we can do to help keep them off the property (burn off that pile of junk wood we were saving for winter fire pit burning) and was generally very helpful. And they guarantee they will eliminate all tics, home and yard! Can't beat a guarantee.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Amdro is sensitive to UV light so spread at dusk so it retains its 'punch'.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 1:08PM
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iandyaz(Zone 9B - QC)

I use Maxforce granules and it works really well for the ants around my house. Most of the time I have the little black ants, but I've had the big black ants as you describe and it worked for them. I haven't seen them for about 2 years now. It has the same active ingredient as Amdro so that stuff should work as well.

I've read that at certain times of the year, ants will pick up sugary baits and other times protein based baits. So if you use both types, you should be good. Baits need to be kept out of the sun, so do it in shade or before the sun comes up. The liquid baits usually have sugar in them.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 1:32PM
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Perhaps why are they taking over is a better thought. What has changed about your landscape over the past few years?

Why are the ants doing well and the things that eat them not?

I rather like the boiling water down the hole. Pick a nest out mark its location so you don't forget and hit it. Don't burn yourself doing it. 2 days later hit it again. Then wait until you see activity to hit it a third time.

Remember the thing about ant bait is not to kill the workers but to eventually get the queen presented with the bait.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:19PM
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thanks everyone, for your information. I tried an online recipe using boric acid, mixed with pnut butter (protein) and also with jelly (sugar). I put it close to a hole, underneath a bush. ants went around it, over it, through it, but never picked any up. the tiny black ants, however, loved it and it was all gone in a couple days - a lot to move for tiny ants!! I've heard that boiling water would kill them, never tried it, and will. since there's no mound, just a hole in the ground, I might stick a funnel down the hole so I can get the boiling water into the hole (will this actually reach the queen?). also will pick up some amdro or Maxforce. some of the ants are doing all their gathering after dark now, since I usually got after them during the daylight hours.. some are still out during the day. nothing has changed in my yard in the 10 years we've lived here, other than adding some new trees and all the trees are on a drip system. only two of the holes are around plants/trees. all the others are out in the yard in full sun. I will put the amdro/maxforce out at night - I didn't know it was sensitive to UV (thanks, AZtreelvr). we have lizards here, but since we're in the open desert, we also have roadrunners that hang around and eat the lizards. not sure if our lizards will eat these ants or not. I'm gonna try the amdro and the boiling water. there''s about 9 or 10 holes so i'll give everything a try... I read that when the queen thinks the colony is in trouble, she will break up the group into several groups to try to save the population, and I'm sure this has happened. hopefully these ants will be interested in something. i'll make some closed containers with small entrance holes for the bait so birds and other fauna don't eat it. Thanks everyone!!!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 7:28PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

I didn't know Amdro was light sensitive either. I too have used it successfully for ant control. Deb, let us know how this project goes and if you solved the problem and if you think one solution works better than the other - boiling water vs Amdro. Good luck with it!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:50AM
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You need to ID the species better to get the right bait.

The big harvester ants are seed collectors, and the good rains and lots of weed seeds have them out in large numbers. They ignore sugary and greasy baits.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:40AM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

That makes sense. What bait do the ants that ignore sugary, greasy like?

From Wikipedia: Harvester ants is a common name for any of the species or genera of ants that collect seeds (called seed predation), or mushrooms as in the case of Euprenolepis procera, which are stored in the nest in communal chambers called granaries. Seed harvesting by some desert ants is an adaptation to the lack of typical ant resources such as prey or honeydew from homopterans. Harvester ants increase seed dispersal, protection, and provide nutrients that increase seedling survivorship of the desert plants. In addition, ants provide soil aeration through the creation of galleries and chambers, mix deep and upper layers of soil, and incorporate organic refuse into the soil.[1]

And here's a great resource on ants, link below. Can you ID your ant from this article Deb? How about the "Crazy Ant"??

Here is a link that might be useful: Managing Ant Pests

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Mary, the carpenter ant from the article looks like the culprit, but I think I have harvester ants. they forage for plant material, don't appear to care for wood like the carpenter ant. i'll do research on harvester ants. don't know why I didn't find info on these ants when I was trying to find out what they were initially, maybe not the right search words or something. anyway, i'll research harvester ants today and see what will kill them.. when I find a solution i'll post my results... I'm gonna try the boiling water, also amdro - might as well make an experiment out of this problem so maybe others can benefit. there has been two swarms of these ants (winged) in my west side patio area, which is enclosed by a block wall and where my dog goes to potty. I've never seen such a swarm in my entire life, and I'm originally from the south where ants are very common. I sprayed the whole area and the ants with a product called "ant killer" that I bought at walmart (black gallon jug) and it will kill the ants, but only on contact. it worked well to kill the ants that were swarming. i'll post when I find a solution. Thanks again, everyone!! ya'll have been a big help.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:06PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

I did some really long, weird search string....something like this I think: how to get rid of ants that harvest seeds..... :-)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:46PM
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i'll try that Mary.. I googled "harvester ants" and found some interesting stuff. boiling water was also mentioned in one article, and that is supposed to work. we just had major rain this morning, so any ants that were foraging have been relocated LOL. they will be out in full force after the water goes down though, so i'll get outside and spray them. i'll let ya'll know what works and what doesn't.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:03PM
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Remember Amdro is a bait and not a contact killer--so may take 10 days or more for control----also it needs to remain dry---so if you received rain you may need to reapply--KS HD Associate

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:44PM
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thanks ssf806. I will purchase the amdro this weekend. How about putting the bait in some sort of container so that it can stay dry in case of rain? or does it need to be scattered for the ants to pick it up? i'll give it plenty of time to work.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:53PM
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Boiling water works by killing off a large population of the colony. Repeat. Eventually the colony moves.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 1:13PM
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well, i might not try the boiling water method then, since it will be a pain to do, need to do it at night while all the ants are in the nest. And moving the colony isn't the solution. i kill off a lot of the workers now by spraying. of course they keep hatching, so its never ending. gotta get that queen, so i'll try the amdro. I'm gonna find some plastic containers with lids and put a small hole in the side for the ants to get inside, and put some amdro in there. i'll put a large rock on the top of the container, so it won't blow away, plus it will keep UV off the bait. what do ya'll think? will that work?


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 1:22PM
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I hope you've gotten your ant problem under control.

If not, try sprinkling diatomacious earth on and near their ant holes. This worked well on big red seed-collecting ants that took over a portion of our yard -- after a week their numbers were GREATLY reduced to where we can safely walk around barefoot again. It's nontoxic.

We've had an unusually high number of ant colonies this year, long before our monsoon started. Mild winter maybe? Luckily they're not as aggressive as yours.

I heard that if you have ants, you won't have termites, and vice versa ... don't know if it's true, but we've never had termites.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 4:15PM
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Update: ants are GONE!!! went to Home Depot and got a container of Amdro. scattered about a teaspoon around all the ant holes (there was about 8 holes), and in two days, no more ants. of course I've been spraying them daily all summer so I think I had limited their food by limiting the worker ants. anyway, I haven't seen any ants in the yard in about three days now... we had a shower night before last, and rain usually makes all the ants get busy, but didn't see any out and about. I didn't try boiling water, cause I wanted to kill the queen.. Dia.Earth would probably work too, but it would have to thick around the holes, plus with all this rain and wind it would be gone and have to be applied again every few days. I tried the old container of Amdro and it didn't work, but this brand new container did the trick... so for any ants that aren't interested in a sugar or protein bait, try Amdro. Worked for me!! Thanks everyone for comments and suggestions.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 9:29PM
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