Ants – Hymenoptera


Identification & Description:
Ant, common name for members of a family of about 11,000 species of insects that live in highly organized societies called colonies. Ant colonies have elaborate social structures in which the various activities necessary for the feeding, shelter, and reproduction of the colony are divided among specially adapted individuals.

All ants are in family Formicidae and all of them have a waist. Their waist is composed of one or two knobs which are the first one or two segments of their abdomen. Their antennae have a distinct elbow. Ants live in colonies made up of several castes. These included the winged male, winged female and wingless workers.

Ant colonies range in size from a few members to many millions of members. Members of an ant colony typically fall into categories known as castes, each with a different role. The majority of colony members are female worker ants that are unable to mate. Worker ants do not have wings and perform most of the work of the colony, including searching for food, nursing young, and defending the colony against ants from other colonies. Queens are larger than worker ants and are the only females of the colony capable of mating. Queens are born with wings, which they break off after mating. They mate with winged male ants, later using the sperm from the mating to produce fertilized eggs, which hatch to produce more worker ants and a new generation of queens. Aside from mating with the queens, males play no social role in colony life and die soon after mating.

Worker ants carry out different jobs including nest construction, foraging, looking after the brood and queen, and nest defense.

When the ant colony becomes mature, the next generation of winged queens and males are produced. They are present in the nest for only a short period. Soon after emerging, they leave the nest to mate and establish new nests elsewhere.

Queens usually look similar to the workers but have larger bodies. Males are about the same size as the workers or smaller, with smaller heads, larger ocelli and smaller mandibles. Males may look more like wasps than ants.

Most ants will attack their enemy. Some ants have powerful stings. Others eject vapors of formic acid.

There are several groups of Ants: Crazy Ants, Pavement Ant, Pharaoh Ant, Thief Ants, Carpenter Ant, Little Black Ant.

Crazy Ant

Order/Family: Hymenoptera/Formicidae
Scientific Name: Paratrechina longicornis (Latrielle)

Crazy ant workers are light brown to black with a gray sheen and 1/16- to 1/8-inch long. The thorax has no spines and the petiole has one segment. The distinguishing characteristics of this species are their extremely long legs and the first segment of the antenna which is twice as long as the head. The tip of the abdomen has a circle of tiny hairs.

Little has been published on the biology this species. The size of colonies tends to be small, containing less than 2,000 workers. A colony of this size may have eight to 40 queens. Occasionally they completely abandon a nesting site and relocate to another.

Crazy ants often nest outdoors in soil under objects such as trash, refuse, mulch and stones, and in potted plants and cavities in trees and plants. In structures, they nest in wall and floor voids, especially near hot water pipes and heaters.

Their common name relates to their erratic running about in their search for food. They do travel in well established trails, foraging as much as 100 feet from their nest. They feed on honeydew produced by aphids and other plant feeders, seeds, fruit, insects, and almost any household food products. They frequently enter structures in the fall or after a rain because both conditions reduce the availability of honeydew outdoors.

Pavement Ant

Order/Family: Hymenoptera/Formicidae
Scientific Name: Tetramorium caespitum (Linnaeus)

Pavement ants are 1/16- to 1/8-inch long with a dark body and lighter colored legs. They have two small spines on the back portion of the thorax, two nodes in their petioles, and their bodies are covered with stiff hairs. Pavement ants are easily identified by the narrow, parallel grooves on their heads and thoraxes.

Little is known about the biology of this species. The developmental time (egg to adult) is 36 to 63 days. Indoors, swarmers emerge anytime, and they emerge outdoors in June and July.

Pavement ants are commonly found in metropolitan areas in the eastern and central United States and in California. They nest outdoors under flat stones, under sidewalks, along curbing, under concrete slabs, etc. They invade structures in search of food and are a particular problem in areas where slab-on-grade construction is prevalent. Inside structures, they nest in walls, insulation, floors, and near heat sources during the winter.

Pavement ants feed on insects, meats, seed, and sweets, but they prefer meats and greases. They are slow-moving insects and are frequently observed in areas where they are prevalent. They forage in trails as far as 30 feet from the nest. Although they are not particularly aggressive, workers can bite and sting.

Pharaoh Ant

Order/Family: Hymenoptera/Formicidae
Scientific name: Monomorium pharaonis (Linnaeus)

Pharaoh ants are very small; workers are about 1/16-inch long. They range from yellow to light brown. The thorax lacks spines, and the petiole has two nodes. These ants can be distinguished from thief ants because they have a three-segmented club at the end of the antenna.

These ants do not swarm; females mate in the nest, and new colonies are formed by “budding.” This means part of the main colony moves en masse to a new location. There may be hundreds of thousands of ants in a colony. A female produces 350 to 400 eggs in her lifetime. The entire life cycle is completed in 38 to 45 days at room temperature. Indoors these ants develop year round. Workers live approximately nine weeks to ten weeks, and queens live four to twelve months.

Pharaoh ants are widely distributed throughout the United States. They can nest outdoors and are at times a crop pest; they are major problems in homes and institutions, such as hospitals, hotels, prisons or apartment complexes. They nest in warm, hard-to-reach locations in walls, subfloor areas, wall sockets, attics, cracks, crevices, behind baseboards, and furniture.

Pharaoh ants eat dead or live insects but seem to prefer meats or greases. They also feed on sugar syrup, fruit juices, jellies, and cakes. These ants are an especially important pest in hospitals where they have been found infesting the dressings on patients’ wounds, feeding on secretions from new born infants, in IV tubes, etc.

Thief Ant

Order/Family: Hymenoptera/Formicidae
Scientific Name: Solenopsis molesta (Say)

Thief ants are very tiny ants; workers are never more than 1/16-inch long. The thorax lacks distinct spines, the petiole has two nodes, and there is a small stinger at the tip of the abdomen. Thief ants are yellow to light brown and look much like Pharaoh ants. These two ants are easily distinguished because thief ants have a large two-segmented club at the tip o the antenna; Pharaoh ants have a three-segmented club. Thief ants also have very small eyes.

These ants begin swarming as winged reproductives in June; this activity continues until late fall. A colony of few hundred to several thousand workers can be established by a single fertilized female. Developmental time (egg to adult) is 50 days to several months.

Thief ants are often found in very large nests that have tiny tunnels connecting to the nests of larger ants. They habitually steal food and brood from the other ants’ nests; thus, their name. Thief ants usually nest outdoors in areas with bare soil or under stones. When they do nest in structures, they usually are found in wall voids and similar protected locations. Thief ants feed or live and dead insects, seeds, and honeydew. They will tend aphids and other honeydew-producing insects as a source of this food. They generally prefer food with high protein content.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants are a problem to humans because of their habit of nesting in houses. They do not eat wood, but they remove quantities of it to expand their nesting facilities. This can result in damage to buildings and, if the main structural beams are hollowed out, can result in an unsafe condition.

Most Carpenter Ant species establish their initial nest in decayed wood, but, once established, the ants extend their tunneling into sound wood and can do considerable damage to a structure. However, this damage occurs over 3 or more years since the initial colony consists of a single queen. Workers are produced at a slow rate, so that a colony consisting of 200 to 300 workers is at least 2 to 4 years old. Most problems in Washington and Oregon caused by Carpenter Ants are due to Camponotus modoc. This species commonly nests in standing trees (living or dead), in stumps, or in logs on the forest floor. Since many houses are being built in forested areas, well established, vigorous colonies are readily available in the immediate vicinity to attack these dwellings. This is especially true when the homeowner insists that the home be built with a minimal removal of trees.

Carpenter Ants typically have a parent colony in outside nesting areas, such as live or dead trees, stumps, logs or decorative landscape wood. When the colony grows larger and needs room to expand or the old nest becomes less suitable, they expand to form satellite colonies. These satellite colonies are placed in nearby structures presumably because the heated, protective structures are more conducive for the older stages.

The parent colony contains the queen, young larvae and workers, while the satellite contains the mature larvae, pupae, workers, and/or winged reproductives. The ants move back and forth from parent nest to satellite nest to feeding areas (in nearby evergreen trees and shrubs such as Douglas fir, true fir and cedar). Sometimes they can be seen carrying mature larvae (white and grub-like) or pupae (papery cocoons).

Ants are generally active along ant trails in western Washington from April to mid-October.

The ants usually maintain a trail between the parent and satellite colonies. These trails follow natural contours and lines of least resistance and also frequently cut across lawns. The trails are about 2 cm. wide, and the ants keep them clean of vegetation and debris. Traffic on these trails may be noticeable during the day, but peak traffic occurs after sunset and continues throughout the night, sharply decreasing before sunrise.

The parent colony is often located in a tree, stump, or in stacked wood within 100 meters of the house. Wood and stumps buried in the yard when the house was constructed or numerous stumps and decorative wood pieces brought in to enhance the beauty of a yard or driveway may also be the source of a parent colony. The colony does not produce reproductives (winged males and queens) until it is from 3 to 6 years old and contains about 2,000 workers. The natural food for these ants consists of insects and other arthropods and sweet exudates from aphids and insects. They are also attracted to other sweet materials such as decaying fruits.

Carpenter Ant Life Cycle
Reproductive ants (winded males and females) leave the nest anytime from early January through June (different colonies leaving at different times). Mating takes place in swarms noted in May (others in June, July, August and September).

Mated queens find a suitable place to live and chew off their wings, excavate a small home and begin laying eggs. Mated queens lay eggs which become workers or queens. Unmated queens or queens which have run out of sperm can produce only males.

By the end of summer either workers have emerged or the larvae from late eggs become dormant. No feeding occurs during the winter months (November, December, January).

The dormant phase ends about mid-January, when the queen begins laying eggs again.

Large Yellow Ants

Order/Family: Hymenoptera/Formicidae
Scientific Name: Acanthomyops spp.

The most common species, the larger yellow ant, is sometimes called “citronella ant”. These ants have a distinct lemony smell when they are crushed. In the Northwest, these ants nest in structural areas where there is high moisture content; hence the common name, moisture ant. They are large ants ranging from 1/4- to 3/16-inch long. They are pale yellow to yellow-red and have a single node in their petioles and a circle of hairs at the tip of the abdomen.

Very little is known about the biology of these ants. The large winged reproductives develop in the fall and overwinter, emerging in swarms, often by the thousands, in the early spring through early fall. They often emerge into structures (particularly heated basements) causing the occupants to misidentify them as termites because of their size and their appearance during termite swarming season.

Large yellow ants nest in rotting wood, in the soil, and in the foundations of homes. Indoors they are found in the crawlspace soil, between insulation and subflooring, in moist wood, etc. Outdoors large nests are found under rotting firewood, patio stones, rocks, landscape timbers, etc. these ants tend to excavate large galleries and stack up large amounts of soil adjacent to the nesting site. In some parts of the country, multiple small openings (mounds) may appear throughout the lawn.

They feed exclusively on honeydew obtained from the aphids they tend on plants. Because yellow ants forage at night, they are seldom seen in structures by customers, and perhaps this explains why they have never been reported feeding on human food.




Ants Facts
Like all insects, ants have six legs. Each leg has three joints. The legs of the ant are very strong so they can run very quickly. If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse. Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight. An ant brain has about 250 000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million so a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.

The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days. Ants use their antenae not only for touch, but also for their sense of smell. The head of the ant has a pair of large, strong jaws. The jaws open and shut sideways like a pair of scissors. Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. Instead they swallow the juice which they squeeze from pieces of food. They throw away the dry part that is left over. The ant has two eyes, each eye is made of many smaller eyes.

They are called compound eyes. The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants. Like all insects, the outside of their body is covered with a hard armour this is called the exoskeleton. Ants have four distinct growing stages, the egg, larva, pupa and the adult. Biologists classify ants as a special group of wasps. (Hymenoptera Formicidae) There are over 10000 known species of ants. Each ant colony has at least one or more queens.

The job of the queen is to lay eggs which the worker ants look after. Worker ants are sterile, they look for food, look after the young, and defend the nest from unwanted visitors. Ants are clean and tidy insects. Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump! Each colony of ants has its own smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized immediately. Many ants such as the common Red species have a sting which they use to defend their nest.

The common Black Ants and Wood Ants have no sting, but they can squirt a spray of formic acid. Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites. The Slave-Maker Ant (Polyergus Rufescens) raids the nests of other ants and steals their pupae. When these new ants hatch,they work as slaves within the colony. The worker ants keep the eggs and larvae in different groups according to ages.

At night the worker ants move the eggs and larvae deep into the nest to protect them from the cold. During the daytime, the worker ants move the eggs and larvae of the colony to the top of the nest so that they can be warmer. If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food. Army Ants are nomadic and they are always moving. They carry their larvae and their eggs with them in a long column.

Strong in relation to their size, ants can carry 10 to 20 times their body weight. They work in teams to move extremely heavy things.

Ant brains are largest amongst insects. Mushroom shaped brain appendages have function similar to the gray-matter of human brains.

It has been estimated that an ant’s brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.

Little Black Ant

Order/Family: Hymenoptera/Formicidae
Scientific Name: Monomorium minimum (Buckley)

The black ant’s thorax lacks spines, and the petiole has two nodes. The abdomen is tipped by a small stinger. Each antenna ends in a three segmented club. The little black ant workers are 1/16-inch long. These characteristics also describe these two species is the jet black color of the little black ant.

Little is known about the biology of this species. The colonies have several queens and rapidly grow within a fairly short period of time. The winged reproductives typically swarm in late spring or early fall.

Little black ants are found throughout the United States. They nest beneath stones, in lawns, and in areas that lack vegetation. Their nests are easily located because they form small craters of fine soil at their entrances/ these ants also nest in rotting wood and behind the woodwork or masonry of structures. Indoors they can be found under the edge of carpeting, in old termite galleries, and in wall voids.

Little black ants like to feed on a variety of foods. They eat aphids as a source of honeydew, feed on meats or greases, and are predaceous on other insects. Indoors they feed on both greases and sweet foods.

The materials about Ants used from: Bugaboo® Pest Control, LLC doit –