Invaded by ants? Learn to love them, says expert

Bendigo residents are battling infestations of ants drawn inside their homes by food and water.

Mark Edwards runs a Bendigo pest control business and said ant problems were typical for this time of year.

“It becomes dry and they are out looking for food and water,” Mr Edwards said.

He said the black house ant was the most common variety found in  Bendigo.

“They nest in the roof and wall cavities, and once they do it’s a matter of getting them out,” he said.

“It’s a matter of spraying and baiting, we feed them a bait and that will kill them and kill their nest.”

But a expert on ant behaviour says people need to learn to “love their ants” because the insects won’t be going away anytime soon.

University of Melbourne Professor Mark Elgar said worker ants became more active in the warmer months.

“Like lots of insects they are seasonal,” he said.

“During the winter the colony will be quite small, workers will stay in their nests and stay warm, when spring comes along the workers will leave their nest and start feeding the queen who will start producing larvae.

“Sometimes what happens too is they will form little bivouac colonies in areas where there is plentiful food.”

Professor Elgar said ants with multiple homes like this were a lot harder to get rid of.

“The best thing you can do is keep bench tops and other areas clean of food,” he said.

“If you decide you don’t really feel like doing the washing up and left it, in the morning you will have a whole heap of ants in the morning.”

Professor Elgar said different ant species had different foods they preferred, and similarly some species were repelled by certain smells.

“Some of my colleagues discovered the silk from a spider’s web has a repellent chemical on it the ants don’t really like,” he said.

“So they are identifying ways they can synthesise this chemical.” 

But ultimately Professor Elgar said fighting ants could prove a losing battle.

“Even if you do kill all the ants, it’s quite possible that another colony will take its place,” he said.

“My advice is when you see an ant, love it. They are a very remarkable species.”

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