Nelson is ‘crawling’ with ants

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Parts of Nelson are “crawling” with aggressive Argentine ants, forcing some house owners out of their house, says a local pest control business owner.

Shane Warland of Flybusters says this week he is working on 18 different homes on one Richmond street, all with severe ant problems.

“They’re rampant, they’re just taking over parts of Richmond and Nelson. The Wood area is crawling,” he says.

“In Richmond there’s places they can’t even put their little kids out on the lawn because the ants just crawl all over them. They don’t sting but they do bite, and if you get a couple of hundred thousand ant over your little kid…”

Shane says spring is traditionally a busy time for him getting rid of the “nasty” ants but this year is worse than others. “Because of the warmer winter I’ve been busy for months. You need a good few weeks of frosts and we haven’t had that for five years, so the numbers just keep booming.”

Home owners are sometimes “hysterical” when they call him, with others having to move out of their homes until Shane has destroyed the ants. “We had a lady in The Wood, she would have been in her late 80s, and she woke up with them in her hair, in her ears and down her arm. She rang me and she was hysterical.”

Tasman District Council biosecurity co-ordinator Lindsay Vaughan says the Argentine and Darwin ants are on the march, spreading throughout the district. Lindsay says the ants commonly spread by walking, although they can also travel long distance by inadvertently hitching a ride in a car or in pot plants. “They can walk up to 150 metres a year,” Lindsay says.

Although Biosecurity New Zealand funded a $100,000 baiting programme for the highly invasive ants in Richmond in 2006, Lindsay says it’s too late for eradication because they have become so widespread.

The only step people can take is to control the ants by baiting and spraying around their properties.

“We have to live with them now. If people have a problem with them, they treat their own properties to control their numbers.”

Lindsay says the ants are a nuisance because they can reach plague proportions and invade properties, entering the house and eating food and other insects.
They can also inflict a small bite, especially on small children and old people.

Lindsay says there are a number of pest-eradication companies which can treat properties for the ants. The council website also has a section that provides everything residents need to know about the ants and their treatment.

Argentine and Darwin’s ants are a honey-brown colour when viewed in sunlight. Most of the more common house ants are black.

Shane says, unlike other types of ants, they build satellite nests, which can have hundreds of thousands in each one.

“They can just take over, if you disturb a nest in your garden you’ll have them crawling up your arms, they’re really bad. There can be 400,000 ants in a nest and if you have half a dozen nests on your property, that’s a hell of a lot of ants.”