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Expert Opinion

DTY: Myrmecology

By Dr. Stuart Mitchell

The broad study of ants is called Myrmecology (Greek: Mýrmēx or "ant"). Pest management professionals (PMPs) are well studied as applied Myrmecologists. Ant species are highly organized (socially or eusocially), living in a highly complex form of communal organization. Pest management professionals out compete pestiferous ants through integrated pest management practices.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an environmentally benign process. IPM is mechanistically defined as inspection and investigation, identification, establishing threshold levels, implementing two or more control measures (cultural, physical, mechanical, product application), and evaluation of effectiveness.

Advanced social behavior, efficient terrestrial locomotion, and other evolved characteristics allow ant species unparalleled ecological success. Lacking wings, female worker ants travel by walking. In order to found a formicary (nest), reproductive females lose wings after nuptial flights.

All ant species retain geniculate antennae and are mandibulate (with jaws or mandibles). The petiole (one or two nodes) forms a narrow waist between the mesosoma (thorax plus first abdominal segment) and gaster (abdomen less the abdominal segments of the petiole). Petiolate anatomical articulation coupled with six podites attached to the thorax (each with a hooked tarsal claw--attached to the apex of the tibia) allows ant species unique locomotive competence within virtually any terrestrial topography and architecture.

Locomotive competence places architecturally invading ant species at high pest status. Ant species architectural presence (by forage or formicary) is a nuisance, but more significantly threatens structural integrity, inhabitant health, and food safety.

As food safety antagonists, pestiferous ant species contaminate food preparation areas and preparation surfaces. Foraging into dietary operations, ant species risk food contamination by moving pathogens from filth to foods (significantly increasing the possibility of food borne illnesses of vomiting and diarrhea). Ant infested foods must be discarded to prevent accidental consumption.

Microbial pathogens in food cause an estimated 48 million cases of human illness annually in the U.S. 125,000 people are hospitalized. Up to 3000 deaths result.

Resultant contamination, where food is prepared for purveyance, may result in loss of reputation, civil liability, and/or prosecutions by environmental health departments. Job losses result if premises are shut down.

Pestiferous ant species threats increase as service time and quality decrease! As Myrmecologists, pest management professionals implement PMx = Dx + Rx (pest management = diagnostics + prescriptive products) to mitigate ant species pressures.

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