Ants

OVERVIEW

Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies that may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Larger colonies consist of various castes of sterile, wingless females, most of which are workers (ergates), as well as soldiers (dinergates) and other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called “drones” (aner) and one or more fertile females called “queens“. The colonies are described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Biology & Behavior

Outdoors, nesting activity can result in excavated soil being deposited in gardens and on brickwork. In most cases this causes little property damage but some species, especially species of Aphaenogaster, can form large numbers of chambers close to the surface. These chambers can cause soil to become soft and uneven, causing serious problems when found in golf courses or some types of pastures or crops. A few species will occasionally attack electrical wiring, apparently being attracted to either the insulation or the magnetic fields produced by the wires. In these situations extensive damage has occurred.

Signs

Some ants build nests in walls and foundations, or indoors in potted plants, enclosed areas, and even in cavities in toilets and sinks. In almost all cases nests are limited to pre-existing cavities or spaces between objects or in rotten wood and seldom will ants attack solid structures. Thus they generally will not cause structural damage to buildings but will take advantage of existing deterioration.

Damage

Ants cause problems primarily when they forage in buildings for food or water and when they construct nests in buildings and gardens. When searching for food, they can be attracted to a wide range of products with different species preferring sweets, meats, fats or oils. They will also search indoors for water during dry periods. When desirable items are found many species will recruit fellow nest mates to help gather the food and return it to the nest. This can result in large numbers of ants appearing over a short period of time. Ants can be a nuisance when attempts are made to establish plants through direct seeding. Workers will forage for the newly planted seeds, removing them to their nests and causing reduced germination.

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