Ants are considered to be one of the most successful insects on earth. With over ten thousand different species of ant, they are highly adaptable creatures that are extremely difficult to control once they infest an area. Considered pests around the home due to their tendency to feed on and contaminate human food, create ugly mounds in lawns and infest and cause damage to structures. Some species of ant can inflict painful bites and stings. No species of ant feeds on or attacks fabrics, wood or leather, but depending on the species (particularly Carpenter ants) can cause as much or more damage to wood than a colony of termites.
Ants can be identified from other insects largely because they have a narrow waist and have one or two joints between the thorax and the abdomen. Winged reproductive ants have four wings, the first pair being a good deal larger than the second. There may be some difficulty in determining whether your infestation is a termite or ant colony (termites are often called "white ants"). The following are distinctions between winged ants and winged termites:
Ants are social insects, meaning they live in colonies that typically have three castes, workers, queens and males. In ant biology, the queens and males are reproductives.
In an ant colony, workers are sterile females. Workers seldom have wings and are constantly doing what their name implies--working. They construct, repair and defend the nest, and are also expected to feed and care for the rest of the colony including the young, the other adults and the queen.
The queen is usually winged until she first mates, at which time the wings are shed. The primary function of the queen is to reproduce, but in some species she will care for her first brood of workers until the colony's numbers increase. A queen can live and reproduce for many years and may be replaced eventually by a daughter queen.
Males are typically winged and will retain those wings until death. The sole function of a male ant is to mate with an unfertilized female reproductive or queen. After fertilization occurs, the male dies. Once maturity is reached, males rarely remain with their original colony.
All ants undergo complete metamorphosis, passing through four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
Eggs are nearly microscopic in size and will hatch into a soft larvae. Completely helpless, having no legs, larvae are fed and cared for by worker ants who will do so with a process called trophallaxis. Trophallaxis means a worker will use regurgitated food that has been previously stored in its crop for communal storage. Pupa resembles an adult in shape, but it is soft, colorless and cannot move. It may take between six to eight weeks for an egg to develop into an adult ant.
Food and Diet
Most ants can and will eat most anything, but there are some species that have specialized tastes. For instance, carpenter ants prefer sugars, honeydew from aphids, dead and living insects, and meats. Crazy ants prefer sweets, proteins and other insects as well, while Fire ants also enjoy seeds and plants as a part of their diet.
All ant species use scouts in order to find food. When a worker/scout finds food, she will bring back a portion of it to the colony. They require water in order for colonies to survive, and will travel great distances in order to get it. Workers will bring the water back to the nest in their stomachs for the rest of the colony.
Prevention and Ant Control
Prevention is truly the best line of defense against the infestation of any pest insect. A thorough inspection of a home and yard can reveal potential infestation problems and possible solutions for the infestation.
Cleanliness is most defiantly the best tool in the prevention approach. Any food or food particles are a major attraction to ants. Cleaning up quickly and storing food in air tight containers is critical. It is also important to seek out and repair any moisture problems in the home. Check for condensation problems and leaks and have them rectified as quickly as possible.
Indoors, ants will nest in walls, behind baseboards and beneath the foundation of the house. Carpenters ants in particular will especially seek out decaying or moist wood and create galleries for nesting purposes. Smaller ant species can fit through the smallest cracks and holes in order to gain access to a home.
Ants that are typically considered as pests that can become household pests are Pharaoh Ants, Carpenter Ants, Argentine Ants, and Red Imported Fire Ants.
Pest Control - Interesting Facts
Latest industry estimates place the annual cost of damage and treatment of termites at $5 billion worldwide.