As similar as they seem to the human eye, ants come in numerous different species, shapes, and sizes. There are over 10,000 different species of ants, and most of them have distinct habits, behaviour, and characteristics. For their small size, these little creatures seem to thrive in Australia. In a publication from 1999 it’s estimated that 1275 species live here and the number seems to be increasing. It looks like ants love it here, because 15% of all discovered species can be found on the continent.
Avid social insects, ants populate most of the world. It’s estimated there are 10 quadrillion ants walking on Earth right now. These industrious pests can easily turn into a problem for the common Australian home owner. They tend to expand their numbers at a staggering rate and before you know it, they’ll transform your home into their new permanent residence, unless you do something about it. But don’t worry – Fantastic Pest Control Melbourne is here to help. We’ll present 5 common types of ants you might have to deal with, and pest proofing tips so you won’t have to.
Facing an ant infestation by these little buggers can be a nuisance you would want to avoid by any means. Although black ants don’t carry diseases themselves, they can cross-contaminate when they march across different areas and then move onto your food.
This type of pest almost always nests underground, under stones, or in rotten wood. If you stumble across on one of their nests you can identify it by the look of their eggs. The black garden ant eggs are white and kidney shaped. Noticing objects conforming to this description on the premises of your home is a certain sign for an infestation.
It takes up to 6 weeks for an egg to hatch but that period also depends on the weather. Once they hatch their bodies go through several different stages of developments before they become fully developed black ants.
When they become adults, you can easily identify them by their appearance. When you first notice ants around or inside your property, there is a big chance you will come across the workers. These are the ones gathering food for the colony and the ones that leave the colony most often. They are usually around 5 mm in length and have a dark glossy in appearance. Keep in mind that if the colony is old enough, they might be bigger since worker ants tend to increase in size throughout the generations.
Male black ants are the smallest at around 4.5 mm. An easy way to spot them is by their appearance. They have wings and are black in colour.
The queen is the largest in size. She is a hulking colossus compared to her loyal subjects. The black ant queen comes around 9 mm and can be with or without wings. The queen is glossy black and has brown stripes on her bottom.
If you are an avid gardener you would want these little creatures away from your plants. Black ants farm aphids and scale for the honeydew they excrete. Thus they will move them from plant to plant, inexorably spreading diseases.
Amazing Facts about Black Ants
1. A colony of black ants consists of around 4000 to 7000 ants. Even though this number might seem high, there have been recorded cases of colonies of up to 40 000 specimens. Now that’s a lot!
2. How long do you think a queen ant lives? A month, 12 weeks, a year? Guess again! A black ant queen lives for about 15 years, on average! If you think that’s a long time better put that in the back of your head. There have been recorded cases where a black ant queen has made it to the impressive age of 30.
3. That 30-year-old queen we talked about may seem like the most hardcore thing you’ve seen in awhile. But guess again – black ant queens don’t stop impressing us there. When they get fertilised, they remove their wings and digests their wing muscles in order to maintain their diet. And what’s the most hardcore thing you’ve done lately?
Most ants have one queen. That’s more than enough for a colony to produce thousands of ants. But what happens when a colony of ants can have numerous queens at the same time?
Nothing much really.
The colonies of the pharaoh ants aren’t any bigger than other species. The reason why they look so big is because they are pretty dense. Normally, pharaoh ants have around 2000 worker ants. What this results in is swift changes in the nests. That is why pharaoh ants can make new colonies pretty fast.
This type of ants is very social with other colonies of pharaoh ants. They are unicolonial, meaning they are not aggressive towards other colonies.
A reason why you might end up with pharaoh ant infestation is because you leave sweet food all over your house. They feed on all kinds of junk food and like many of us, they have a sweet tooth. Pharaoh ants love eating sweets.
If you ever find ants around your house it’s pretty easy to know if they are pharaoh ants. They are really tiny at around 2 mm in size. Their bodies have a brown or yellow tint and are almost transparent.
Pharaoh ants have a stinger but there is no need to worry. The little buggers can’t harm you at all. Their sting is non-functional. It only serves the purpose of producing hormones.
Amazing Facts about Pharaoh Ants
1. As all ants, workers feed their queen. Unlike all ants, workers can refuse food to their queen. This might result in the death or removal of the ant from the colony but it’s something that they do.
2. We mentioned that they had numerous queens. But how many really? Around 200! Yeah, that’s a lot of queens. No wonder they can easily remove the ones they don’t like. Democracy in action!
3. They have pretty short lifespans. Workers live for around 10 weeks while queens have a lifespan of around 12 months.
First discovered in 1842, this bug has been bugging (pun intended) homeowners ever since. If untreated long enough, sugar ants can ruin any wooden furniture and fittings. It’s more likely that you will come across the little creatures at night while you are having a healthy snack because of their nocturnal nature.
These little pests are considered a large species among the ant world. You can find them ranging from 5 to 15 mm. It’s fairly easy to distinguish the sugar ant with their black heads, orange thorax and orange-brown band around their gaster.
Unlike our little ‘friends’ above, sugar ants almost always have one queen per nest. Although, there are some rare cases showing it’s possible for these bugs to have multiple queens. If you come across the males they are all black with wings on their back.
Their nests can be found in a variety of places including in wood, among rocks, trees and shrubs, in the soil and even under paving stones. Because they can adopt their nesting place this makes them a perfect pest to infest your home.
Amazing Facts about Sugar Ants
1. There is nothing sugary in the world of sugar ants. In order to continue the colony ants have to mate. After mating males die and females find a suitable nesting site where they shed their wings and begin to lay eggs. Doesn’t sound very pleasant.
2. If you haven’t got it by now, sugar ants are nesters. In fact, they love forming nests between the walls of a house. It’s just their nature. That means that right now there could be a colony of sugar ants next to your bed, separated only by a thin wall.
3. One of the most interesting things banded sugar ants do is the way they communicate with each other. They use numerous different techniques of socialising and to make other ants follow them to a source of food. Things like tandem running, carrying other worker ants, and leaving pheromones for other workers to follow are among their favourite.
The name is no coincidence. The main thing you should remember about bulldog ants is they are extremely aggressive, ferocious and have a very painful sting. That’s right! Bulldog ants can leave a nasty memory if you encounter them.
Unlike other ants, these guys have a very well developed eyesight. Something like the Hubble telescope of the ant world. It’s known the little buggers can spot a human from 1 meter. That 1 meter might not be very scary, but when you take into consideration how aggressive they are towards humans things aren’t looking very pleasant. Bulldog ants can be dangerous to adults, imagine how dangerous they can be to children.
The bulldog ant is a huge species. Their size varies from 8 to 40 mm. That’s one thing separating them from the other ants we have discussed so far. You can recognise the bull ant from the elongated mandible and large eyes. It’s fairly hard to know which is male and which female. We would suggest acting fast if you notice one in your property because they are all venomous. People are known to have allergies towards their venom.
Amazing Facts about Bulldog Ants
1. Unlike other species, bulldog ants have a very simple social structure. The males are considered the soldiers of the nest while the females are workers.
2. When they sting you they inject formic acid. Although it’s used in the production of some foods, when concentrated it’s corrosive to the skin. No wonder why it the sting is so harmful.
3. Another distinct feature is the way they communicate. Not by pheromones but with touch and smell. Now if that isn’t unique…
We bet you have heard about these bad boys before. Also known as Fire Ants, these guys are the nightmare that you don’t want to have. Their venom is so strong, in some cases you’ll need medical attention.
Among all the species that we talked about, these guys have the largest colonies. Consisting of up to 250 000 different individuals they can become a serious problem really fast. Having such a dense population a queen should be able to support the colony with newer generations. A red ant queen can have a lifespan of 7 years while producing 1 600 eggs a day!
An easy way to identify red ants is by their appearance. They have a brown coloured body. Pretty small, you can see fire ants from 2 to 6 mm in size.
The reason they live in such great numbers is because of their complicated social structure. A typical colony consist of a queen ant, male ants, soldier ants and worker ants.
These ants make their nests underground, but there are cases where it rises up to 18 cm above ground. That’s a skyscraper in the ant world.
Amazing Facts about Red Ants
1. Fire ants are known omnivores. They eat everything from meats, to greasy and sweet food.
2. Red ants eat termites. This might be a bonus if you have termites, but it’s hardly a win-win situation. If you notice fire ants on your property you should get a professional.
3. The fire ant life cycle has four stages. Fire ants begin as eggs, which then become larvae when hatched. Next, they transition to pupae and finally grow into adult ants.
Ant Pest Proofing Tips
Ants can be more than a mere annoyance, as we’ve already demonstrated above. Some of them can be quite dangerous and would require Herculean efforts to get rid of once they’ve established their colony in your home. The pain from being bitten by the species on the list can range from a minor irritation to sharp, protracted agony. To make matters worse, you don’t always catch an infestation in time. That’s why we’re here to provide some proofing tips in order to give you a fighting chance. As doctors often say, prevention is the best cure, so we’ll try to give you some ant pest prevention tips, so you can get ahead of the curve. Here’s how to prevent ants in your home:
- Find all possible entry points and seal them. This is how any ant prevention should starts. Ants are minute creatures, so you can be sure they will use all sorts of cracks, crannies, breaks, breaches, gaps, and space-time rifts to enter your home. Some of us have the theory they also have the ability to teleport, but it hasn’t been proven yet. At any rate, they’re exceptionally adept at breaking into places like a reverse version of Michael Scofield. Don’t make it too easy for them. Examine your living space and ensure you’ve sealed as many of the possible entry points as you can find. If you block the way for the scouts, then you won’t have an infestation on your hands.
- Cinnamon or peppermint oil. Ants have an extremely well-developed olfactory nerve. They use their sense of smell to navigate the world, communicate to each other, and create chemical (more precisely pheromonal) trails to indicate points of interest for their allies. Thus, using an invasive scent like cinnamon or peppermint confuses them and even if they leave their nasty pathways, the others will find it difficult to follow.
Detailed domestic cleaning. This doesn’t seem like an ant pest proofing tip, but it’s one of the best we can give you. Ants can’t find a reason to infest your home if there’s nothing to find. Even if some scouts make their way into your home, vigorous cleaning will destroy the pheromone trails they leave for their friends. This way other ants won’t follow and you’ll avoid having a full-blown invasion on your hands.
- Not leaving food scraps around. It’s a relatively bad idea to leave food scraps around. On one hand, it attracts all sorts of pests – rats, roaches, mice, ants, and more. On the other hand, you can count the fact that some of the pests will end up fighting each other for the prize. If you have rats, mice will probably stay away. Roaches would stay away from mice. Ants don’t get scared that easily, so they will probably attack anything that’s in their way. So, you can let the pests fight, waiting so you can eliminate the victor, or you can try to avoid having pests altogether by breaking this (honestly harmful) habit.
- Putting food in plastic containers. This one is a natural continuation of the one above. Keeping your food in plastic, vacuum containers is far more hygienic than leaving it in a plate, for example. This way the scent of the food doesn’t spread and doesn’t indicate there’s something worth finding at your place.
- Professional ant control services. Ant pest prevention doesn’t always help. Despite your best efforts, ants sometimes still appear. In case you already have an infestation on your hands, you can try to deal with it on your own, or you can call in cavalry. The choice is yours, but keep in mind the earlier you call a professional pest control company, the earlier the problem will be dealt with.