Ants are social insects and live in colonies with queens. More than 12,000 ant species can be found on the planet.
Ants have narrow waists, bulbous abdomens and antennae. Most of the time when you see ants, you are only seeing the workers which are all female. Ants live underground in dead wood, in soil and under rocks and logs. Most ants are black, brown, tan or red.
The colonies are divided between sterile workers, queens and male reproductives - called alates. Once mated, queens will bite off their wings (as they are no longer needed) and establish a new nest site. Workers tend to the colony’s offspring while the other all-female workforce gather food, construct the nest and keep the colony clean.
Ants mature between 6-8 weeks. The queen controls the sex of the brood - fertilized eggs always produce female, while unfertilized eggs yield males. The life span of an ant is approximately 45-60 days.
Most ants prey on small insects and scavenge bits of dead organisms. Many also feed on nectar or honeydew which has been milked from aphids.
Ants cause problems when they move into buildings to look for food or water. They are attracted to a wide range of foods preferring sweets, meats, fats or oils. Some ants build nests in walls and foundations, or indoors in potted plants, enclosed areas, and even in cavities in toilets and sinks.
You can limit ants from entering your home by taking a few simple precautions, - fit windows and doors with flyscreens – install weather strips on doors – keep soil, rubbish and garden clippings away from the home – keep pet food stored in containers and only leave out what the pet will eat at any one time – fix leaking plumbing
Did you know?
• Ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight with their mandibles
• Soldier ants use their heads to plug the entrances to their nests and keep intruders from gaining access
• Certain ant species defend plants in exchange for food and shelter
• Ants have two stomachs, one for their own supply and one to share food with the colony