Got Ants?

UC Riverside entomologists invite Riverside homeowners to participate in a 12-week ant study starting July 1

Image shows Argentine ants in a home.

UC Riverside entomologists are seeking volunteers for an ant study this summer.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — For a summer research project starting July 1, entomologists at the University of California, Riverside are seeking volunteers in the City of Riverside whose homes are infested with Argentine ants — small, black ants that form trails.

The researchers are seeking access to 60-80 homes — specifically, the area outside the homes where Argentine ants tend to be abundant — to conduct the 12-week long study that will evaluate pesticide efficacy and test novel bait and spray techniques.

Riverside homeowners interested in participating in the study should call Cassie Sudol at (909) 213-1254 or email as soon as possible. The researchers will need to have access to the areas outside their homes every couple of weeks from July through September. Homeowners will need to keep their dogs indoors during these visits.  Participation in the study is free.

“We want to measure how long outdoor bait and spray treatments last so that we know how frequently such treatments would be needed to provide acceptable control through the summer,” said Sudol, a technician working in the lab of Michael Rust, a professor in the Department of Entomology.

The goal of the study is to control pest ants while simultaneously reducing pesticide use. Water runoff from irrigation or rainfall can contaminate urban waterways if it contains pesticides. The researchers will test different pesticides, formulations, and devices to see which are most effective in controlling ants while having minimal runoff. In some cases water samples from the homes will be collected by flushing the driveway with water. A sample of this water will then be analyzed to see whether it contains high levels of pesticide.

One of the treatments this year will be done with a new type of bait station placed outside homes. By design, bait stations have virtually no pesticide runoff since the bait is inside a device that only ants can enter.

Another innovation this summer is to work with local pest management professionals, who will treat a number of homes using an integrated pest management approach that limits the amount of pesticide used. These homes will also be monitored for efficacy and pesticide runoff.

Photo shows a vial used in the study.

Photo shows Argentine ants in a sugar vial. Photo credit: Rust Lab, UC Riverside.

In the course of the study, the researchers will place 15-ml vials (monitors) containing sugar water around the homes to estimate the numbers of ants present and to understand how well the treatments work.  Each sugar water vial will be laid on the ground and covered with a flower pot to keep animals away and protect the vial from sprinklers. The vials will be left out for 24 hours and then retrieved. The amount of sugar water consumed will inform the researchers how many ants are feeding on that monitor (1 ml of consumption translates to about 3,300 ant visits).

A common pest in California, the Argentine ant lives a year or less.  The ants will often enter homes in search of food and water. It is estimated that 65-85 percent of all pest control treatments in Southern California are in response to Argentine ant infestations.

The ants, so named because they originated in Argentina, arrived in the United States in 1908 through Louisiana.  Each ant colony has multiple queens.  Argentine ants form “supercolonies” over much of California, from San Diego to San Francisco. Members of these large colonies are not aggressive to each other and can move freely between nests. This non-territorial behavior is one reason that these ants spread so rapidly and are hard to control.

Rust and Les Greenberg, a specialist in the Department of Entomology, are the principal investigators of the summer research project. Daily field work will be under direction of lab assistants Sudol and Sara Jean Wright. Graduate students Andrew Soeprono and Ryan Neff will also be doing research in connection with the project.

The project is partly funded by grants from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6050
Twitter: UCR_Sciencenews

Additional Contacts

Cassie Sudol
Tel: (909) 213-1254

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