We all know how bees can help our environment by pollinating flowers, and how even some pests, such as spiders help us by eating other insects in our homes, but certain species seem to have no redeeming qualities. One of these species is the fire ant.
However, in a recent study at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, scientists took three ant species and exposed them to pieces of filter paper, in which the ants deposited their semiochemicals. One of these three species was the fire ant, which preys on spiders. The papers were then placed in an enclosure with four common species of spiders along with a control paper that had no extra chemicals on it. Consistently, the spiders would choose to build their nets avoiding the piece of paper that contained the chemicals from the fire ants. Researchers now hope to replicate the semiochemicals of the fire ant, or extract them in an efficient manner, and integrate them into non-chemical spider repellents.
Fire ants are an omnivorous species, much like most ants, and they will eat just about everything. However, a big part of their diet consists of arthropods such as other insects, mites and ticks. As such, wherever you have a fire ant colony, you have lower numbers of pest insects. For example, researchers have found that pastures or yards with fire ant populations have a lower number of ticks. They can also reduce the population of chiggers, which is a mite species, and they will also prey on flea larvae. Not only that, but they will clean up any hatching cockroaches around their environment.
Of course, you don’t really want to trade one pest for another in your home, especially one that is as aggressive as the fire ant. However, sugarcane and cotton growers can make great use of these ants because they will protect their crops by preying on caterpillars, weevils, and other pests that affect their plantations.
Due to the aggressive nature of fire ants and their powerful bite, they are able to prey even on small animals such as rodents and reptiles. This predilection can be a double-edged sword however. If these small animals are pests, then it’s very useful to have fire ants around. However, if they are essential to an ecosystem, fire ants, as an invasive species, can do a lot of damage and throw the area off-balance. In any case, unless you have a space that you do not frequent and you want to keep it free of pests, fire ants can be very troublesome and they should be removed. Contact us today if you have any issues with fire ants.