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Part 2: The 6 Most Invasive Insects and How to Deal with Them

Part Two: Argentine Ants and Asian Lady Beetles

In our last blog we took a look at the reasons behind the increasing problem of invasive pests in the US. Of course, this is not a problem confined to North America alone. In my native country, England, I watched our indigenous red squirrels gradually forced out of their customary habitats by the arrival of the grey squirrel. Happily, the trend is now being reversed, but it took decades to address the problem effectively. And squirrels aren’t even a serious problem; so, imagine what happens when the ‘invader’ is a real threat!

As we also pointed out in Invasive Insects, Part One, invasive species can include both plants and animals, as well as insects and pathogens.

Cassandra Willyard, writing in Scientific American, outlined the reason for the problem:

“As international travel has become more common the problem has only gotten

worse. People and cargo regularly cross mountain ranges, rivers, oceans and

deserts—features that once kept plants, animals and insects apart. In the past

century invasive species have infiltrated nearly every part of the globe. [Today]

. . . there are more than 1,500 invasive species in the U.S. alone.”

Some of these ‘invaders’- insects in particular- made it to our shores simply because they’re good ‘hitchhikers’, stowing away in crates, shipping containers, and so on. Others, such as the Asian Carp, were brought over as food, or as part of the pet trade. European starlings, for instance, were imported as a way to control pests; while the Small Indian Mongoose were introduced because they were thought to be easily manageable pest control ‘agents’ for rats and snakes.

How wrong we were! In almost every case these well-meaning actions were an unmitigated disaster.

However, for our purposes, the focus will be on invasive insect species, and how to deal with them. In this segment, I will focus on Argentine Ants and Lady Beetles.

What Bugs US Most? The Top 6 Invasive Insects

Based on the experiences of those of us in the pest management industry, we find that today, the following invasive insects are the most problematic for our clients:

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs

  • Pharaoh Ants

  • Argentine Ants

  • Asian Lady Beetle

  • Asian Tiger Mosquitos

  • Formosan Subterranean Termites

In Part 1, we learned about Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs and Pharaoh Ants, and how to get rid of them. Today, we’ll be focusing on Argentine Ants and Lady Beetles.

Getting Rid of Argentine Ants and Lady Beetles

Argentine Ants

These pests were first discovered in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and southern Brazil, although tradition has it that they were brought to the US via coffee ships from Brazil in the late 1800s. Whether that’s true or not, they have extended their range to South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, and Europe.

Like Pharaoh Ants, Argentine Ants are extremely small, measuring anywhere from 2.2 to 2.8 mm in length, and can vary in color

from light to dark brown.

Fortunately, Argentine Ants are not generally considered health threats, per se. However, they have been observed crawling over untreated sewage, trash of every description, and even animal carcasses in search for food. In this regard they are not unlike many other insects, but Argentine Ants can be carriers of some disease-causing bacteria, especially those related to dysentery. There have even been reports of Argentine Ants attacking poultry chicks and destroying beehives!

But Argentine Ants pose a greater threat. According to Wikipedia:

“The Argentine Ant often displaces most or all native ants and can threaten

native invertebrates and even small vertebrates that are not accustomed to

defending against the aggressive ants. This can, in turn, imperil other species

in the ecosystem, such as native plants that depend on native ants for seed

dispersal, or lizards that depend on native ants or invertebrates for food.”

These creatures can nest in a wide variety of locations, and they don’t seem to mind if these places are moist or dry. Outside you can find them living underneath wood, in debris or mulch, and in hollows at the base of shrubs and trees. However, if they do find their way into a home or office building, they can multiply amazingly fast, and in numbers that defy imagination. For instance, according to entomologist David Faulkner of the San Diego Natural History Museum, a patio slab no more than 10 x 10 feet could be home to a million or more Argentine Ants, and possibly 20 or 30 queens!

As we said in the last section, dealing with these sorts of ants is not a DIY product; it requires the attention of a PMP. If you’ve never used a pest management professional and would like to know more about how to go about hiring, and what to expect, check out our blog: Just the Facts: How Much an Exterminator (PCO) Costs & What They’ll Do.

Asian Lady Beetle

Like most people, I didn’t realize until recently that Ladybugs and Asian Lady Beetles are actually different insects. Yes, they belong to the same species- the Coccinellidae family- but they are dissimilar in a number of important respects.