I had just sat down to read the last few pages in All The Light We Cannot See when the kids burst in hollering about ants everywhere and I HAVE to get the ant killer. It sounded like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds had taken the form of Ants in a brand new sequel occurring on my driveway. I begrudgingly set down my novel and sauntered outside to investigate. Sure enough, there they were in all their glory. The kids all wanted to know – why are all these ants here?
The term swarm can be used to cover multiple ant behaviors. From an entomology standpoint, we use the term swarming to refer to a specific stage in the reproductive process. Many ants have a stage where they send out winged reproductives to start up new colonies. This sudden appearance of winged ants can be troublesome and is far too often confused with termite swarms.
In a more general sense, the word swarm can just refer to more ants than we want coming together where we don’t want them. This situation on my driveway was the latter type of “swarm” which leaves the same question – why are all of them here?
One of the most frequent causes of ants piling together in one area is the presence of needed food. Ants need:
to be healthy. They need more of one than the other depending on species, time of year, and other factors. If some found food happens to meet their dietary needs, the queen will send a pile of ants out to gather it. Sometimes they will stay orderly and sometimes they will seem quite chaotic. It is important to remember that we simply don’t see the world from their perspective. What seems chaotic and haphazard to us may be perfect order in their hive’s mind.
In solving food swarms, simply removing the food source will solve the issue – at least the issue at hand. When you pick up that sucker stick wondering how a blue dumdum can turn completely black, it is easy to remember that there are thousands of ants elsewhere just waiting for the next sugar drop to fall.
Most ants are relatively peaceful creatures regardless of how much their presence may annoy us. That being said, they do not take kindly to attacking or invading species such as:
- Cuckoo Wasps
- Ant Spiders
- Invading Ant Colonies
- Hungry Wasps
When ants perceive a threat, they take it on with the hive mind. When ants are in attack or defend mode, they work together rather than as individuals. They work for the colony as a whole rather than for their own survival. There is something inspirational and equally eery about this.
The Ant Mill
Most of us have had the luxury of cruelly messing with ants and their pheromone trails. Just that little swipe of spit across the well-forged path will send the line into complete disarray. In the case of army ants that have been separated from the main foragers and lost track of the pheromone trail, they can start following each other. If this occurs, it can be fatal since they are essentially going nowhere and will just march themselves to death.
Swarm Somewhere Else!
If you find yourself asking, “why are all these ants here?” or simply don’t want to ever have those words have to cross your mind, reach out to the ant gurus at Rove Pest Control. We can help identify the type of ant, explain why they are there, or just take care of things so they aren’t there. Ants have their place, just not in your house or in your way.