Texas is home to numerous arthropod pest species that damage vegetation in residential yards. Some of these pests include chinch bugs, spider mites, fleas and many grub and caterpillar species. Some insect pests of this sort also inflict unsightly and economically significant damage to lawn grass, such as the red-imported fire ant. However, very few insect pests in the state are capable of damaging trees and houses in addition to lawns and garden plants, but leafcutter ants happen to fit the bill. During the mid 2000s, leaf cutter damage to properties in east, south and central Texas became a serious issue. During this time, the rate of leaf cutter ant infestations on residential properties began to skyrocket, and many infestations became extensive enough to damage the foundation of homes. The reason for the sudden increase in this species’ pest activity was largely due to the discontinuation of over-the-counter insecticides that homeowners had come to rely on to combat infestations. Today, leaf cutter ants have spread to most areas of Texas where they continue to stubbornly maintain infestations despite efforts to eradicate the pests from properties.
Leaf cutter ants cause more lawn damage than any other native ant pest in the US, and this is partly due to the massive size of their colonies, which can grow to contain 2 million individual specimens. These ants inhabit colonies that span great distances below the ground in urban, suburban and rural areas, and they strip the leaves off of countless plant species, including trees. Leaf cutter ants transport the foliage they collect to their subterranean colonies where they use the plant matter to cultivate fungus gardens. This fungus is fed to larval specimens and it is the only form of food that these ant pests eat. This makes leaf cutter ants difficult to eradicate from properties, as they tend to ignore baits, even sugar baits, and unfortunately, baits are the only way to control subterranean pests that build extensive colony tunnels over large areas of land deep below the ground. Leaf cutter ants also excavate sizable open ditches on properties, and when these dithces are excavated below homes, the foundation can crack due to the uneven weight distribution.
Have you ever had an ant infestation in your yard?