How to Differentiate Argentine Ants and Fire Ants?

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Ant infestations are challenging to deal with because homeowners have to know what type of ant is in their home before finding the best ways to eliminate them. But ant species like Argentine ants and fire ants look similar to each other, which makes the task more difficult especially for anyone that doesn’t have any pest control knowledge.

So how exactly are Argentine ants different from fire ants? The main difference between the 2 common ant species is their aggressiveness. Argentine ants are a lot less harmful than fire ants so they may be killed with non-lethal methods. On the other hand, fire ants have a painful sting that might result in burning pain or allergic reactions to anyone who’s bitten. They also require professional treatment to be eliminated safely and effectively in a property. 

Read More: Why Are Argentine Ants Successful Invaders?

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Are Argentine Ants Different From Fire Ants?

Ants are known as the number one nuisance pest in the country because of the concern, disgust, and frustration they cause on property owners. According to a survey by the National Pest Management Association, ant infestations are becoming worse and start affecting about 80% of single-home buildings and 82% of apartments in the country.

Out of the thousands of known ant species, many of them become pests as they invade properties – like fire ants and Argentine ants. Telling these 2 species apart is the first step to an effective pest control measure because they require different extermination methods. Here are summaries that can help you understand their similarities and differences better: 

How Are They Similar?

Both types of ants are common nuisance pests that homeowners might have to deal with sooner or later. Their diet is also similar to each other – both are opportunistic feeders that eat protein-rich food like meat and dead insects, but also turn to sweet foods like fruits and honeydew from aphids. 

How Are They Different?

Although they have similar food choices, these 2 ant species have lots of differences that make them easy to tell apart like their appearance, behavior, and nesting habit. But one of the most important differences to know about them is their varying levels of aggressiveness.

Argentine ants are a nuisance but they’re also one of the least harmful types of ants that you might encounter scurrying around the floors or countertops. Non-lethal and natural repellents are effective in keeping them away, as long as the infestation isn’t severe yet.

On the flip side, red imported fire ants (or simply fire ants) are notorious household pests because of the threats they pose to homeowners. They build ant hills on the surface of the ground which animals and children may easily knock over.

These fire ants have a painful sting whenever they come in contact with the victim’s skin so stepping over fire ant hills often results in multiple, painful bites. Some people might also be allergic to the venom that comes with the bite or sting of a fire ant. 

Argentine Ants: A Closer Look

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) are an invasive ant species that came from Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil but are now found in different parts of the world including the United States. Whenever they arrive in a new environment, they drive the native species out so they won’t have to share territory and resources.

These ants were introduced to the continental US when the coffee ships from Brazil docked in New Orleans in the 1800s. Today, there are widespread infestations of Argentine ants in different parts of the country including California, Hawaii, Arizona, Missouri, and Indiana. 

1) Appearance

Argentine ants have shiny bodies that are usually dark brown to black. The bodies of female workers of the colony are usually around 1/16 inch long while the queen ants are slightly bigger at 1/8 to ¼ inch long. They have 6 legs but they’re wingless. They also have a pair of antennae with 12 segments and an oval-shaped body. Argentine ants also emit a musty odor when they’re crushed. 

2) Diet

These ants are opportunistic feeders that eat anything available to them including sugary foods, sweet drinks, dead insects, pet food, and meat. What’s interesting about them is that they easily switch their diet depending on their environment.

For example, Argentine ants in the wild feed on protein-rich food like meat and dead insects but they also consume fruits, flowers, and honeydew from aphids once their high protein food sources are gone. 

3) Habits and Habitat

Most Argentine ant colonies are found in damp environments with a nearby food source. They usually build their nests outdoors in areas beneath plants, stones, and sidewalks but they also invade houses and other buildings once the weather conditions become too hot or too cold. Even inside buildings, these ants still find a damp area and build a nest near the source of moisture so they can be found near potted plants, sinks, and water pipes.

Argentine ants are known as efficient foragers that diligently follow a pheromone trail when searching for food. Unlike other types of ants that only leave a trail on the way back to the colony, Argentine ants do this to and from the food source. This helps them ensure that other worker ants won’t visit the same area for food. Argentine ants may also act aggressively towards other ant species if they’re competing for resources in the same area. 

4) Lifespan

The average lifespan of Argentine ants depends on the environmental conditions they experience and their role in the ant caste system of their colony. Under favorable conditions, worker Argentine ants live between 6 to 9 months while the Argentine ant queens survive up to 7 years. If the ant colony is strong and has a lot of food, then the Argentine ant queen may reproduce more and prolong the life of the entire colony. 

5) Threat to Humans

Unlike bigger pests, Argentine ants don’t post severe health threats. However, these critters crawl over trash, sewage, and carcasses of dead animals as they look for food which makes them possible carriers of different disease-causing bacteria. Once they take over a kitchen, they may contaminate food sources that are left open.

Learn More: Do Argentine Ants Bite?

Recommended Argentine Ant Control Methods

messy dining table, good for ants to come , pest control needed

The best pest control method for Argentine ants is having different preventive measures in place. To keep the pests from infesting your home, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Eliminate clutter and debris inside and around the house. Make sure to remove all unused building materials and get rid of fallen leaves when cleaning the yard.
  • Limit the damp areas around the house by watering the plants with just the right amount of water, making sure the gutter works properly, and fixing leaky pipes and fixtures.
  • Trim the tree branches and bushes around the perimeter of the house so that ants can’t use them as easy access to the house.
  • Check for cracks, gaps, and crevices around the windows, doors, and foundation that ants may use as entry points. Seal the holes with caulk to prevent the ants from entering.
  • Don’t leave crumbs and leftover food on the floors or countertops. Make sure to store all food in tightly sealed containers or inside the refrigerator.

Eliminating Argentine ants is extremely difficult once they manage to get inside and nest in your home. Hiring a pest control company is your best bet to eradicate these pests quickly and safely. 

Fire Ants: What Are They?

Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta), or simply fire ants, are known for their ability to inflict extremely painful bites. They’re also an invasive species found in different parts of the country like Maryland, New Mexico, California, and Texas. 

1) Appearance

Fire ants are known for the dull red shade of their bodies which can range from reddish-brown to reddish black. They also have a stinger that allows them to deliver painful stings to their victims. Their bodies measure around 1/16 to 1/4 inch long with a large abdomen and large mandibles. The thorax of fire ants is also more pronounced than their heads. 

2) Diet

Fire ants are omnivores so they eat both plant-based food and meat. Some of their favorite food includes dead insects, worms, spiders, ricks, honeydew, and other sweet food. Honeydew is the sugary liquid waste produced by aphids that most species of ants love eating. This is a good source of sugars like glucose and fructose that ants need for their daily activities. 

3) Habits and Habitat

Red imported fire ants build their nests in the soil near man-made structures and building foundations. These mounds of soil are often found outdoors but fire ants may also get inside houses and other buildings if they’re looking for food and there’s an entry point they can use to enter. Having fire ants inside the house is a huge problem because these ants are aggressive and their bites are painful. 

4) Lifespan

Fire ants are known to have a shorter lifespan than most ant species. Their longevity heavily depends on the temperature of their nest and the size of individual ants. A small worker fire ant only survives for a couple of weeks but larger ones can live up to a couple of months with favorable conditions. A fire ant queen can live around 2 to 6 years with an average of 3 years while male reproductive fire ants die shortly after mating with the queen. 

5) Threat to Humans

Aside from the possibility of contaminating the food sources of humans, the painful sting of fire ants is another thing to worry about. These aggressive ants retaliate against humans and bigger animals that disturb their nests by stinging their skin, causing the stung area to welt and form a white pustule. Some people might have an allergic reaction to the sting of the fire ant and experience worse symptoms. 

Recommended Fire Ant Control Methods

Getting rid of fire ants is challenging and dangerous because of the multiple stings they inflict on the victims in an attempt to defend their colony. To avoid fire ant infestations on your property, it’s better to have preventive measures in place like:

  • Find the bare spots in the yard and cover them with new grass seeds.
  • Seal all the areas around utility entrances, HVAC units, wires, and pipes that lead into the home.
  • Cover all cracks and crevices in the walls and foundation of the house using caulk.
  • Make sure the trash cans outside have tight-fitting lids and aren’t too close to the house.

Handling fire ant infestations at home is a difficult task because their populations rapidly grow, making homemade repellents essentially ineffective. At the first sign of fire ant infestation, it’s better to call a pest control company to expertly get the job done quickly and safely. 

Learn More: How to Repel Argentine Ants from Your Yard 

Eliminate Ant Infestations At Home with Pinnacle Pest Control

pinnacle pest control worker shaking hands with customer over a job well done doing the ant extermination

Ant infestations are extremely difficult to manage because of several reasons: the colonies grow rapidly and their reach extends over a large surface or underground areas. If you find that natural repellents and store-bought pesticides don’t seem to put a dent in the ant population, then it’s time to call a pest control company like Pinnacle Pest Control to take care of the ant problem.

At Pinnacle Pest Control, we start our pest control services by carefully examining the property to find out the extent of the ant infestation. We have the best treatment plan especially made for your space so that the ants are eliminated for good. Call us now to request a free quote.

Guaranteed Pest Extermination Services, Right at Your Doorstep

No matter what kind of pest problem you’re dealing with, you can count on Pinnacle Pest Control to provide top-notch pest extermination services. With decades of experience under our name, we have already helped hundreds of residents and business owners in Sacramento eliminate pests in their property and keep them away for good.

Call Now

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