ants

Ants, particularly field ants (Formica spp.), tend to show a spurt of indoor activity in late winter. Field ants are usually black (sometimes reddish-brown) and nest in soil. Although they do not nest in homes, the nests are often located around the base of foundations. This leads to the foraging of worker ants in homes, looking for food. Such foraging seems to be most common when outdoor sources of food (particularly sugars) are unavailable due to the continued dormancy of plants and continued freezing temperatures. The ant colonies warmed by the heat of the adjacent home become active early and are forced to forage indoors for lack of other foods. Such problems are usually temporary, ending when plants (and the honeydew producing insects they support) begin to actively grow in spring.

Fire Ants

Both Native and Imported fire ants can sting. The Imported Fire ants are very aggressive, their sting can cause reactions anywhere from an irritation and nausea to even more severeeactions in humans. Imported fire ants have been known to repeatedly attack animals that may intrude on their nests. The red imported fire ant is particularly aggressive. These fire ants are known to attack people, plants, and animals, as well as cause damage to homes, buildings, and air-conditioning units, telephone wires. There are two kinds of imported red fire ants; the single queen and multiple queen forms.

Fire ants workers in single queen colonies are territorial, foraging within their territory. Fire ants workers from multiple queen colonies are not territorial, they freely move from one mound to another, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of fire ants mounds per acre. Areas infested with single queen colonies contain 40 to 150 mounds per acre (rarely more than 7 million ants per acre). In areas with multiple queen colonies, there may be 200 or more mounds and
40 million ants per acre.

Imported fire ants build mounds in almost any type of soil, but prefers open, sunny areas such as pastures, parks, lawns, meadows and cultivated fields. Fire ants mounds can reach 18 inches in height, depending on the type of soil. Many times mounds are located in rotting logs and around stumps and trees. Fire ants colonies also can occur in or under buildings. When their mounds are disturbed, the fire ants workers will come out of the ground and sting the intruder very aggressively.

The red imported fire ant can have huge colonies with 300-500,000 workers foraging at distances of 100 yards. Their usual activity is from the spring time through the fall months. During the spring and summer months, the active mounds will send out winged swarmer ants, whose sole job is start new colonies. Sometimes red imported fire ants will nest inside during the winter months under the bathtubs (when on a slab), or next to hot water heater. Southern fire ants will usually nest in loose soil, but at times they can be found in woodwork or masonry. Their nest may be seen as large crevices in the ground that spread out from 2-4 feet.

Fire ants nests can be found under houses, under boards or stones, or in cracks in theconcrete. Fire ants colonies frequently migrate from one site to another. The queen needs only a few workers to start a new colony. The fire ants can develop a new mound several hundred feed away from their previous location almost overnight. Flooding causes colonies to leave their mounds and float until they can reach land to establish a new fire ants mound. Colonies also can migrate to indoor locations.

However, if the colony makes it through this period it can begin to grow. Wingless, non-sexually mature workers are reared which subsequently help expand the colony. After several years, the colony may be well-established and then some resources are put into rearing reproductive forms. These are the winged ants, some females – the potential future queens – and the majority males. Imported fire ants have the the following characteristics:

  • Mounds of loose soil, resembling gopher diggings,
    are found above ground.
  • Fire ants mounds are generally numerous and easily sighted.
  • Worker fire ants are dark, small, highly variable in size,
    aggressive, and sting relentlessly.
  • Fire ants workers have the same body proportions from the tiniest to the largest.
    Head width never exceeds the abdomen width, even in the largest workers.

FIRE ANTS – REPRODUCTION:
The total time from egg to adult averages 30 days, workers live up to 180 days, and fire ants queens live two to six years.

FIRE ANTS – DIET:
The imported fire ant will not only forage for food, such as small
insects, dead animals, and sweet materials such as plant secretions but willkill insects and small animals to feed. Southern fire ants go for a variety of foods including protein, greases and sweet foods.

Flying Ants

Spectacular swarms of flying ants are a common summer phenomenon. Sometimes people will observe winged ants issuing in large numbers, pushed out by the wingless workers, from a colony established between a sidewalk crack or in a small mound. Other times only the winged forms will be seen, aggregating in large numbers around certain prominent points in the landscape.
Some background. Ants are social insects. The colony is established through the initial efforts of a mated “queen”, a sexually mature female. Originally winged, after mating she sheds her wings and the no longer used wing muscles are an important source of nutrients for her during the early stages of colony development. Very, very few queens successfully survive this period and establish a functional colony

However, if the colony makes it through this period it can begin to grow. Wingless, non-sexually mature workers are reared which subsequently help expand the colony. After several years, the colony may be well-established and then some resources are put into rearing reproductive forms. These are the winged ants, some females – the potential future queens – and the majority males.
Periodically, usually following by 3-5 days a heavy rain, the winged reproductive forms emerge from the colony in large swarms. Such swarming behavior is usually synchronized by other nearby colonies so large numbers of winged ants suddenly appear. All mating for the species takes place, often over the course of a single day. The males die and the mated females disperse to attempt establishing a new colony.

One behavior associated with some ants during mating swarms is “hilltopping”. This refers to their aggregation around prominent points of a landscape where they search for mates. A large tree, the chimney of a roof or even a tractor moving across the plains might serve as such an “action site” for swarming winged ants. My favorite hilltopping site was the top of the US West tower in downtown Denver, which annually is the site for millions of harvester ants to aggregate.

One behavior associated with some ants during mating swarms is “hilltopping”. This refers to their aggregation around prominent points of a landscape where they search for mates. A large tree, the chimney of a roof or even a tractor moving across the plains might serve as such an “action site” for swarming winged ants. My favorite hilltopping site was the top of the US West tower in downtown Denver, which annually is the site for millions of harvester ants to aggregate.
Although dramatic, swarming ants pose no harm or risk of increased ant infestation. Those seen emerging from a colony were always there and are in the process of leaving the colony permanently. Mated females amongst aggregating masses similarly disperse from the area.

However, in rare cases winged ants are seen moving into the house. In some cases it is likely that an established colony exists within the home and may need to be treated. Carpenter ants and pharaoh ants are two species that can produce a nest within a building.

Other ants, such as the field ants, commonly nest outdoors next to foundations and may incidentally swarm indoors, working their way indoors through foundation cracks. And harvester ants in the midst of hilltopping behavior may fall down chimneys. In these cases there is not risk of permanent household infestation.

Odorous Ants

Odorous house ants is a native species found throughout the United States. They produce a foul odor when crushed. It smells like a “rotten coconut”.

ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS – APPEARANCE:
Odorous house ants workers are about 1/16-1/8″ (2.4-3.25mm)long There body is brown to black.
The antennae have 12 segments.

ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS – REPRODUCTION:
Females in the odorous house ants nest lays one egg daily. It takes an average of 24 days for the young to reach adulthood. The nest colonies range from 100 to 10,000 ants, but can be driven away by invading Argentine ants.

ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS – INSPECTION:
Odorous house ants forage day and night The nests can occur in a great variety of situations. Inside, odorous house ants usually construct their nests in wall voids especially around hot water pipes and heaters, in crevices in sinks, cupboards, etc. Outside, they are found in exposed soil, usually shallow, often located beneath a board, brick, stone walk, etc.Odorous house ants are most likely to enter buildings when their honeydew supply or sweet supply of food is reduced such as during rainy weather or with leaf fall in the autumn.

ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS – DIET:
Odorous house ants can feed on anything…insects, honeydew, seeds,
plant secretions, but they do prefer sweets. Odorous house ants are extremely fond of honeydew and attend such honeydew-excreting insects as plntlice(aphids), scale insects, mealybugs, etc.