Ants: Facts, Identification & Control
Ants are the number one pest problem in the country. Ant control can be difficult, but there are some things you should know about how ants’ behavior can lead to big headaches for you and your home:
Entry: Ants can enter through even the tiniest cracks, seeking water and sweet or greasy food substances in the kitchen pantry or storeroom areas.
Scent trails:Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.
Nest locations: They can nest about anywhere in and around your house; in lawns, walls, stumps, even under foundations.
Colony size: Can number up to 300,000 to 500,000 and whole colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
Colony Lifetime: A colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
Do-it-yourself ineffectiveness: Most do-it-yourself ant control approaches only kill the ants you see. Some truly effective treatments can penetrate and destroy nests to help prevent these pests from returning. Also, home remedies don’t account for the fact that different kinds of ant infestations require different treatments.
Other Types of Ants
The anoplolepis gracilipes are also known as yellow crazy ants as a result of their frantic movements and erratic behavior. While this species originated in Southwest Africa, it is known worldwide as an invasive species and environmental pest.
This species of adult crazy ants are yellow or tan in color and measure approximately 55 millimeters in length. Worker ants are the smallest caste of their colonies, measuring between two to three millimeters each. Crazy ants’ bodies have 12 segments without a club, and their antennae are elongated. The eyes of the crazy ant are elliptical and convex, positioned close to the posterior borders of their heads. A crazy ant’s legs are extremely long and its head, thorax, gaster and petiole are brown to black in color. While both male and female crazy ants have wings, males are rarely seen in flight and females shed their wings after mating.
Crazy ant workers are omnivorous, feeding on both dead and live insects, honeydew produced from insects, fruits, plant secretions, seeds and a variety of household food items. Crazy ants prefer high-protein diets, and are capable of killing large prey. Workers also gather food from agricultural crops, such as tobacco or lettuce, and feed on human foods such as fruits, vegetables, sweets, meats, grease and liquids. During colder seasons, crazy ants prefer sweet items, while in warmer seasons; crazy ants feed primarily on proteins.
Crazy ants are highly versatile, living in both moist and dry habitats. They nest in rotten wood, soil, the cavities of trees and plants, trash and under rocks and buildings. Crazy ants cannot survive extremely cold climates and will likely infest houses and buildings when weather changes.
Crazy ant nests can be located by following workers as they carry food back to their colonies. Crazy ant colonies are small in number, containing 1,500 to 2,500 individuals. However, each colony houses between 10 and 30 queens. Entire colonies will follow a queen to a new nesting site.
Crazy ants may be more difficult to control than other ant species because they dwell both indoors and outdoors. In addition, crazy ants forage long distances from their nests, making it difficult to identify their colonies.
Little Black Ants
The scientific name of the little black ant is monomorium minimum. Little black ants are small and dark brown, black or jet-black in color. Little black ants are a native species found throughout the United States, with concentrations in areas of the US such as Southern California, the San Francisco Bay area and eastern states.
Worker little black ants can be as small as one millimeter in length, and queens can measure up to four millimeters. Their antennae consist of twelve segments and end in a three-segmented club. Their pedicel is two-segmented. Little black ants have no spines and their bodies are unevenly rounded. Although little black ants bear a stinger, it is too small to be effective against most threats. Both males and queens have wings before mating season, though males die soon after mating and females shed their wings.
Little black ants prefer meat, but they are omnivorous and will eat insects, sweets, honeydew, vegetables, grease or oily foods, corn meals and plant secretions as well. Little black ant workers forage in trails, which are frequently seen along sidewalks and foundation walls.
Little black ant colonies have moderate to large populations, with two or more queens in one colony. Little black ant swarms are common from June to August, during which time mating occurs and queens form new colonies. Newly-established colonies grow rapidly. Outside, they build nests in areas such as woodwork voids, rotting logs, cracks in cement, lawns and open areas. Indoors, the little black ant can be located in wooden items as well as in walls and the junction between the carpet and walls.
When infestation occurs, gaps and cracks in exterior walls should be sealed. It is important to remove decaying wood, firewood and other debris surrounding a home or building if an infestation is suspected. While it is difficult to see little black ants due their small size, their nests can be located by following the trail of a worker ant back to its colony. Pest control experts provide the most effective treatment of little black ant infestations.