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In the United States, it is not uncommon for homeowners to take pride in their well manicured lawns. Even the act of painstakingly mowing one’s lawn while dripping sweat under the blaring summer sun is treated as a weekly ritual that invites contentment and satisfaction. Therefore, if a dutiful landscaper wakes one morning to find his/her sacred lawn in tatters, the experience can be distressful to say the least. In this case, it may seem clear to the traumatized homeowner that a mischievous wild animal must have burrowed into their yard during the night. Depending on the nature of the damage, a common wildlife pest, like a gopher, could be the culprit, but as it happens, even tiny insect pests can uproot grass and excavate soil on residential lawns. Insect pests are almost always to blame for damaged lawns that contain several dirt mounds, and the size as well as the particular features of these mounds can indicate which type of insect/s pests was responsible for the damage. In some cases, the insect culprits are not likely to continue inflicting damage to properties, but in many cases, they will not stop until the insect pests are removed or eradicated.

Everyone has seen small sized ant mounds with an entry/exit hole located at the peak, but these forgettable mounds are insignificant when compared to the nesting mounds constructed by the Allegheny mound ant that is abundant in Massachusetts. The mounds constructed by these ants are not completed in a single night, as it takes a colony around two years to build a mound that is three and a half feet in height and 18 feet in width. It would take five months for a moderately sized colony to build a mound 8 inches high and 2 feet wide. The Allegheny mound ant excavates soil several feet below the ground in order to construct extensive tunnel networks. In order to expand the base of their mounds, the Allegheny mound ant produces formic acid which they spray into the environment in order to kill nearby vegetation. In fact, this toxic compound can kill trees, shrubs and all other forms of vegetation within 40 to 50 feet of a large mound. Even trees that are less than two years old and as tall as 8 feet can die from the formic acid emitted by these ants. These ants also make spending time on a mound-infested lawn a hazard, as these ants are easily aggravated by human activity and they will bite those who come too close to their mounds. Allegheny mound ant colonies grow rapidly and most new colonies are established during May and June within Massachusetts.

Have you ever sustained ant bites as a result of being in close proximity to a nesting mound of any size?