Also known as urban ants, moth ants, parasol ants, night ants and fungus ants,Texas leafcutter antslive up to their names and have been known to destroy entire plants, gardens and crops.
When left to their own devices, Texas leafcutter ants collect leaf fragments, take them to their underground nests, and use the leaves to grow gardens of fungi, which they feed on and feed their larvae.
These ants can be difficult to eliminate because they are not attracted to the sugar and oil based baits that attract other ants. With proper planning, though, you can still get them off your property and keep them from ruining your plants.
Find out what kills Texas leafcutter ants and the best tricks for managing them below.
Texas leafcutter ant basics
Leafcutter ants differ from other ant species in many ways (besides just their diets). Here are some distinguishing features to keep in mind:
- Texas leafcutter ants are rusty brown or dark brown
- Workers from the same colony range in size from about 1/16 to 1/2 inch
- The queen ant is about 3/4 of an inch long.
- Leaf-cutter worker ants have three pairs of prominent spines on their back (thorax) and a pair of spines on their head.
Another lesser known species of leaf-cutting ant is found primarily in the dry western parts of the state. This type, known as Acromyrmex versicolor, has more than three pairs of short spines on its thorax and across a bumpy upper surface on its abdomen (the gaster).
The queen of Texas leafcutter ants governs the colony from a series of underground chambers. Colonies can have up to four or five fertile queens that continuously produce eggs.
The eggs develop into larvae (about a quarter to half an inch long), most of which become sterile worker ants.
Breeding ants have dark brown wings and are much larger than worker ants. Females have larger heads.
Texas leafcutter ants mating flights usually occur on clear, moonless nights in April, May, and June.
Swarms may occur more frequently in the spring in areas with more rainfall. In dry climates though, you can expect swarming only after heavy rains.
Texas leafcutter ant infestations can be most intense during spring and early summer. However, you can still deal with them at other times of the year, so it's important to keep an eye out.
What kills Texas leafcutter ants?
When facing an infestation, it's easy to feel like nothing could kill Texas leafcutter ants. These tough bugshe canbe eliminated with a little research and planning, however.
The following are some of the most well-known enemies of the leafcutter ant:
Several animals naturally feed on the Texas leafcutter ant, including armadillos, spiders, wasps, and birds. Other types of ants, such as the army ant, alsoprey on the leafcutter ant.
Introducing natural predators can be an effective solution to eliminating some pests. However, most people don't want to bring armadillos, spiders or wasps into their gardens.
If you're dealing with a Texas leafcutter infestation, it's best to use other, more effective, less invasive strategies.
Several chemical pesticides on the market can be used to control Texas leafcutter ants, including the following:
- Powdered or granulated insecticides (acephate, carbaryl, permethrin, etc.)
- Hydramethylnon (the only widely available bait product explicitly intended for leaf-cutting ants)
- Fipronil insecticide-based injection treatment (only available for professional forestry applications)
These chemical-based solutions have varying levels of effectiveness.
Dust and granular products can protect the plants, but they do not address the underground nest. They also require frequent reapplication.
Hydramethylnon can reduce colony activity within 4-6 weeks, but it typically returns 4-6 months later, meaning you will need to treat your property again for long-term results. Fipronil is also not practical as it is only for forest treatment.
Some people swear by home remedies to get rid of Texas leafcutter ants. Following are some of the most popular options:
- hot water treatment: An effective way to approach leaf-cutter ants at the source is to pour boiling water into their nests, killing significant numbers of them and preventing them from returning.
- Borax: Borax is toxic to ants; spraying it on and around your plants can poison them. They will also take the borax back to their colonies, where other ants will ingest it and die as well.
- diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth or DE will scratch the ants' outer protective covering, eventually drying it out and killing them.
These DIY strategies can be effective if you're dealing with a relatively minor infestation. For more serious issues, though, you'll likely need to combine them with something more potent and long-lasting.
Effective solutions for Texas leafcutter ants don't have to contain toxic chemicals that could harm your pets or children. Many all-natural remedies are just as beneficial.
The following are some tried and true all-natural methods for dealing with leaf-cutter ants:
- Herbs and essential oils: Herbs like thyme, cloves, cinnamon and rosemary can deter leaf-cutter ants and keep them away from your property (and your precious plants). The same goes for essential oils like Wintergreen.
- Bacillus thuringiensis:Bacillus thuringiensisor Bt is a type of bacteria naturally present in some soils. It produces toxic proteins that can kill leaf-cutting ants and other insects when consumed. The bacteria is not harmful to humans and other mammals because they cannot activate it.
- beneficial nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are small organisms naturally present in many soils. They parasitize insects with larvae and pupae that live in the soil.
- fungal pathogens: Certain fungal pathogens can naturally eliminate leaf-cutting ants. The best known pathogen is calledEscovopsis sp., which dominates other fungi and destroys the ant colony.
- predatory mites:predatory mitesare mainly used to fight spider mites that feed on flowers and plants. However, they may also eat other insects and fungi, including the fungi that leaf-cutter ants feed on.
The all-natural options work incredibly well for those who are concerned about the toxins found in conventional insecticides and those who are concerned about their children or pets coming into contact with insecticides.
How to Prevent Texas Leafcutter Ants
You can reduce your chances of dealing with other ant species by keeping your home clean and cutting back on food sources. However, this tactic (while still beneficial) does not work for Texas leafcutter ants.
The best approach to managing them is to be on the lookout for warning signs and deal with them as proactively as possible.
Texas leafcutter ants are not particularly organized. They typically leave trails of leaf tissue behind as they transport it back to their nests. You can also see ants carrying pieces of leaves on their backs.
If leaf-cutter ants infiltrate your property, you will see leaf damage on many plants and trees. These ants work quickly, so you might go to bed one night with everything seemingly fine and then wake up with significant defoliation.
Inspect your property regularly for leaf-cutter ant nests. These nests are pitted by craters of loose soil and have many entrances. Texas leafcutter ants prefer to nest in sand or loamy soil.
Once you find a nest, wet it with the insecticide of your choice. Alternatively, you can contact a pest control company and ask them to take care of the nests before the infestation gets out of control.
Bonus Tip: Schedule Regular Maintenance Treatments
Catching the warning signs of Texas leafcutter ants early will help you control the problem and prevent the pests from destroying your plants. However, it also helps to treat your property with regular maintenance treatments.
Monthly treatments with all-natural pesticides can reduce the chances of leaf-cutting ants returning. It also lets you learn about potential infestations (from ants and other pests) sooner, which means you can address and eliminate them before they overtake your yard or home.
Also remember that preventative treatments can help you save money. Paying a monthly fee for preventative pest control often costs less than waiting until you have a full-fledged infestation on your hands.
It's also less time consuming and gives you peace of mind knowing your property is safe from leafcutter ants and all sorts of other critters.
Eliminate Texas Leafcutter Ants Today
Don't hesitate to take action if you notice signs of Texas leafcutter ants on your property. Get to work finding and dealing with pesticide nests as soon as possible.
To feel confident that you've found and soaked every nest in your yard, contact a professional pest control company.
Pest control companies typically do not treat leaf-cutting ants as they are considered an ornamental pest. If you are dealing with leaf-cutter ants, contact your local gardening company for services. If you are dealing with other types of ants, at Natran Green Pest Control we offer all-natural, eco-friendly and highly effective treatment solutions to combat leaf-cutter ants and protect your property.
Get in touch todayfor more information or to arrange an inspection.