Ants are more commonly seen as the weather gets warmer and usually start as one lone ant staking out your home followed by several more. Usually the sight of one ant should be an indication of there being more on the way. While ants aren’t as intimidating as some insects, they aren’t something you want to be sharing your home with. We take a look at some useful ant facts and what you should do if you discover them in your home.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Clade: Euarthropoda
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Hymneoptera
Ants are social creatures which live in colonies. Some colonies can consist of thousands of ants while some may only have a dozen or so. The ants within the colony, like the social wasps, fulfil different roles. There are soldier ants and worker ants with a mixture of fertile and non-fertile males and females. These super intelligent and efficient insects use division of labour, communication and problem solving to exist in almost every landmass on earth.
In the UK there are five types of ants that we are likely to see
- The Garden Ant – as the name suggests you are likely to see this ant in your garden. They have a particularly sweet tooth
- Roger’s Ant – this reddish-brown ant likes damp areas like around drains, or behind cracked bathroom or kitchen tiles
- Pharaoh’s Ant – this ant will set up home in your home. It likes indoor areas and can build a substantial colony with multiple queens. They like meat and other sources of protein
- Ghost Ants – These ants get their name because of their translucent appearance. They live in small spaces indoors and feed on sticky sweet or greasy substances.
- Pavement Ants – These dark brown/blackish ants are often mistaken for termites. They live in mounds around the foundations with colonies often found near water.
Origins of the ant
You will notice that ants are from the same order as wasps and bees. This is because the evolved from wasp-like insects in around 140 million years ago. Since then they have become prevalent in pretty much every country on earth except some inhospitable places like the polar regions.
The fertile male ants are known as drones and the fertile females, queens. Female worker ants are not fertile and do not have wings, the reproductive females lose their wings after mating so most ants do not fly. Non-fertilised eggs become male ants. Every year both the fertile male and females go on a reproductive flight to mate then lose their wings. This is likely to be the only time you will find ants flying.
Most ants will make their nests underground or in trees, somewhere that it is safe and warm from predators. The smaller ant species will make their home inside the smallest of spaces.
Unfortunately, ants do carry and transmit disease. Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Clostridium and Streptococcus are all examples of bacteria/fungus that can be spread by ants. As ants are foragers they can spread food borne diseases through our homes or businesses. You may not think too much about seeing ants in your home but if you think about their habits you should act quickly if you see one or more. Consideration should also be given to an ant bite or sting as some can give a nasty reaction.
The lifespan of an ant largely depends on their species, habitat and predators. Some can live for a few days while others can survive for many years. The male of the species has the shortest life span living only a few days whereas a queen can live for many years.
Once the queen has established her colony she will lay eggs on a continuous basis. She fertilises some of these eggs using sperm that she collected during the annual nuptial flight. The fertilised eggs will become female worker ants and the non-fertilised eggs will become male ants.
Interesting ant facts
Ants communicate with each other using chemicals called pheromones.
- Ants can carry up to 50 times their own body weight with some species being stronger than the other
- There are an impressive 10 quadrillion ants on the planet
- Not all wasps are black and yellow, in fact they come in many different colours
- Ants don’t have lungs, instead they breathe using holes along the side of their body
What to do if you see ants in or around your property
Where there is food there will be ants. Even the smallest crumb will attract a colony of ants. As there are so many species that are likely to make their home inside property where food is a plenty, there is a good chance that they will build their colony in your home. If you see ants in your home, it is important that you get rid of them. Call a professional pest expert to help.