My colleague in Ireland made a casual comment the other day to say it is going to be a bumper year for ants in Ireland. When I quizzed him about this, he said that in his experience there appears to be a surge in ant related call-outs every 3 to 4 years, and it just so happens that 2011 is the year for ants.
Apparently 2010 bumper year was related to treatments for wasps and wasp nests, which follow a similar 3 to 4 year pattern.
The most common ant we tend to find in our gardens or occasionally in our homes is the Black Garden ant (Lasius niger). Thankfully this is not a particularly aggressive ant. I have heard that they can bite you, but I think this is quite uncommon. They are just simply a pain in the home, as you just know that where there is one ant there is highly likely to be many, many more. In fact one single ant nest could be made up of a million ants!
The Red Imported Fire ant on the other hand, which is currently causing concern over in Southern US is a far bigger pest and would cause me a great deal of worry.
Recently we have discovered a very obvious ant nest set up directly by the entrance to our greenhouse. Thankfully this nest is located at the furthest point away from our house, so am not too concerned with any ants deciding to forage indoors.
We are also approaching the flying ants season. In Ireland, I am told that swarming flying ants can be spotted at any time in June or July, when the weather conditions are just right – warm and muggy conditions appear to be very suitable. These swarms usually only last a day and should not be cause for alarm, as they are simply performing their “nuptial flight”, in other words, this is when they mate. I do think it’s rather sad, how after mating, the ants lose their wings and the males die. The female is left to find a location to lay her eggs and start a new ant colony. However she will never fly again!
This year I have accidently uncovered two ants nests. Normally I only get one in the garden, so maybe there is something to the pattern of pests. I haven’t had a wasp nest either this year and last year I had three!
Well we discovered another ants nest in our big pot of mint! We couldn’t understand why the mint was suffering so much so we went to put in the ground and realised the possible cause! I would have thought or hoped that ants might stay away from such strong smelling herbs but obviously not.
Ants are supposed to hate mint! That dispels that myth!