Which Ones are Pests
Several types of ants can be on an orchard floor, but only a couple are of concern to almond growers. “We have two broad groups of ants,” Integrated Pest Management Advisor Kris Tollerup says. “We have a few different species of fire ant and then there’s the pavement ant. Those two groups of ants are extremely important in almonds because they feed directly on the nuts.”
Tollerup held an ant identification field day and says there are a lot of ant types that aren’t protein eaters. “Like the native grey ant, sometimes called a field ant. It’s very predominant in a field like we’re in today,” Tollerup says. “However, it’s not a species you need to worry about. It’s not going to feed directly on those nuts. In other crops such as grapes, it is a pest in those crops.”
Identifying Your Ants
Identifying those problematic ants for almonds isn’t terribly tough and Tollerup says there are specific things to look for. “There are some really distinct characteristics,” Tollerup says. “One of the ones that I like to point out and is relatively easy to do is to look at whether the ant has one node or two nodes on the petiole. The fire ant typically has a red body and dark abdomen with a small opening on its nest and sometimes multiple openings. As compared to the native grey ant that has bigger holes with kind of a grey furry abdomen and a herky-jerky foraging behavior. You put all of these together and you can determine, with a pretty good degree of certainty, whether you are identifying that ant correctly.”
Tollerup added that the University of California IPM website has great visual references to help identify ants.