We’ve had a few nasty ant outbreaks in our house. We have these French doors from the family room to the patio where the rubber seal strip on the bottom peeled away. There is now a sizable gap from the bottom of the door to the floor. While it’s not big enough to let mice and other creatures in, ants get in no problem. Add to that two young boys who leave food stuff on the floor and we have a recipe for regular ant invasions.
Ants are some of the most commonly and popularly found insects all over the world. They have a vast variety of species, each with quite distinctive habitats, characteristics, features, eating habits and defense mechanisms.
Ants are known as ‘eusocial insects’ which is basically a reference to their high levels of socialization that is defined by their cooperative brood care, division of labor and generations of large colonies. They have colonized almost every part of the world, except Antarctica and some other remote and inhospitable areas.
These popular insects typically thrive in all ecosystems and their success in being able to thrive in such a variety of environments is due to their tendency for increased social organizations.
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Interesting Facts about Ants
As tiny and simple ants appear to be, they are equally fascinating insects with unique habits and characteristics.
- Ants don’t have ears so they hear with the help of their feet. In other words, they basically feel vibrations through the ground.
- Ants have special powers – a single ant has the ability to lift 20 times its own body weight.
- These insects don’t have lungs so oxygen basically enters their body through small holes.
- They are great at colonizing and as many as 50 million ants can come together to form a single, cooperative and highly efficient colony.
- The queen ant of a particular ant species has been reported to be able to live up to 30 years.
- They are the fastest moving creatures in the animal kingdom and the trap-jaw ant has the ability to close its jaws at about 140 mph.
- One of the largest ant’s nest found to-date was over 3700 miles wide.
- Ants are normally super aggressive and feisty so when they fight among themselves, it is usually till the death!
- Red fire ants are unusually small however, they cause over £3 billion worth of damage a year!
Anatomy of an Ant
Types of Ants
Although there are more than 12,000 species of ants found in various parts of the world, very few will invade your home and attack your lawn or garden. Some of the most popular types of such ants are mentioned below.
What Type of Ants Do You Have?
If you are ready to declare war on ants, the first thing you need to do is figure out what type of ants you have, so you can find the best way to combat them.
Here are some common types of household ants:
Scientific Name: Crematogaster
This is an ecologically diverse variety of ants that you may find all over the world. They are also known as the “Saint Valentine Ant” primarily because of their distinctive heart-shaped abdomen. Some of their species are called “Cocktail Ants” because they tend to raise their abdomens in alarming situations.
Acrobat ants are almost 2.5 to 3 millimeters long and consist of two nodes. They are typically found in a range of colors including brown, yellow-brown, black, and red-black. Their food and eating habits mainly include predation of other insects like wasps that they stun with the help if their venom.
Acrobat ants have very interesting predatory behavior. They hunt both large and small prey so when they do detect their prey and make contact, they immediately attack by releasing a small amount of venom with a sting. However, when they feel threatened or under attack, they lift their abdomens over their head that makes them almost look like a scorpion. With their abdomens held up in the air, they run away from a threatening situation. This makes them look like they are tumbling which is what gave them the name “acrobat ants”.
Scientific Name: Linepithemahumile
This ant variety is native to southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay. They have further been introduced by humans to other regions like Europe, Australia, Hawaii, South Africa and New Zealand.
Argentine ants are typically 2.2 to 2.8 millimeters long and they consist of only one node. They are found in many colors ranging from light brown to dark brown. They are known to build their quarters in cracks in concrete walls, within wall spaces, in the ground, as well as in spaces between boards and timbers. These ants, unlike most other species, do not have the ability to sting.
Argentine ants are also known to be extraordinarily successful, primarily because different nests of their species rarely attack each other or compete with one another. They have a very uniform genetic makeup that helps them get along with neighboring nests without getting attacked.
Scientific Name: Camponotus
These ants are found in various forested areas of the world. They are known to infest buildings and wooden structures, and they usually build their nests inside dead and damp wood. Several variations of this species also exist in various parts of the United States.
Carpenter ants grow to an average length of 6 to 13 millimeters. They are considered both scavengers and predators and some varieties are also foragers that feed off on parts of dead insects. Worker carpenter ants are wingless and usually sport a dark black or shiny brown color.
Most of their species come out in the night for foraging during which they collect and consume dead insects. Interestingly, when these ants find a dead insect, they extract all its bodily fluids, leaving behind the remainder of the shell.
Scientific name: Solenopsis
These ants are found in minority with only about 200 species worldwide. These are stinging ants and some of their other common names include tropical fire ants and ginger ants. Some of its species are also called “red ants” mainly because of their light brown-reddish color.
Fire ants typically sport a copper brown head and a dark-colored abdomen. You can expect a typical fire ant to attack small insects, kill them and feed on them. They also produce large mounds in open areas where they often feed on seeds and young plants.
These ants are famous as “invasive pests” and really bother people and human dwellings in various regions of the United States and also in other parts of the world including Taiwan, China, and Australia.
Black Garden Ants
Scientific name: Lasiusniger
This ant variety is also known as the ‘formicine ant’ and is found all over Europe, as well as some parts of Asia, North America, South America, and Australasia. The ‘queen’ black garden ants are typically 9 mm long and sport a glossy black color with light brown stripes on the abdomen. The ‘workers’ on the other hand, also have a glossy black color, but they grow up to be only 3-5 mm long.
Black garden ants are known for exploring their surroundings particularly during the summer months. They do this as a way to test and experiment new grounds and spaces for their summer flight. Another reason behind this behavior is that they want to increase the food supply for the ‘queen’ ants.
We often call these common household ants. They are small and dark brown or black. They will enter your home for a dry place to invade during the rainy season. They typically come in looking for foods, their favorite being sweets, and other dead insects. They get their odd name from the smell they emit when they are crushed, which some say can smell like rotting food or blue cheese.
Red Wood Ants
Scientific Name: Formica rufa
Native to Anatolia and Europe, these ants are also known as horse ant and southern wood ant and are. They are usually brownish-black in color while some species may be bi-colored red. These ants have large mandibles and one of their most interesting features is their ability to spray formic acid from their abdomen as a way of protecting themselves in times of threat.
Red wood ants reach an average length of 4.5-9 mm and are polymorphic. Their nests are fairly large in size which makes them easily noticeable. The nests are often dome-shaped and are made of twigs, grass, and conifer needles.
The primary diet of these ants includes aphid honeydew however, they are also known as ‘voracious scavengers’ so you may also find them feeding on insects and arachnids. Their scavenging behavior mostly aligns with changes in the environment. They prefer the kind of prey that resides near their nests. However, if food resources are scarce, they may explore other trees to find more food further from the nests.
Yellow Meadow Ants
Scientific name: Lasiusflavus
These ants are also known as yellow hill ant and are most commonly found in North America, Central Europe, and Asia. Their color usually ranges from brown to yellow with some species sporting darker shades.
The worker species of these ants grow to an average length of 2-4 mm, the queen grows to 7-9 mm long and the males grow to an average of 3-4 mm in length.
Yellow meadow ants are known to form their colonies underground in lawns and meadows. They often also nest under concrete slabs and really large rocks. They usually feed on honeydew from root aphids and because of their feeding habits; they normally forage outside their nests.
Interestingly, the small eyes of yellow meadow ants and their lack of pigmentation often give away the evidence of their underground lives.
Asian Needle Ants
Scientific name: Brachyponerachinensis
The Asian needle ants are native to Asia and Japan but can also be found in the United States. They are notable for being invasive and adventive species. The worker ants of this variety have only a single node and grow to an average length of 5 millimeters.
They sport black-brown bodies with dark orange colored mandibles. These ants are known to be less aggressive to other ant types and colonies. You will often find them outdoors and especially in areas that are shaded and consist of high moisture. If these ants get trapped in clothes or press against human skin, they sting really bad which is extremely painful and dangerous.
Scientific name: Formica
They are also known as thatching ants and mound ants and typically grow between 4 to 8 mm long in length. As the name “wood ants” suggests, these ants primarily live in wooded areas. Another interesting feature about these ants is that sunlight is very important for their colonies to survive.
Wood ants prey on other insects and in many countries; they have been introduced to control other varieties of invasive pests. The nests of these ants are often in the form of chamber and shaft excavations built in the soil.
These ant species are quite popular for their slave-making behaviors as well as parasitic behaviors. For instance, some of these ant varieties invade colonies of other ant groups because they are unable to form one of their own.
Dark Rover Ants
Scientific Name: Brachymyrmexpatagonicus
This is a relatively new kind of ant species found in the United States. Dark rover ants have only about 10 species in the US and they are some of the smallest indoor ant pest species. They are monomorphic in size and are 2 mm long in length.
One of the key distinguishing features of these ants is their 9-segmented antenna and dark brown colors that help one tell them apart from other structure invading ants.
These ant species are native to South America and are now also found in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Nevada. Their nests and habitats are typically found in the soil, bricks, wall voids, mulch, and potted plants.
Although rover ants don’t sting, they are still problematic insects because they forage indoors on counter tops, floor and walls.
Scout ants aren’t a type of ant, but they are important because as their name denotes, they are responsible for going out on the road to find a source of food. They leave their scent as they leave the nest so other ants can follow them if they find a source of food.
If you’ve ever seen a line of ants that look like they’re on a mission, it’s because the scout ant has successfully found food and the rest of the “soldiers” are on their way to fill their bellies.
There are many different types of ants and a hierarchy within the ant community. These are some of the most common types of ants that you are most likely to see in your home. Many species of ants are regional so you may only find them in certain areas and key environments.
Ghost ants can be hard to see because they are very tiny and nearly colorless. They tend to be regional and are most common in Florida, Hawaii and other warm areas. They are mostly found outside as they nest underground. They like sweet foods and other dead insects as well as moist areas like sinks, showers, and tubs.
You will now be able to identify quite a few types of ants walking inside your home or the garden!