Ants

Identification

  • Size From 1.5 mm to 13 mm
  • Colour Black, dark brown, red, or tan
  • Description Ants' bodies are divided in three distinct parts: head, thorax and abdomen. The thorax is joined to the abdomen by nodes. All ants have six legs, but only reproductive ants have wings
Ants

General Facts

Where do they live?

Ants are social insects that live in colonies with populations often reaching hundreds of thousands, divided into three distinct groups: the queen, male drones, and female workers.

Most ant colonies build nests in soil although some species, like the carpenter ant, tunnel into wood to create nesting chambers. Most colonies have one queen and a vast number of workers, but the colonies of some species can have multiple queens. The queen’s function is to lay eggs and control activities of the nest through pheromone communication. It is workers that are most likely to been outside the nest during non-swarming season, foraging for food to carry back to the colony.

Why do I have ants?

Canada has more than 100 species of ants, including the black carpenter ant, pavement ant, pharaoh ant, odorous house ant, Argentine ant, and thief ant. Foraging ants are attracted by food and enter homes to scavenge for crumbs, oil or grease spills, sugar, and other edible items. Ants gain entry to buildings through cracks in the walls or foundations, or through other gaps and small openings that often appear where moulding or plumbing connect with the structure. Large numbers of ants can successfully invade homes by detecting and following an invisible trail produced by scouts sent previously by the colony to search for food.

Ant life cycle

Ants begin life as eggs, laid by a queen ant when she mates with a male ant. The oval, white, transparent eggs are tiny - only 0.5 mm across - so are very difficult to spot. After one or two weeks, these eggs hatch into larvae. Adult ants regurgitate the food they have already eaten to feed these extremely hungry grubs. The larvae then shed their skin to become pupae, which look like white adult ants but with their legs and antennae folded up against their body. Over time, these pupae get darker in colour, eventually becoming adult ants. These adult ants are either new queens, female workers, or male drones. While the wingless female workers set about foraging for food and feeding the larvae yet to hatch, new queens and male drones have wings and fly away in a nuptial flight to mate. After mating, they lose their wings and the male drone quickly dies. The queen builds a new nest, and begins laying eggs, controlling the gender of her eggs to match the colony's needs. Ant queens can keep laying these eggs for decades, living for up to 30 years, while workers live up to three years and drones only live for a few weeks.

How can I prevent ants invading?

Keep your home clean and sanitary, store food in tightly-sealed containers, clean up crumbs and spills promptly, sweep the floor regularly, rinse food containers before recycling, keep the structure well maintained, repair all cracks in walls and foundations, keep doors, windows, and entry points sealed.

How worried should I be about Argentine ants?

Ants are unsightly and a nuisance that will contaminate your food. A few species such as pharaoh ants can also spread disease, especially in hospital and long-term care facilities. If the ants nest outside, they can damage lawns and gardens. If inside, ants can cause damage to the structure by chewing wood, insulation, and electrical cables during nest building. Some species of ants inflict painful stings, with the ant venom causing some people to develop inflamed skin and experience cramps and headaches. Some ant colonies can grow exponentially quickly, making them even more difficult to eradicate. To stop this ant invasion in its tracks, you need a professional pest control service.

Types of Ants

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