Do you have ant problems? Ants can easily find their way inside your home and help themselves to any available food source. Learn about different species of ants you may find in your home, as well as the way they operate as a colony. TERRO® offers effective ant prevention and control solutions for inside and outside your home!
What Are Ants?
Ants are recognizable by the constriction between the abdomen and thorax, which resembles a narrow waist. A hard armor, called an exoskeleton, covers the outside of their bodies. There are more than 10,000 known species of ants living throughout the world.
Most ants are either red or black in color, and their length can be anywhere from less than 1/20” to 2” long. Like other insects, ants have six legs and each has three joints. Ants also have large heads with compound eyes, elbowed antennae and powerful jaws.
Ants live in complex societies known as colonies, which have been a source of study for scientists due to their remarkable communication, division of labor among the occupants and ability to problem-solve. This research also led to a popular hobby with ant farms!
People are often at odds with ants because of their tendency to invade our homes and cause damage to crops and other plant life. In some cultures, however, ants are used in medicine and even food!
What Attracts Ants?
Like many other insects, ants are attracted to a home for three main reasons: food, shelter and moisture. As for food, ants enjoy eating many of the same foods that we do, particularly sweet or sugary foods, starches, meats and anything greasy. They also enjoy feeding on honeydew, a sugary waste produced from sap-feeding insects such as aphids. Ants often enter our homes to forage for these treats to take back to their nests. If they find a desirable food source, they’ll keep returning for more.
In addition, they may be drawn to our homes for the shelter it offers. This is especially true for ants that frequently reside inside, such as carpenter ants, odorous house ants and pavement ants. These species may build nests inside walls, foundations or other available structures in your home. Outside your home, ants find refuge in the soil, inside trees and other protected locations.
Lastly, ants are attracted to moisture, which they require for survival. They may find this in the soil outside, or around leaky pipes or in damp corners inside your house.
What is an Ant Colony?
Founded by a queen ant, a colony is the structured nest in which ants live. These nests can exist in many locations in and around your house, including your yard, garden, walls and under the foundation. The species determines their precise habitat. They may live underground as far as 25-feet deep in the earth, in mounds built at ground level, in wood structures, or in plants and trees. Ants typically use soil and plant matter to construct nests.
The term “colony” also describes the way ants organize their society. A colony can be home to thousands of ants and it continues to grow until it reaches the optimal size and population. At this peak population point, the queen begins to produce new males and fertile females, also known as alates, which leave to establish new colonies, with some of the females becoming queens. A colony can survive for many years, usually until the queen dies.
Be careful not to confuse an anthill with an ant colony. Although these recognizable structures serve as a colony’s entrance and exit, the colony itself may extend much deeper underground. The hills are made up of dirt, clay, sand and other materials that are excavated while building the colony. In addition, the mound-like structure helps to prevent the materials from sliding back into the colony, maintains the nest’s temperature and protects against intruders.
The Ant Life Cycle
The ant life cycle has four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Depending on the ant species or even the environment, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for ants to complete the entire metamorphosis.
- Egg – Fertile females, otherwise known as queen ants, are responsible for choosing a protected place to begin a colony and lay eggs. The oval eggs are transparent white in color and are a mere 1/2mm in diameter.
- Larva – Approximately one or two weeks after eggs are laid, they hatch into larvae. This stage consists of a small legless body, which looks similar to a grub. During this stage, worker ants tirelessly feed and groom the helpless larva. Workers feed the hungry larvae by regurgitating their own digested food.
- Pupa – This stage occurs after the larvae have molted a few times. The pupae closely resemble adult ants, with the exception of their folded antennae. At the beginning of this stage, pupae retain their whitish color from the larvae stage. However, they become darker, resembling their adult coloring, as they age.
- Adult – There are typically three types of adult ants living in the colony: queen ants, worker ants and drone ants.
Queen Ants are the largest ants in the colony. They have wings and their purpose is to lay eggs. In some species, a queen ant can live up to 30 years. Depending on the ant species and the nest community size, there may be more than one queen in the colony – these nests are known as polygyne.
Female Ants are smaller than the queen ant. They are also wingless and infertile. Females result from fertilized eggs and live an average of several months to a few years, depending on the species. Also known as workers or soldiers, female ants care for the eggs, tend to the larvae, build and repair the nest, forage for food and protect the colony.
Male Ants develop from unfertilized eggs. Also called drones, male ants have wings and are fertile to allow them to mate with the queen. Male ants are much smaller than females and have longer antennae. The males only emerge from the colony for one day in order to mate. They usually die 10 to 14 days after mating.
Amazing Ant Facts
Ants are some of the most fascinating and widespread creatures to roam the earth. There’s no shortage of interesting tidbits about these creepy crawlers, so here are just a few amazing facts:
- Some species of ants have been in existence for around 100 million years. Ants survived a mass extinction event known as Cretaceous-Tertiary, which scientists say wiped out many dinosaurs and other prehistoric animal species approximately 65 million years ago.
- Ants are literally everywhere! Unless you live in the Arctic, Antarctica or on one of a handful of remote islands, you’ll likely have at least one ant species to deal with. Hawaiians have to put up with at least 50 known ant species!
- Although you probably won’t see an ant pumping iron at your local gym, don’t take their tiny size as a sign of weakness. Ants’ unique physiology enables them to lift objects around 20 times their own body weight.
- Ants take the spirit of cooperation to a completely new level. As many as 50 million ants can come together to function as one highly organized, efficient colony.
- Ants are no dummies. One tiny ant can have as many as 250,000 brain cells, so a colony of 40,000 ants collectively has the same number of brain cells as a human.
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