Ants are common household pests. You may spot them in your kitchen, living room or other rooms as they forage for food and water. There are over 12,000 species of ants in the world, but only 25 species frequently infest homes in North America. Some types of ants live in the ground, creating tunnels in the soil, while others live in dead wood. Most ants are able to bite or sting when they feel threatened. You may find ants living in your yard or garden, near the foundation of your home, under your driveway or in the structural wood of your house.
Ants can bite, sting or sometimes do both — it really depends on the species. All ants have the ability to bite, but some species are too small to bite people. Fire ants are the most notorious, they will bite first to latch on to a person before piercing them with their venomous stinger, much like their bee and wasp ancestors. Other species, like the crazy ant, have acidopores on their abdomens from which they can spray chemicals to defend themselves. If ants bite or sting you, use cold packs and antihistamines to control the swelling. If you have an allergic reaction and are experiencing symptoms like dizziness, nausea or develop hives, seek medical help immediately.
It is pretty easy to tell if you have an ant infestation in your home. You will see ants traveling in distinct patterns, usually following structural lines along countertops, window ledges and baseboards. You may also see mounds of displaced soil near your foundation or patio. Ants can contaminate food, and in the case of Carpenter Ants, cause structural damage.
There are various ways you can prevent ants from finding their way into your home. Ants like damp spaces; so many of these techniques will help mitigate the moisture that attracts them. Remove wet or rotted wood near the house and trim shrubs and bushes that have grown too close to the foundation. Store firewood away from the home. Clean out gutters, as ants will actually live in the debris. Sometimes ants will be blown onto the roof from overhanging tree branches and enter the home. Cut back any branches that are close to the house. Fill cracks in the foundation, patio and driveway. Regularly clean trash bins, as food scraps will attract ants.
These insects range in size from 1/16 to 1 inch and come in various shades of black, brown, or red. Ants are known for their slender, pinched waists and elbow-shaped antennae. Ants can be easily confused with termites, especially when they swarm during mating. Depending on the species, ant swarms may be seen during the spring, summer or fall. There are a few distinguishing characteristics that will help you tell the difference between these two pests. Ants are shaped like a figure eight, while termites have a more broad waist. Ant antennae are elbowed, while termite antennae are straight and appear beaded. Ant forewings and hindwings are not equal in size and are transparent or brownish while a termite’s wings are equal in size and a cloudy-white or grayish color. Finally, ant wings are firmly attached to the body while termite wings can easily fall off.
Ants In The Home & The Garden
Generally, ants prefer moist and warm environments near their food source. They may live in soil, dead trees, under rocks or in mulch. The moisture works as the ants’ water source and keeps the environment at a more constant temperature. Ants build networks of tunnels and galleries in their nests with spaces designated for certain functions. Some compartments are used to store food, while others are for deposited trash or for taking care of eggs and larvae.
Ants will eat almost anything. Some species like sugary foods while others like proteins, fats and oils. Ants will even change what they eat depending on the season and the needs of the queen. Some species of ants harvest seeds or grow tiny underground fungus gardens.
Like bees and termites, ants are social and usually live in colonies with a structured caste system. This hierarchy is made up of the sterile, wingless female “workers” and the winged male and female “reproductives”. A colony begins when a fertilized queen ant burrows into the ground or finds a safe crack or crevice to lay her eggs. She nurtures her first brood of larvae and pupae until they are mature enough to work. The workers then take over the care of all future broods, which includes finding food for the queen and her offspring, while also protecting and maintaining the nest. Occasionally, the reproductives will fly from the nest to mate. After mating, the males die and the females will shed their wings and begin their own colonies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do ants have wings?
In almost all ant species, the reproductive males and females have wings. Some species “swarm” in a mating flight outside of the nest, while other species remain in the nest during mating. Queens shed their wings after mating.
How do you tell the difference between ants and termites?
Swarms of termites and the mating flights of ants can be easily confused with each other. If you look closely, there are few key features that will allow you to tell the difference between ants and termites. Check out the wings, waist and anntenae. Ants have front wings that are larger than their hind wings, narrow waists and elbowed anntenae. Termites have two pairs of wings that are exactly the same size, broader waists and straight anntenae.
Benefits of Professional Ant Pest Control
A couple of ants mean there could be hundreds, even thousands, living in colonies in or near your home. Once the ant colony has decided to use your home as a food source, they will continue coming back, year after year. A pest management professional will identify the source of the ant colonies and eliminate them from the inside out. Catseye will locate and treat ant colonies in and around the property. We use strategically placed granular and gel baits that recruit ants into treating their own colony. Catseye also offers a bi-monthly maintenance program, where our pest management professionals will proactively treat your home to prevent or eliminate ant infestations in addition to an array of other preventative services.