Controlling Turfgrass Ant Colonies
For a turfgrass entomologist, nothing marks transition into summer better than the arrival of turfgrass ant mounds on close-cut turf on golf courses. Lasius neoniger, commonly referred to as the “turfgrass ant”, is a minute (~ 2- 3 mm), tan to black ant that is seemingly ubiquitous in open fields and turfgrass sites across cool-season growing regions in North America. Ants are present throughout the year, though only truly make their presence known as the colony grows in the early days of summer, and mounds appear within the interior portions of greens, tees, and fairways. Managing turfgrass ants is difficult at best, as many superintendents report unsatisfactory control with insecticides. Additionally, it is believed that turfgrass ant issues have intensified dramatically since the 1990s, as broad-spectrum insecticides used in white grub management have been phased out (e.g. organochlorines) and newer, more selective insecticides (e.g. neonicotinoids and anthranilic diamides) have taken their place (Werle 1999). Despite their obvious downsides, turfgrass ants play a vital role in the functioning of a healthy turfgrass environment. What is often forgotten is that these insects are tirelessly at work, churning the soil and reducing some of our more common turfgrass insect pest populations. Clearly, controlling these nuisance ants comes with its trade-offs.