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Ants outnumber all other terrestrial animals on earth.
However, some may contend that aphids (plant lice)
are number one (debatable).
If we use numbers as our criterion, we must conclude that ants are extremely successful animals. The ants’ success is directly proportionate to their social habits as insects.
Ants have become the dominant animal on the earth because of their industrious habits and through their ability to range from the arctic region to the tropics, from sea level to mountain tops, from wetlands to dry deserts.
Even the ants’ nest is highly adaptable to a variety of climates and soil conditions. One of the most prominent assets of ants is their ability to “adapt” to any environment.
Pest Ants in the United States
Most of the common species of house invading ants are not difficult to identify. Ants are identified based on their characteristics. Ants belong to the order hymenoptera, which means “membranous wing.” When wings are present, there are two pairs with the front pair of wings larger than the hind pair.
All ants belong to the family Formicidae.
The key to identification depends on the subfamily of the worker caste and whether they have a “one” or “two” segmented pedicel, which is a vertical projecting “node” formed on the constricted second abdominal segment of the body. Most pest ants in the United States belong to four subfamilies.
The pedicel is composed of one segment called the petiole. This is in the form of a vertical sale. These ants do not have a stinger, however, they can spray formic acid. Ants in this subfamily have a terminal, circular anus usually fringed with hairs. Included in this family are Crazy ants, Cornfield ants, Small Honey ants, Citronella ants, Field ants, Rover ants and Carpenter ants.
This family has only one pedicel, however, their anus is a ventral and slit-like. Included in this family are the Argentine ants, Odorous House ants, Ghost ants and Velvety Tree ants.
Ants in this family have a two segmented pedicel and a stinger. Included in this family are Pharaoh ants, Little Black ant, Thief ant, Big Headed ant, Pavement ant, Little Fire ant, Harvester ants, Fire ants, European Fire ants, Leaf Cutting ants and Acrobat ants.
Ants in this family have a one segmented pedicel and a stinger. This is the family of the Asian needle ant.
Establishing the Colony:
Most new colonies are established by a newly mated queen that sheds her wings and digs a nest under a rock, piece of wood, dead or live tree, or landscaping timbers around a foundation, etc.
The queen is usually the largest individual in the nest, while there will be other virgin queens in the nest they will retain their wings. Once the first “brood” is reared the queen literally becomes an egg laying machine while being fed and cleaned by the workers.
Once egg laying and the first hatch arrive the colony will consist of mostly workers which are made up of males and females, with the females being sterile. The workers will be small or large, the small workers perform all the work that is required to maintain the nest and the large workers are called soldiers, they defend the colony and with their large jaws break seeds, etc.
The male ant may be the most unfortunate ant on earth because he dies within 24-48 hours after breeding the queen. However, he may be blessed because he lives in a society dominated by females.
The Carpenter Ant range includes the entire continental United States, Hawaii and Alaska.
C. pennsylvanicus, the Black Carpenter ant is the most common ant pest east of the Mississippi River from Florida to Southern Canada, including the southern states west of the Mississippi River.
Biology and Habits:
Carpenter ants enter buildings to nest or forage. They are called carpenters because they excavate their nest in wood. Carpenter ants create tunnels and/or galleries in wood by excavating wood that is decayed or wood that is structurally sound.
Once a nest becomes mature (within 3-5 years) the nest will produce winged alates (reproductive) and a process of “nuptial flight” begins again.
The number of worker ants in a nest can be tremendous depending on whether their species is monogyne, meaning a one egg laying queen colony, or polygyne, that has more than on egg laying queen. Some colonies may number more than 100,000 workers.
For homeowners and businesses, the most (opportune) time to encounter ants is during their most intense foraging time of the year. The timing depends on your location which concerns latitude, elevation and habitat. Depending upon the region (location), the first diapause (egg laying time) occurs between January and June each year. As the larvae develop so do their appetites, thus foraging for food is at its peak time.
A second diapause occurs in September and October when the late summer brood will over winter as larvae, thus the foraging activity is shorter.
Carpenter Ants are nocturnal and rely on chemical (pheromone) trails for orientation to and from the nest. A heavily used chemical trail will look like a roadway through vegetation.
Carpenter Ants consume large amounts of protein in summer and fall coinciding with brood production periods. It has been determined that the quality and quantity of nitrogen in the protein along with amino acids are the key factors for growth and development. Their consumption of carbohydrates is the primary source for adults and is twice as high as their consumption of proteins. Carbohydrate consumption is constant for their survival.
Carpenter ants will travel long distances to forage on higher concentrations of sugar solutions (carbohydrates), however, they will travel any distance to forage upon a protein solution regardless of the concentration level.
Inside, many household foods contain sugars attracting ants.
(jellies, junk food, syrup, cakes, eggs, meat, fruit & vegetables)
Once inside the home ants mingle over the foods
contaminating and transmitting disease organisms
to the food they come in contact with.
Outside, ants feed on honey-dew from over ripe fruit along with dead or alive insects that provide a source of carbohydrates and protein. Ants protect aphids and honey-dew secreting insects from their predators and will store the eggs of aphids. Ants will carry young aphids back to their nest, then return them to the plant. While the ants protect the aphids for their honey-dew production, this in turn allows the aphids to populate in larger numbers, thus becoming more damaging to plants.
Ants are a serious pest in agriculture because they tend the homopterans (aphids & honey-dew secreting insects) which feed on crops. Therefore, biological control must be aimed at suppressing honey-dew secreting insects. No thanks to the ants for cultivating and protecting the homopterans, which allows populations to explode and agricultural products to be destroyed in the process.
Ants can also create a medical problem. The sting of an ant can be life threatening if a person goes into anaphylactic shock (red imported fire ant). The Southern Fire ant and the Harvester ant were responsible for the death of two children in Mississippi and Oklahoma.
In a structural infestation the “parent nest” is usually located on the exterior of the structure in trees, stumps, firewood or landscape timbers. On the other hand, the “satellite nest” can be found in window sills, wall voids, floor joists, headers, shower rods, dishwashers, columns, and from skylights to chimneys, etc.
Unlike termites that consume wood, carpenter ants only excavate wood for their nest. Swarms of ants alarm homeowners, who often mistake ant swarms for termites.
Carpenter Ants cause serious structural damage to buildings.
Carpenter Ants transmit disease organisms in hospitals and health care facilities, food processing and packaging plants and anywhere food is prepared.
Little Black Ant
Biology and Habits:
The little black ant is common in wooded areas. Most infestations originate from the outside and can occur in multiple locations. Once indoors they nest in wall voids, cabinets and between brick and stone veneer. The little black ants feed on honey-dew, plant exudates, pollen and bird feces. It may even kill hatching
birds. Indoors, the little black ant feeds on sweets, meats, grease, bread, oils, cornmeal, fruits, vegetables and fruit juices. All these are contaminated when little black ant mingle over food supplies in the home after tracking on and eating bird litter.
Yes, Carpenter Ants are beneficial, but only in their place.
Ants play an important ecological role in soil aeration, decomposition, and nutrient recycling of the soil and as predators. However, this is soon forgotten when they invade our homes, businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and processing plants.
Some evidence suggests the little black ant can eliminate the small red imported fire ant colonies. Homeowners wish him well in this pursuit, as long as he remains in his place.
Carpenter Ants & Little Black Ants
Managing ants requires a systematic approach. First, draw upon the best knowledge of the biology and habits of each species to determine the most effective control for a particular infestation. Identification is the key to success. A
miss identification can lead to failure, that is not acceptable.
Once identified inspect sanitation, ventilation, wood-soil contact, moisture damage, entry cracks, leaky pipes, composition and depth of landscaping mulch, stacked lumber or firewood, leaf litter, brush, shrubs, ornamental plants (esp. presence of homopterans), etc.
Once inspected proceed, if required to habitat modification, mechanical alterations and chemical treatments.
Control measures are dependent upon the knowledge of the pest and individual experience. Information can be obtained through time and study, but most homeowners and business owners find it preferable to hire a professional. The professional exterminator is responsible to eliminate the pest problem and bear the responsibility of continuous safety.
Lone Pine Exterminating requires all technicians to possess the knowledge and experience of exterminating pest before they are allowed to provide service to customers.
The knowledge and experience are gained through study and on the job training with experienced professionals. Call us for all your pest control needs.
Odorous House Ant