Over the past few years, an Asian species of ant being commonly referred to as the ‘electric’ ant has made several appearances in the UK, with colonies being reported in in London, Yorkshire, Cambridge and Gloucestershire.
Originating from Turkey, the Lasius Neglectus appears to be liking what it sees in the UK, as three colonies have been found so far this year alone.
The Electric Ant
The electric ant gets its name from the fact that it likes to reside in plug sockets and junction boxes. It is unknown whether the ant is attracted to electricity itself, or just the small dark spaces that are found in these locations.
Living in gigantic colonies, which can contain millions of ants, they build interconnected nests, each one containing its own queen, and can span an area of up to 50 acres. One of the largest ever was reported in Spain containing 112 million workers and 350,000 queens.
Despite coming from warmer climes, this new ant species can survive quite happily in temperatures as low as -5 degrees, so our temperamental weather patterns cause no problem whatsoever.
Threats of the Electric Ant
Although six reported colonies of electric ants is far from an invasion, given their very similar appearance to the common garden ant, it is thought that there are probably far more that are going unnoticed… and in large numbers there are various threats to consider.
The first electric ant colony to be found in the UK was in 2009 at Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire; 35,000 ants were found in a junction box. Their choice of electrical hidey-holes as their preferred habitats comes with a threat of electrical blackouts and even fire.
Pest Control Issues for Gardeners
Any avid gardener will tell you that one of their worst enemies is the aphid and they spend most of their summer trying to control the pest. Whilst we have recently praised wasps for the part they play in the natural pest control of aphids during the early summer months, electric ants do just the opposite.
Electric ants actually ‘farm’ aphids for their ability to excrete a sugary liquid that serves as a source of energy for the ants. In a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ scenario, the ants protect the aphids from predators such as ladybirds and the aphids provide the ants with their daily sugar fix!
However great for the aphids the electric ants are, the more common garden ants are not so keen, nor is the ecosystem.
Dark-brown and 3-6mm in size, the electric ants are very similar in appearance to garden ants. Although they cause no harm to humans whatsoever, faced with the common garden ant, they become very aggressive and will fight for territory by swarming and biting. What’s more, they will win. In studies carried so far, images have been collected where the electric ants are seen to be forcibly excluding the garden ants.
This causes significant concern that existence of the garden ant could become endangered, which would be highly detrimental to the lifecycle of other creatures such as woodpeckers and butterflies, as well as our ecosystem.
Pest Control and the Electrical Ant
All in all, the arrival of the electric ant seems to have brought with it a number of potential problems, and therefore should be treated with the same pest control as any other.
If you suspect that you have a colony of electric ants in or around your London property, then Top Dog Pest Control will be able to attend to first identify the ants, and then carry out the necessary treatment before they cause havoc to your electrics or damage to your garden.
Author: This article was written by Dean Mannion, Senior Pest Control Technician for Top Dog Pest Control. Top Dog London Pest Control provides London ant control services.