ANT

Types to consider as pests

Ants are social insects that typically live in underground colonies, made up of workers and a queen. Ants will eat practically any kind of food, but are especially attracted to sweets. Ant identification is relatively simple due to their three distinct body regions: head, thorax and abdomen, as well as antennae. Despite similar construction, ants vary in overall appearance.

Argentine Ant.jpg

Argentine Ant

Appearance

  • Workers about 1.6mm long.

  • Light to dark brown in colour.

  • Do not swarm.

  • Bite – do not sting.

Lifecycle

  • Worker ants produced in what might be considered spring months and increase in numbers up until early November.

  • Winged ants (reproductive Kings and Queens), produced in early spring, before the workers, mature within three months and mate soon afterwards.

  • Argentine ants mate in their nest so no swarming is seen.

Habits

  • Worker ants will follow food trails for long distances so nests are not easy to track.

  • They prefer sweet foods but will also eat live and dead insects, meats, cereals and damaged fruit.

  • Argentine ants drive out other ant species from an area.

Fire Ant.jpg

Fire Ant

Appearance

  • Queens 5/8" long. 

  • Workers 1/8"-1/4" long. 

  • Coppery–brown on the head and body, with a darker abdomen. 

  • Solenopsis has a very distinctive two–segment antennal club, which is most visible in the front view of the female reproductive ant.

Lifecycle

  • After swarming from the nest and mating, the queen searches for a suitable spot to lay her eggs. Once found, she can lay up to 125 eggs. 

  • Larvae hatch within 8 to 10 days, and the pupal stage lasts for 9 to 16 days. 

  • Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands and broken down wing muscles until the first worker ants emerge. After this first batch of larvae evolves into workers the queen’s role returns to egg laying – she can lay up to 1500 per day. Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging. 

  • Fertile males are produced later in the season.

Habits

  • Foraging workers diet consists of dead animals, including insects, earthworms, and vertebrates. Workers also collect honeydew and forage for sweet food, proteins, and fats. 

  • Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late Summer. Males perish after mating. 

  • Nest locations can be a mound of up to 40 cm or next to objects found on the ground, e.g. logs. 

  • If aggravated, these react aggressively and can inflict a painful sting, resulting in small bumps on the skin that contain fluid or pus, some 48 hours later. 

  • These ants are a major agricultural and urban pest, destroying crops and invading residential areas both outdoors and indoors.

Garden Ant.jpg

Garden Ant

Appearance

  • Workers 4-5mm long.

  • Queens 15mm long.

  • Dark brown-black in colour.

  • 1 small segment at waist point (pedicel).

  • No sting present.

Life Cycle

  • Queens eggs are laid in May / June.

  • Larvae hatch 3-4 weeks later. 

  • Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands until the first worker ants emerge.

  • Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging.

  • Fertile males are produced later in the season.

Habits

  • Foraging worker ants follow well–defined trails around food sources. Sweet foods are preferred but high protein foods will also be taken.

  • Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late summer. Males perish after mating.

  • Nest locations – often outdoors in soil and below paving slabs on the sunny side of buildings.

  • Nest locations can be identified by the presence of finely powdered soil around nest exit holes.

House Ant.jpg

House Ant

Appearance

  • Shiny and black.

  • 2.5 - 3mm long.

Lifecycle

  • Larva hatches out of the egg as a white grub which is narrower towards the head. They are fed by the adults.

  • The larva pupates and appears creamy-white, looking similar to an adult. Sometimes they have a protective silk cocoon around them.

  • The adult emerges with the three defined body sections: head, thorax and abdomen.

  • The length of time between the egg stage and ants emerging as adults can take 6 weeks or more; it depends on a variety of factors such as the species of ant, the temperature and the availability of food.

  • Fertilised eggs become female, unfertilised become males.

Habits

  • These ants are regarded as a nuisance and scavenge in kitchens, garbage and also dog excrement, therefore potentially spreading diseases such as salmonella.

  • 'Common Ants' include the intensely black 'Black House Ants', and they are attracted to sweets.

  • The light yellowish brown 'Coastal Brown Ant' prefers to feed on meat products and grease.

  • The most effective control measure is to find the colony and treat it.