THE first phase of a country-wide programme to tackle Acoushi ants is ongoing by the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI). A more expansive programme will be rolled out to aggressively tackle the Acoushi ants’ challenge in 2021, says Dr. Oudho Homenauth, Chief Executive Officer of NAREI.
Acoushi drugger or leaf-cutting ants are major pests wherever they occur. They can, therefore, be considered as general insect pests and are usually rated as the most destructive insect in the Americas, the only Region where they occur.
Following numerous complaints of the devastating impact of the pest on crops, particularly cassava, NAREI dispatched a team in Hururu. Extension staffers cleared and fogged over 85 nests within the community. The execution of this activity was achieved through collaboration between the village council, farmers and NAREI. Farmers were instrumental in the identification and clearing of the nests before fogging and blocking of holes while fogging.
Some other areas that have benefitted from chemicals, ants bait, and fogging include Parima, Region Seven, Wakapoa, Region Two and Canal Polder, Region Three.
They are familiarly known in Guyana as leaf-cutting, fungus-growing and mound-building ants. They are highly polyphagous i.e. destroying most crop species. The plant material that they cut is not utilised directly as food; rather, it is used as a substrate for a fungus which the ants cultivate and consume. The fact that the vegetation is used only as a base material for the insect’s only food, the fungus allows them to exploit a wide range of plant species.
Baiting is the recommended method of control for acoushi ants. It exploits the insect’s feeding behaviour. Like the vegetation which is cut and carried back to the nests, bait picked up by the ants is taken back to the nest to be used as a substrate for the fungus which is the ants’ only food. Bait consists of a toxicant or poison and a carrier which is usually a material that the insects find attractive. The material must be attractive since this determines the degree of acceptance of the bait by the insects.
The Acoushi ant bait is recommended to control the pineapple ants. This bait must be crushed in the bag to break the pellets into smaller pieces. Before the crushed bait is placed in the field, the area should be weeded so the nests present are exposed. During the rainy weather, the bait should be placed in a glass jar or aluminum foil packets to prevent wetting. Nests which are away from the plant should be disturbed and the bait placed close to, but not in the nests. Ant nests which are on the plant should be disturbed to agitate the ants and the crushed bait placed at the base of the plant. The ants will then take the bait back to their nests where control will occur.
According to Dr. Homenauth, this pest cannot be eradicated but with proper management, their presence could be reduced.