A Glimpse Into Ants: Species and Distribution

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.

 

Additional FAQs about Ants:

What type of ant will cause the most damage?

Carpenter ants cause the most damage to structures, but it should be noted that most of the damage is usually caused by water prior to their excavation. Acrobat ants will also damage decayed or damp wood but are less common.

With regard to lawn damage, the most likely suspects are pavement ants, allegheny mound ants, and cornfield ants.

When it comes to damaging food stores, the little black ant is the most famous culprit and is commonly known as a sugar ant.

If considering damage or pain caused to a person (medical damage), the ants carrying the most powerful sting are the bullet ant, Maricopa harvester ant, fire ant (arguably the most damaging due to prevalence), and bulldog ant.

Which ants bite?

Most ants will bite or sting if threatened, but the one most known for its prevalent medical damage is the fire ant. Other ants with powerful stings include bullet ant, Maricopa harvester ant, and bulldog ant

If you see ants, is there always a nest nearby?

Not all wandering ants are in close proximity to a nest. Ants that are scouting for food will travel large distances to find food sources. Carpenter ant workers may travel up to 100 yards from a nest in this endeavor.

Queen Ants:

Can an ant colony have multiple queens?

Yes, certain species have multiple queens per nest. Crazy ants have 8-40 queens. Ghost ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, thief ants, and little black ants have many queens, Pharaoh ants range from one or two reproductive females to several hundred.

What happens when you kill the queen ant?

With ants such as the carpenter ant that have a single queen system, killing the queen will stop the production of new ants leading to the demise of the colony, but the situation is quite different with ant species that have multiple to hundreds of queens.

Why do ants die after the queen dies?

The ant queen is the reproductive female. Without replenishment of the colony, the colony dies off.

Is it possible to get rid of an ant infestation without killing them?

The key to getting rid of ants without killing them is changing the environment. The first place to start is typically removing their food source. Next is blocking off entry points to areas where they are not wanted. Removing water or adding a lot of water may be enough stimulus. Beyond that, there are many things such as lemon, baby powder, coffee grounds, peppermint, chalk, cinnamon, and other natural or synthetic materials that have been found to repel ants in certain situations.

If an ant goes missing, will the rest of the colony realize?

Ants will only notice if something interrupts there pheromone trail. If a single ant goes missing, the colony will continue functioning like normal.

Can fire ants be found in the state of Michigan?

Though fire ants are not known to be in the state of Michigan, they can be transported where they do not belong.

Ant lifecycle:

Ants go through complete metamorphosis (egg, larvae, pupa, adult)

What’s an ant life expectancy

Carpenter ants live 7-10 years. Little black ants live beyond 4 years, but their queen can survive for 30 years. Pharaoh ants live 4-12 months.

Do ants die of old age?

Ants can die of old age and are disposed of outside of the colony.

How are ants categorized into a colony once they’re born?

Food is the primary determinant of an ant’s size and caste role, but genetics and social/colony size factors will play a roll in this determination as well.

What are some weird and amazing facts about ants?

Ants are estimated to have been on earth for 130 million years. The largest fossilized ant found measured 2.4 inches long.

Ants use chemicals known as pheromones to communicate.

Ants are able to carry more than three times their weight.

How fast do ants reproduce?

Some ants develop from egg to work in 3-5 weeks, but other species take two months. Besides the species of an ant, temperatures can affect development time.

Are ants nutritious to eat?

Ants like many other insects are high in protein and low in fat, so they are nutritious to eat. Just because they are nutritious, does not mean that all ants are safe to eat. Bright colored ants, ants with stingers, and ants with a strong odor may not be safe to eat.

Do ants ever go to war?

Ants may go to war over territory or limited resources. They will also defend themselves from attack from invading species (ant or other). In some cases, they will have internal conflicts regarding queen management and mating.

Do ants sleep?

Ants have a cyclical resting pattern that is short-lived. Research done by James & Cottell in the 80’s showed ants having two different kinds of rest periods. They were about 8 minutes long per 12 hour period.

Can ants die if they fall?

Ants are so light compared to their surface area, that they reach terminal velocity at less than 4 mph. Therefore, regardless of the height, the ant should land safely on the ground. In fact, ants have been observed jumping out of trees to avoid predators and using their legs to direct their fall path back onto the trunk below.

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