Ants, Knowing the Enemy
In this post, you are going to learn some vital information about ants such as their anatomy, lifecycle, and other facts that will help you to control them.
Knowing the Enemy
In any battle, any good general knows that researching and finding the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents is vital in order to win the war.
Since you are embarking on a journey to rid yourself of pesky ants in your home, it is best to know a little more about these amazing tiny creatures!
First of all, you need to understand the basic anatomy of an ant.
What is an ant?
An ant is an insect. Like all insects, ants have three body segments – the head, the abdomen and the thorax.
Depending on the species of ants, an ant doesn’t live for very long. An ant’s life can vary from as short as 45 to 60 days up to a year or more. The reason you can never seem to get rid of ants is that every time one dies off, another one or two ants take its place.
Ants live in colonies ruled by a single queen. Without the queen ant, an ant colony will eventually die within a couple of months. Queen ants can live for a couple of years and give birth to millions of ants during their whole lifetime!
Ants start out as eggs and then hatch into larvae and afterward go into a pupa stage before they eventually develop into full-grown ants within a couple of days from hatching. Most ants laid by the queen are females, although a small number is reserved for males. These males eventually head out in search of future mates.
An ant has six jointed legs covered with minute hair. These legs are very strong in proportion to their size. For example, if an ant was the size of a full-grown man, it would be able to run as fast as any race horse. Aside from speed, ants also have remarkable strength. This enables ants to carry objects 20 times their own body weight.
The legs of ants end in claws that they use to hold on to surfaces. As long as an ant can have a firm grip on any surface, they’ll be able to hang on. Even if that means the terrain is upside down!
Pound for pound, ants are probably the strongest creatures on Earth. Ants can lift loads up to 20 times their body weight.
Ants breathe differently than you or I. Instead of lungs, they breathe through small holes all over their bodies. They also hear things in a different way. Since ants don’t have ears, they listen to sounds through their legs. Vibration travels from the ground to their legs and that’s how they hear the world around them.
The head of an ant is equipped with two large jaws which can be used for holding and shearing off pieces of food they find. The head is also where you’ll find the antennae which ants use to sense their surroundings as well as communicate with other ants in the colony. These jaws are also strong enough to bore through wood and chew up material for lining up their colony. Now here’s an interesting fact, although these jaws are extremely strong, ants can exact a level of control that allows them to perform other duties which require precision and care. For example, nurse ants use the same strong jaws to tenderly transport larvae from one place to another or to groom the queen.
Another thing: ants are nature’s vacuum cleaners. If you’ve ever been to a picnic, try to take note of what happens to your bread crumbs a few minutes or seconds after it’s fallen from your plate. As soon as one ant appears, others are sure to follow. Why? Because ants leave pheromones behind them wherever they go; this helps them retrace their steps back to their ant hill when they’ve found a food source. This is also a way for other ants to follow them towards the food source and back. So when you see one, there’s bound to be a hundred more on the way!
This is the reason why ants, although wonderful creatures in their own way, are much maligned as pests when they invade our homes!
Knowing the Enemy’s Basic Organization
In this section, you are going to learn about the different types of ants, how they fit into the ant colony, and which ones are the cause of all your problems.
There are three types of ants in every colony: the queen, the females, and the males. In order to get the best result when waging war on ants, you must know the difference between the three types and how to fight them. In this section, you will learn about the queen ant and how it is the cause of all your problems, the pesky female ants that are a constant nuisance, and the male ants.
The Queen ant
The Queen is perhaps the most important element in any ant colony. Without the queen, the colony will eventually die off. The queen is responsible for laying eggs on a massive scale. One queen ant can lay more than a million eggs throughout her entire lifetime. These eggs eventually hatch to either become workers or soldiers. There usually is only one queen per colony but depending on the size and the species sometimes there are more queens existing within one.
Why is the Queen Ant considered a pest?
The Queen Ant is the one that produces millions of other ants to serve its needs. These ants then invade your home to look for food or nesting spots, becoming a constant nuisance to you and I. In effect, you could say that the Queen Ant is the progenitor of all your issues today.
The female ants branch off into many factions from the basic worker ants to the formidable soldier ants
The worker ants are the ants we see on a daily basis. These ants are the ones responsible for finding food, bringing it back to the colony and relaying information to other worker ants where to find the food. A single worker ant can carry up to twenty times its own body weight.
These are the female ants responsible for grooming the queen in order to keep her laying eggs. As soon as an egg comes out from the queen a nurse ant carries it off to the nursery where several nurse ants take responsibility for cleaning, feeding, and grooming the future additions to the colony.
Ants also take care of fungi which they can derive food from. Farmer ants line the colony’s walls with fungi by chewing up leaves and allowing growth to happen. These farmer ants even take care of smaller insects like aphids and milk them like cows!
Soldier ants very rarely leave the immediate vicinity of the colony. These ants are the ones responsible for protecting the ant hill and everyone inside it. These ants usually have larger heads equipped with large jaws or mandibles to help them shred those who would threaten the colony’s existence to pieces.
Why are female ants considered pests?
Female ants are considered pests because these are the ants that literally swarm all over your food or scurry around in a haphazard line all over your home and garden. Furthermore, these are also the ants that bite people whenever they are threatened or perceive anything as a threat. One female ant near a food source can multiply within minutes to a hundred and even more!
The Male Ants
Male ants live only for one purpose, to mate with a potential queen and then they die off. Male ants also have wings like the queen ants. When it is mating season, these male ants swarm all over the place with queen ants who are winged at the start and start pairing off. As soon as the male mates with a queen ant, they usually die off. The queen ant then goes off to create a colony and sheds off their wings as well.
Why are male ants considered as pests?
Male ants are considered pests because these ants are bred for one purpose and one purpose alone: to mate with a queen. During mating season, hundreds of male and potential queen ants converge in a well-lit area. This usually happens on a warm summer night on your porch. They’re not out to bite you but you might find it really annoying to be constantly swatting at these flying insects to avoid having them collide with you mid-air! These swarms can number from a hundred to well over a thousand flying insects. One way to avoid these annoying swarms is to turn off the lights when you see a swarm just beginning to happen.
Knowing the Enemy and Their Allies
In this section you will learn about some of the different species of ants, including the ones that are most likely to invade your home and garden, causing you grief.
Like all animals, ants are sub-divided into several species. There are over 12000 different kinds of ant species all over the world. Discussing all of these would require another book, so we’re going only going to touch upon the species known to invade our homes and gardens.
The only place where you probably won’t find any ants is in Antarctica! But, for the rest of the world, virtually everyone has to deal with ants. Now, depending on the area where they originated, these ants have mutated to adapt to their surroundings. These adaptations can range from their basic appearance, coloration, behavior, or in some extreme cases body modification.
Here are some examples of ants from all over the world:
- Argentine ants
- Carpenter ants
- Odorous ants
- Pavement ants
- Acrobat ants
- Army ants
Red Imported Fire Ants or RIFA for short. These are probably one of the peskiest ants in existence today. These species of ants are very aggressive and highly adaptable to their immediate environment. This is the reason why RIFAs are very successful in areas where they are transported to.
This is just a small sample of the many different types of ants infesting homes and gardens all over the world today!
There are two main types of ant problems: Ants that live outside your house and forage inside and ants that have already built their nest inside your house.
Ants that live outside and forage in the home.
Here’s some good news: Ants prefer to live outside. But that’s not going to stop them from coming into your house! And if the conditions are right, they just might take up permanent residence in your house.
Some examples of these ants are:
- Argentine Ants
- Crazy Ants
- Ghost Ants
- Leafcutter Ants
- Odorous House Ants
Ants that live inside your home.
This would probably be the main reason why you got this book in the first place. Ants are known to take up permanent residence in our homes. This is especially true if your house has all the right conditions for it to stay inside. For example, it is full of clutter and there are many food sources they can get meals from.
Special Consideration: Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are a class all of their own. These ants are nocturnal and are most active in the evening hours. This is when they start foraging for food. No place is safe as these ants have no reservations when it comes to foraging both inside and outside the house.