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Ants are generally considered a nuisance pest, rather than dangerous or destructive, though they have been associated with public health issues, especially in hospitals. Ants cause problems primarily when they forage in buildings for food or water and when they construct nests in buildings and gardens.
Ants are social insects which form small to large colonies. A typical colony contains an egg-laying queen and many adult workers together with their brood (eggs, larvae and pupae). Workers are by far the most numerous individuals in the nest. They are responsible for nest construction and maintenance, foraging, tending the brood and queen, and nest defence.
Species includes: Black house ant, White-footed house ant, Coastal brown ant, Meat ants, Sugar ants, Funnel ants.
Ants usually enter buildings in search of food, water and sometimes shelter.
When searching for food, they can be attracted to a wide range of products with different species preferring
- pet food bowls
- eat insects
- greasy or oily foods
- plant secretions as well
They will also search indoors for water during dry periods. When desirable items are found many species will recruit fellow nest mates to help gather the food and return it to the nest. This can result in large numbers of ants appearing over a short period of time.
When searching for water, they can be attracted to:
- benchtops (kitchen & Laundry)
- kitchen cupboards/pantry (inside)
- pet water bowls
- they build nests in areas such as woodwork voids
- rotting logs
- cracks in cement
- lawns and open areas
- can be located in wooden item
- the junction between the carpet and walls
Whilst ants generally do not cause structural damage, some species will:
- attack electrical wiring
- remove soil from around paving
- create a mess inside the home by working through insulation and building up dirt in walls and roofs
- unsightly eyesore as a result of their nest building when they are found in large numbers inside the home
- The typical ant nest begins with a single individual, the queen.
- This queen flew from her home nest a day or two earlier, together with other queens and males from her nest and other nests in the area.
- The queen searches for a mate, often being attracted to large, distinctive objects such as especially tall trees, large shrubs or hill tops.
- These sites act as meeting places for queens and males from many nests, ensuring that they can find each other.
- The queen then mates with one or a few males while still in the air or on low vegetation or the ground.
- Once mated, she searches for a suitable nest site. Where she searches will vary with the species and can range from the tops of trees to open soil.
Ant Facts, Identification and Control
Ant control can be difficult, but there are some things you should know about how ants’ behavior can lead to big headaches for you and your home:
- Entry: Ants can enter through even the tiniest cracks, seeking water and sweet or greasy food substances in the kitchen pantry or storeroom areas.
- Scent trails: Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.
- Nest locations: They can nest about anywhere in and around your house; in lawns, walls, stumps, even under foundations.
- Colony size: Colonies can number up to 300,000 to 500,000, and whole colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
- Colony Lifetime: A colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years, and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
- Do-it-yourself ineffectiveness: Most do-it-yourself ant control approaches kill only the ants you see. Some truly effective treatments can penetrate and destroy nests to help prevent these pests from returning. Also, home remedies don’t account for the fact that different kinds of ant infestations require different treatments.
When infestation occurs, gaps and cracks in exterior walls should be sealed. It is important to remove decaying wood, firewood and other debris surrounding a home or building if an infestation is suspected. While it is difficult to see little black ants due their small size, their nests can be located by following the trail of a worker ant back to its colony. Pest control experts provide the most effective treatment of little black ant infestations.