So you wanted to know about ants?
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RANDOM ANT FACTS
When it comes to pest control nothing says nuisance like “Ants” There are more than 20,000 species of ants in at least 16 subfamilies and at least 300 genera, all of which belong to the Formicidae family of ants, but only about 570 species in the U. S. and only about 30 species are considered house infesting pests. Ants are stronger than elephants! The strongest elephant lifts less than its own weight, but ants, working together, can lift several times their own weight. Some ants can lift 50 times their own weight! If man could do the same, he could lift a 5-ton school bus! Ants belong to the insect Order Hymenoptera and are close relatives of bees and wasps.
Ants are the most dominant group of social insects. In the savanna of the African Ivory Coast the density of ants is more than 7,000 colonies and 20 million individuals per hectare. Throughout the world there are over 20,000 species of ants, but only about 50 are known to be pests of the food or structures of man. Except for the polar regions and a couple of islands, they flourish on all land areas of the earth, from rain forests to deserts. All pest control technicians become involved with ant problems at some point in their career— most commonly because ants are found foraging or nesting inside structures - or because swarming ant reproductive are confused with swarming termites.
INTRODUCTION TO ANTS -The Family Formicidae
The Ant Colony - The winged female reproductive mates with a male reproductive either during the swarming flight or on the ground or in the nest. The male usually dies shortly afterwards. The male is usually winged and retains its wings until death. The female then digs or adapts a cavity, usually in the soil, and walls herself in. At this time, if her wings are not already broken off, she tears them off. She then produces eggs. When the tiny, white, legless grubs (larvae) hatch, they are fed with salivary secretions from the female’s stored fat cells and the breakdown of her now useless wing muscles. There are at least ten thousand trillion ants on earth and there may be 20 million in one colony. Although they each weigh only 1/10,000th of an ounce, collectively they weigh more than all the human beings on earth! Leaf cutter ants in the tropics consume more vegetation than any other creature and their nest may cover more than one acre. See Proverbs 6:6-8. After several molts, the larvae change into soft, white, pupae that look like motionless, white adults. Before they pupate, the larvae of some ants (carpenter ants and others) spin a silk cocoon — a white or tan papery capsule. When the pupae have made all the internal changes for adult functioning, they molt into the adult stage. Adults take on one of three roles or castes of the community: workers (all females), female reproductive, or male reproductive.
Males usually live short lives, they mate with an unfertilized female reproductive and die.
Ant queens are females. They mate and raise the first brood by themselves. Afterwards, they produce eggs for the subsequent broods that go on to make the colony, or large cooperative group. They may live many years. She is usually the largest individual.
Workers, also females, tend the eggs, feed the adults, queen, and larvae and tend the pupae (often called incorrectly “ant eggs”. They forage outside for food and construct, repair, enlarge and defend the colony workings. Worker ants are seldom winged. They are often extremely variable in size and even in appearance within a given species (monomorphic-one form; dimorphic-two forms; polymorphic- many forms).
Other specialized groups may arise from the worker caste in certain species, soldiers, for example.
Ants belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, which also includes wasps and bees.
Foraging - Ants are omnivores and eat a wide variety of food, including other insects, seeds, nectar, meats, greases, sugars and honeydew. Honeydew is a liquid produced by plant-sucking insects, such as aphids or plant lice, mealy bugs (groups of small insects with a white powder clinging to them), scale insects, and plant hoppers. These insects feed in groups on plant stems and leaves. Many species of ants protect these aggregations from other insects. Ants are a part of this pattern; they also take drops of honeydew continuously produced by the small sap-sucking individuals. Some ant species appear to just wander randomly; others trail each other precisely from colony to food and/or water source and back. Most ants follow structural guidelines as they travel, rather than in a straight “beeline”. Ants communicate with each other using different methods, including pheromones, touch and stridulation (sound production), for transmitting messages. Workers foraging for food attract attention and communicate their messages when they return to the colony.
Seasonal Abundance - Most outdoor ants increase in population and activity from spring into summer months and then decline from fall into early winter as the temperature drops and the ants’ natural food supplies dwindle. Other ants, such as the Argentine ant, may increase in numbers in the fall as various colonies aggregate together to overwinter. Some ants, such as the Pharaoh ant, which may live entirely indoors, exhibit little seasonality. Historically, ants are second only to cockroaches as “pests” the public continually tries to “control” with volatile, synthetic pesticide poisons.
Swarming - Most ants establish new colonies through swarming. Every now and then, particularly in spring or early summer, mature ant colonies generate large numbers of winged forms. These are the young queens and males, going off to mate. An inseminated queen then rids herself of her wings and attempts to start a new nest in a cavity, under a stone or a piece of bark, or by excavating a hole in the ground. She rears her first brood alone, feeding them with salivary secretions and infertile eggs. If successful, the first brood opens up the nest and brings in food for themselves, the queen, and subsequent broods, and the colony grows. However, the percentage of queens that successfully begin new colonies is thought to be very small.
Some ants also act as intermediate hosts for parasites of animals and poultry and are also carriers of human and plant diseases, e.g., dysentery, streptococcus, pseudomonas and staphylococcus. Ants can contaminate food, hollow out wood, destroy textiles by feeding upon the soiled portions. There is evidence to suggest that ants may be mechanical carriers of such human diseases as small pox, cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, staphylococcus, streptococcus, pseudomonas and plague. They can also destroy plants and may bite and/or sting.