A Glimpse Into Ants: Species and Distribution

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Ants can live almost anywhere and are one of the most abundant creatures one Earth at well over 10,000 different species. Within each species, there are usually many different types.  Throughout some regions of the world near the equator, there may be around 1,500 different species just in a single region.

In the US, norther states average around 60-200 species, while some southern states can have up to 500 different ant species to choose from. This can make treating for ants difficult as each species may require a unique form of treatment to remove them from an area.

If you’d like to avoid ants altogether, you might want to head to Greenland, Iceland, or Antarctica. Interestingly enough, while almost every country across the globe has some kind of native ant species these places don’t.

Basic Biology of ants

The body structure of an ant is typical of almost all insects: six-legged, with a tough, outside skeleton, called the exoskeleton which encases its three separate body segments.  It also has two, multi-purpose antennae, and unlike most other insects, ants have a waist, making them easier to identify.  The ant’s exoskeleton protects it from the weather, injury and water loss.

Did you know that ants are super strong? Insects with external skeletons have great strength for their size which allows them to carry objects many times their weight.  An ant’s muscle mass is much denser and compact compared to humans and ants can easily lift 10 to 50 times their own weight. That would be like an average human lifting a car with ease!

Ants are social insects that live in colonies. Each individual ant has it’s own unique job and role throughout the colony. However, the colony works together as one and form almost a superorganism or hive mind where they all support each other for the good of the whole.

Ant colonies include one or more queen, as well as workers, eggs, larvae, and pupae.  The worker ants maintain their developed structures known as nests.  Nests protect the ants against their enemies, offer some protection against weather, and are often placed close to water and food sources.

Ants put family first. This is a survival mechanism evolved trait that has made ants as a species so successful. It’s not about each individual ant and how well they can live and survive, it’s always about how successful can the colony be and thrive. This is another reason why it can be so difficult to get rid of ants when they get into your home.

Ants seemingly deal with death similar to humans. Fallen comrades are left where they die for a period of time – typically 2 days. While it may appear that this is the funeral and wake time for fellow grieving ants, it is actually the time it takes for an ant corpse to release oleic acid letting the surrounding ants know that it is time to carry this dead ant off to the colonies graveyard, or pile of dead ants.

Some ant species nest in the ground, often under concrete or slabs.  Some species are found in wood, such as fence posts, dead logs, hollow trees, or within buildings.  Ants cannot eat wood like termites can because they can’t digest cellulose.

 

Why Ants enter your home

Ants are always looking to grow and expand their colony, so food is a major requirement to make that happen. If you aren’t careful, you could be giving ants and their colony easy access to food without knowing it.

Ants will get inside structures through a variety of ways, but the most common way is through cracks and crevices around your home. Insects like ants can get in the smallest of areas. Most insect pests can squeeze through gaps as little as 1/8th of an inch.

This means even with the smallest openings, ants can get inside your home. Some of the most common areas ants use to get into your home is underneath doors, through gaps in windows and screens, as well as through cracks in the foundation and walls of your home.

Ants will send out scouts to search for new homes, food, and water sources. When they find something, they leave trails of pheromones to lead the rest of the worker ants back to the new found treasure. This means one ant here and there can turn into an army of ants marching through your home.

Common Ants that cause problems in your home

While there are thousands of different kinds of ant species that live throughout the world, there are a few common ones that tend to cause issues in your home.

Carpenter ants

A very common pest in homes are Carpenter ants. These are noteworthy because they tend to do damage to a variety of wood products from furniture to structures. They are recognized typically by being large black ants, but they can come in a variety of colors such as red, black, dark brown, red and black, and sometimes even yellow.

Little Black ant

Another common ant pest you will run into in your home is the Little Black ant or (Monomorium minimum). These pests can be hard to get rid of as their queen can live up to a year and produce several thousand eggs in a life time and it only takes about a month for the new ants to become fully grown. This allows them to spread quickly throughout your home once they get in.

Fire ant

Depending on where you live in the country these ants might not be an issue, but they are a common one that pest control companies tend to deal with. Fire ants weren’t originally native to the US and were accidentally brought to this country from South America, and since these pests are used to warmer weather they tend to hang out in the southern states across the US.

Most ants you wouldn’t consider dangerous, just kind of gross if they are in your home, but Fire ants are a different story. These ants have a very painful bite and their colony size can grow to be well over 200,000 ants in size.

These ants are very aggressive and territorial and will continue to spread quickly around your home. For most people, their bites are very painful, but in some cases for those who are allergic, their bites can be deadly.

Fire ants are definitely not a pest you want near your home, and their removal should not be attempted on your own without the help of a pest control service.

How to get rid of ants in your home

Getting rid of ants in your home can be a tough task on your own. Most people will try and kill the ants they see by spraying pesticide on them. Unfortunately that is really only attacking the surface symptoms as full removal of ants will require you to get rid of all life cycle stages as well as the queen or they will rebuild and keep coming back.

There are a variety of ways to treat for ants once they are a problem in your home, but the best thing you can do is to take prevention steps to keep them out before they cause problems.

Ants come into your home in search of food, water, and shelter, and if you can eliminate those, they often don’t come in or end up leaving because they can’t survive. Sealing cracks, crevices, and entry points, or exclusion, is the best option to keep pests out.

Ant issues have to come from outside of the home, and if they can’t get in to begin with, you won’t have an infestation on your hands.

Beyond sealing off entry points, proper sanitation and cleanliness is another major factor for getting rid of ants around your home. Keeping food properly sealed and cleaned up around your house can go a long way towards getting rid of ants and pests in your home.

Wipe down counters, clean up spills, take out the trash, and make sure recycling bins and garbage cans are covered.  The less access to food, water, and shelter in your home, the better.

In addition to the prevention end of things, another way pest control companies can get rid of ants in your home is through using bait traps, and spray treatments. Depending on how severe the ant infestation is, some or all of these steps may be used as an effective way to get rid of ants.

Bait traps can be used to trick worker ants by having them bring poison back to the colony, which can eventually take out the colony. By using sprays both inside and outside of your home, it can help to kill off any new ants either trying to get in from the outside as well as those trying to leave from the inside with food and water back to the colony.

With a combination of prevention steps as well as treatments from a pest control service, keeping your home ant free is no problem!

If you have ant problems in Minnesota call us today at 651-735-3101. Our offices are located in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Oakdale & Brooklyn Park.

 

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