Guy Coupé and his family came home Monday from a weekend vacation to discover they were the victims of a house invasion. Each of the several thousand invaders had six legs, two antenna and a pair of wings, and most of them were on the roof of the house they had decided to make their mating ground. “They literally looked like they were rolling,” Guy said. “When we got into the house, we saw that some were in the house and they seemed to have turned silver. Then we realized they came down the chimney and walked through the ash and that’s what we were seeing.”
Guy said they sprayed the chimney with roach and ant killer and that eliminated the passage of new ants down the chimney.
“It may have been the odor of the insecticide that kept any more of them from coming down the chimney,” he said.
Guy’s wife, Sarah, looked on the Internet and found pictures and information about what she believed the ants to be. That information led them to believe the swarm of insects were intent on mating and that the swarm had landed randomly on their roof.
Sam McCallum, who owns a pest control service in Hobbs, didn’t disagree with the family’s assessment of the reason for the swarm but was uncertain about whether it was accurate.
“This happens every spring,” McCallum said. “I always urge people not to spray the ants because they will all go away in a day or two. And I don’t know if they’re mating. I never asked one,” he laughed.
Guy said the ants were not aggressive. Neither he nor his wife nor any their seven children suffered any sting or bite even though “we got plenty of ants on us. We were afraid at first. They had covered the roof and the chimney and made it look like the roof and chimney were moving,” Guy said.
Judy Yeager at Taylor’s Pest Control said the people at her firm are familiar with the swarms of ants.
“They come around nearly every spring,” Judy said. “They swarm somebody’s house and it scares the people who live there. They might get into food that you’ve left out on the counter, but they don’t sting or bite. Eventually, they just go away. They aren’t termites or carpenter ants, so they don’t do any harm. They aren’t an emergency, but people are sometimes really scared of them.”
Guy said he thought Tuesday morning that most of the ants were dead or dying.
“But then the sun came up and it warmed up and now they’re active again,” he said. “But there are not as many of them as there were. They seem to be more active when it gets warm.”
State entomologist Carol Sutherland said Wednesday that the ants were likely to be harvest ants.
‘When they swarm like this, it’s usually after a big rain,” she said. “They come out of their nest and look for a place that’s higher than where they’ve been. And the color of the house may have something to do with where they land.”
During the swarm, the ants are unlikely to bite or sting warm blooded creatures. “Instead, they are fighting for the right to mate and if you look, you will see body parts scattered around,” Carol added. “They bite each other’s heads off or tear them in two in the middle. If those parts fall in the dirt or in the grass, predators who are scavengers will clean them up.”
After the swarm, when the ants have established a nest, they will bite warm blooded creatures.
“Their bite is very strong and the venom they have can create a sizable welt on a person,” Sutherland said. “It’s best to avoid them after the swarm.” By Thursday morning, Guy said that a lot of the ants had relocated to under a wooden deck in their back yard and under some nestles of pine needles in the front yard. He said he’s giving it one more day to make that decision.
“I still haven’t called an exterminator,” Guy said Wednesday morning. “Today there’s less of them. We’ll just wait and see what happens.”