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Ants Invade New York

By: Zhihan Jiang

Swarms of ants are appearing above ground in apartments and other tall buildings in New York City. Lasius Emarginatus however, normally nests in the ground.

The Lasius Emarginatusis is an ant species from Europe that was first spotted in the U.S. in New York in 2010. They have a reddish-brown thorax, along with a dark brown head and abdomen. These ants thrive in urban cities like New York, causing them to be nicknamed the ManhattAnt.

Katie Guhl went traveling and left her apartment near the end of May, leaving it clean and spotless when she left. When she came back, however, she found swarms of ants in her kitchen. “There were no crumbs to be had,” she said.

Unlike cockroaches, which are common in New York City’s buildings, ants are not fans of high ground and prefer places with a lot of dirt, like parks and yards.

Samantha Kennett, a graduate student from the Kennesaw State University, studies urban ant ecology. Specifically, she studies the species Lasius Emarginatusis, the one that has been crawling around recently. “My research focuses on understanding how this ant, who is now one of the most common ants in New York City, has been able to be so successful, surviving in highly urban habitats,” she said.

“It forages in trees,” Ms. Kennett explained. “It climbs a lot. They found it in second-story buildings in Europe.” Now, as it expands its habitat, it appears to be scaling the structures of New York City. Dr. Rob Dunn, a professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University, theorizes that the ants are looking for water and are not there to stay.

When ants live in urban habitats like this, they tend to shift their diets and eat more human foods. This ant, however, does not eat human foods but instead eats other insects and honeydew, a sweet, sugary nectar produced by aphids and other tree pests.

Although the ants are tough, they still have weaknesses. They die to liquid ant bait fairly quickly, but Jerry Walsh of Mayday Hardware in Prospect Heights warned that he did not recommend powerful ant baits for inside a home. “The ant does not drop dead on the spot. They will carry that poison wherever they travel. So you don’t want that going over your clean dishware. You’ll think that you have a 24 hour stomach virus when indeed what you’re experiencing is a mild case of stomach poisoning.”

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