Friday, April 16, 2010

"Some Stinky Ants"

About a week ago the weather channel (of all the news channels) did a story about "some stinky ants." The whole thing came off as awkward as you can imagen. Meteorologists discussing things well out of their field. Basically an exterminator was being interviewed about The Odorous House Ant, Tapinoma sessile. The exterminator could not have looked any more pissed off to be on the news. He was atop a ladder apparently spraying chemicals into the gutters of the house or under the first laying of shingles or something, and clearly trying not to use the "F" word.

To paraphrase he said something like "These dam ants smell awful! This is the 17th call I been called out for these ants this week! They invade your house and eat the sugar and then they get everywhere!"

To be clear Tapinoma sessile is native and has been here well before Columbus stepped foot on the continuant. Secondly "The Odorous House Ant" only smells bad when crushed. The odor is a defense against being eaten or stomped. Third, I don't believe this ant spreads disease as other species do. Where as Monomorium pharaonis, Pharaoh Ants, will inhabit multiple floors of hospitals and happily wonder from wound to wound nibbling at the unprotected eyes of helpless patients and spreading disease all over the hospital. Suddenly going after the sugar and getting everywhere doesn't sound as bad.

What the news story should have focused on was the recent news about this ant.
Common House Ant Form Supercolonies, Prosper in Urban Settings, Science Daily.
Grzegorz Buczkowski, a Purdue University research assistant professor of entomology, found that odorous house ant colonies become larger and more complex as they move from forest to city and act somewhat like an invasive species. The ants live about 50 to a colony with one queen in forest settings but explode into supercolonies with more than 6 million workers and 50,000 queens in urban areas.

Glad I don't live in an urban setting. I have had this ant in my kitchen before though, and I have to say it's nothing to get upset about. Colonies are controlled simply with baits. Even closing up the holes they use to get into your home can work. A simple dab of wood glue and maybe some paper towel will work. They don't burrow through objects in search for food. They're nesting habits are opportunistic too.

Here a colony is moving into one of last years sunflower canes. A hole leading into a hallow cavity is all they really need to nest.

Now they might be harder to deal with if you live in an apartment in the city. If everyone isn't on board trying to destroy the ants then it's almost a lost cause. One could argue that it's a news worthy topic, but hay what do you expect from the Weather Channel?