Latin Name Formicidae
Description Ants are segmented insects with six legs, antennae and hard exoskeletons. They come in a range of sizes and colors, from bright orange-red (fire ants) to black (sugar ants) and are found in all areas of the world. Generally ants are found in groups or colonies and most North American species nest in underground colonies. They are easily distinguished from the similarly looking termite by their bent antennae and slender “waist.”
What to Know Ants are extremely social creatures with a rigid caste system that include workers, soldiers, scouts, royals and drones. Most workers are sterile females, whereas drones are males. Colonies are also centered around one or more fertile females called queens. Ants are known for their invasion of homes in search of food-stuffs and moisture. Ants are the world’s largest contributor to the planet’s biomass (accounting for up to 15%) and are very successful in almost all types of environments due to their highly adaptable nature. Ant colonies have long been studied for their parallels to human societies.
Ants are omnivorous and only rarely do they specialize in a food source. They rarely are directly herbivores. Ants will gather and consume a wide variety of food, such as nectar, grains, and even other species of insects. There are even species of ant that aid in the removal of dead organisms, thus helping the ecosystem. However, due to their constant hunt for new food or water, ants often get in the way of human habitation.
Signs of Infestation Ants are known for their highly adaptive nature. They can be found flourishing in many different environments around the world from sandy, dry areas to wet, muddy ones. Ants can be found in every state in the U.S., from California to Georgia. The majority of ant species are native to their areas, with the exception of landmasses such as Antarctica, which have very few species of insects of any kinds and islands such as Greenland and Hawaii, though these places do have invasive species of ants.
An ant infestation isn’t as difficult to spot as a termite infestation, but can actually cause worse damage in sterile areas. Hospitals, for instance, have difficulty with a species of ant called the “pharaoh ant” which can make it’s nests in between sheets of paper. However the most important damage done to humans by ants is their invasion of food stores, both in a structure or in the field. Signs of infestation are the presence of ants in the household, both as individuals and as groups. They can also be found in most any type of food or liquid left out or exposed. Other signs of infestation can include holes in boxes that contain food-stuffs.
Treatment and Prevention Ants leave an invisible trail of pheromones when they search out a source of food or water that makes it possible for other ants to follow them. Therefore, even if the actual animal is killed or removed, it is still important to find the point of entry and eliminate it or other ants will follow.
Ant infestations can be treated in a number of ways, from traps to sprays. However, as ant colonies are highly structured and very hardy, it is sometimes impossible to do more than make a dwelling as ant proof as possible. Exterminating an actual colony can take a lot more investment.
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