Category Archives: Ants

How Ants Live

Ants are eusocial insects meaning they live with the highest level of organisation of animal sociality. Demonstrating cooperative brood care for the offspring of other individuals, overlapping generations within a colony of adults, and a division of labour into reproductive and non-reproductive groups. This complex social organization and structured division of labour created various castes that perform specialised behavioural duties. The different castes within a colony include; egg laying queens and reproductive males that take the roles as the sole reproducers while the soldiers and workers work together to create a living situation favourable for the brood (eggs, larvae & pupae).

Most of the workers found in the nest are females, wingless and sterile but do not lay eggs. The workers are responsible for construction & maintenance of the nest, foraging, tending the brood & the queen & to defend the nest in any crucial circumstances. Male and winged queens have a shorter duration in their nest, soon after emerging they leave the nest to mate and establish new nests. Queens usually have a larger body, which differentiates them from the workers. Male are either the same size as the queen or are smaller, in many cases males look more like wasps than ants.

Ant eggs hatch into pale, legless, grub-like larvae that are fed and tended to by the workers. When they are fully-grown, the ant larvae transforms into a non-feeding pupae that are either naked or, more frequently, enclosed within a cocoon. All the new worker ants emerge from the pupae stage.

Colonies are structured nest communities created by the ants which may be located underground, in ground level mounds, or in trees. Ant species found living in cool temperate regions, or in hot deserts frequently nest underground, where their colonies are insulated from extreme temperatures.

Ants become a pest to humans when they start to establish colonies inside the wall cavities and roof voids of peoples homes.

Read Next: How Ants Set Up a New Colony

How Ants Setup a New Colony

Ant sizes

Ant communities are ruled by the queen and usually she is the single individual who begins the nest. Her function in life is to lay thousands of eggs and ensure the survival of the colony. Tall trees, large shrubs or hilltops are the meeting places for queens and males from many different nests, ensuring they can find each other. Once mated, she begins the search for a nest, where the search takes place will vary depending on the species and can range from the top of trees to open soil. The queen bites off her wings once she finds a suitable nest, as the wings won’t be needed any longer.

Once settled in the nest she lays small batch of eggs and remains with the brood while it develops. The initial workers are smaller since the queen could only provide limited amount of food. The colony grows as the workers mature and at this stage the queen reduces her activities to egg laying and the workers assume all other task in the nest. This is one of the most common and widespread patterns of the nest founding, however it may vary from species to species. As the colony reaches maturity, it begins to produce reproductive queens & males, which will ultimately form the next generation.

Once established an individual nest can last for many years. Queens are known to live the longest, up to 23 years in captivity, although they are likely to be more short lived in the wild. The process for replacing the queen varies from species to species. Established colonies would produce or accept new queens if the existing queen dies, whereas some species add additional queens as the colony grows.

Each colony is made up of ants at different stages in their life cycle.

Read Next: The Ant Life Cycle

The Ant Lifecycle

The life cycle of an ant has four distinct and very different life stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. This process is known as complete metamorphosis. It generally takes from several weeks to several months to complete the life cycle, depending upon the ant species and environmental factors.

A female reproductive ant that successfully mates with a male ant will become a queen ant that lays eggs. The fertile queen will then select a sheltered place to begin a nest (colony) and before starting to lay eggs. Ant eggs are oval in shape, white and transparent in colour and normally very small, measuring only about a half of a millimetre in diameter. This egg stage usually lasts approximately 1-2 weeks.

Ant larvae emerge from the egg stage legless and grub-like in appearance. The ant larvae have an insatiable appetite, so the adult ants spend much of their time feeding the larvae with food and liquids they digest and regurgitate. The larvae will eventually moult and shed their skin to transform into the pupal stage.

Initially, ant pupae are usually white, but slowly become darker in colour as they age. The pupae look somewhat like adults, however their legs and antennae are folded and pressed against the pupal body. Depending upon the ant species, pupae may be housed in a protective cocoon. Once the pupal stage is complete, the adult ant emerges.

Adult ants are fully grown at the time of emergence, but will darken in colour with age. An adult ant will be one of three different colony castes; queens, workers or males. Queens are fertile females that lay all the eggs in a colony. Workers are females that do not reproduce, but do gather food; feed the larvae; and maintain and clean the nest. Workers are wingless, and it is the worker stage that is seen foraging around for food or defending the colony from intruders. The male ants are winged, but their only job is to mate with the queens during the swarming process.

Fig. a typical myrmicine ant in side view with the major structures labeled.
Fig. a typical myrmicine ant in side view with the major structures labeled.

Besides being a general nuisance ants become a seriously pesky pest when they bite.

Read Next: Ants that Bite

Ants That Bite

Although small in size an ant’s bite can inflict a large amount of pain, which could lead to severe allergic reactions. Some species of ants that are known to inflict a painful bite include:

  • Banded Sugar Ants – this species is known for its strong mandibles.
  • Giant Bull Ants & Jumper Ants – these species display highly aggressive behaviour and have a powerful sting that can cause serious allergic reactions and fatalities.
  • Greenhead Ants – the painful sting of this species is known to produce severe allergic reactions in some people.
  • Red Imported Fire Ants – this species display highly aggressive behaviour, its sting produces a raised pustule and can cause serious allergic reactions in some people that can lead to fatalities.
  • Meat Ant – this species do not sting, but can give a painful bite.

If you are ever bitten by one of these ants you will be able to provide yourself with some relief if you know how to treat an ant bite.

Read Next: Treating Ant Bites

Treating Ant Bites

Some general methods used to treat ant bites and stings include:

  • Washing the bitten area with soap and water, before applying an antiseptic if available.
  • Applying a cold pack to the area to relieve pain and prevent swelling.
  • If there is severe swelling or itching, take paracetamol or antihistamine tablets (to reduce swelling, redness or itch).
  • Ensuring the patients tetanus vaccination is up to date.

Even if an individual has been bitten by ants before, you need to keep an eye on the following symptoms as they may indicate a serious allergic or anaphylactic reaction to the ants bite or sting that will require urgent medical attention:

  • Red blotches on the skin or an itchy rash over the body.
  • Swelling in parts of the body away from the stung area, especially the lips & around eyes.
  • Feeling faint, light headed or dizzy.
  • Breathing difficulties such as wheeze or shortness of breath.
  • Chest Tightness.

If you have been bitten or stung by an ant you should seek medical advice if you develop any other symptoms or signs of infection.

To stop ants from biting you and your family or from being a general nuisance. Seek a comprehensive professional grade treatment from Federal Pest Control, contact us for a quote. If you would like to know more about the treatment your Federal Pest Control techncian willl carry out…..

Read Next: Ant Treatment by Federal Pest Control

How to get rid of ants

Ants become a pest most commonly when they enter out homes while scavenging for food and water. A number of species can make use of the space in your house to form a nest frequently using areas such as your wall cavities, or even within electrical appliances. Other species nest within timber, but Australian ant species can only they excavate only rotten wood (unlike termites which are able to damage sound timber).

Black House Ants are the most common species found in Queensland homes. These tiny black ants quickly discover food and can recruit a large number of workers to return it to their nest.

The nest building of species of ants such as Green-Head Ants, and in particular, Pasture Funnel Ants can cause havoc with lawns, playing fields and gold courses. This is because they create ‘volcanoes’ of soil, brought to the surface after rain that can smother the lawn. When these mounds of soil occur in high densities they are not only unsightly but can make tasks such as mowing difficult to complete.

The main affinity for ants is food; they are attracted to sweet and sticky substances. There are many natural ways to deter ants, but these solutions are by no means 100% guaranteed or long term, only working to resolve mild problems for short time frames. To stop ants completely the root cause has to be eradicated, which means eliminating the entire colony of ants.