sheet on Ants.

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Office Phone: (02) 9631 3585

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Ants, as well as being a general ‘nuisance’ may present a health risk. There are known instances of ants mechanically carrying on their bodies, an in their digestive tract, disease organisms causing dysentery, smallpox, and a variety of pathogenic bacteria including Salmonella. As ants often scavenge in kitchens and food handling areas, garbage cans, as well as decaying material, their potential to transmit disease to humans should not be over looked.

As well as the health risk and nuisance aspects, some ants may bite (Greenheaded & Jumper ants) and others sting (Bulldog ants).

Ants belong to the order Hymenoptera, a grouping that is shared by a number of other well-known insects such as bees, and wasps, as well as some less known varieties like the sawfly.

They come from a family group called the Formicidae. This section distinguished from the other Hymenoptera by their distinctive waist region often called the pedicel. This to the untrained eye appears as a ‘humped’ section that seems to connect the chest and the abdomen. In this family group there are known at present over 3000 species in Australia alone. Although we only encounter a few.

Ants most often live in large social communities, with three casts of individuals in the nest:

  • The Queen – who lays all the eggs. She would have been winged at first but loses her wings after mating ceases. Sometimes there is more than one of these fertile females to a nest, although on other occasions can be only one. She may live for up to 15 years.
  • The Males – adult males are winged ants, their specific function is to fertilize non-sterile females.
  • The Workers – these are wingless sterile females that build the nest and tend the queen, larvae, and pupae. This group can sometimes be further differentiated into simple workers and soldiers. Soldiers are bigger with disproportionately larger heads and mandibles for defending the colony.

The first choice in nesting is underground, but trees, logs, and wall cavities are acceptable homes. A colony can be a few individuals to many thousands.


The Ants Life Cycle

At a time particular to its species the queen produces a large number of male and queen ants that, having wings fly off and mate. Predators such as birds or lizards eat many of these flying ants. However, a successfully mated queen will find a cavity and start to lay eggs. The first few eggs will be worker ants that assume nest building and egg tending activities.

  • Eggs are mostly small and ovoid in shape.
  • The larvae are legless and narrowed at the head end, needing to be fed by the workers to survive.
  • Once fat they pupate, some will spin a cocoon in which to pupate while others simply look like the adult but are soft and often white.
  • Once they hatch they mostly become workers or worker soldiers.

Ants feed on a variety of substances. These include dead animal matter, insects, seeds, fungi, nectar, and honeydew produced by scales or aphids feeding themselves on plants. When a foraging ant finds a food supply it returns to the nest leaving a trail of pheromones that other ants can follow. This leads to the processionary behavior seen in many ants. This food is fed in small pieces or by regurgitated liquid form to the larvae.


The Pharaoh’s Ant – Monomorium pharaonis

  • 1.5 – 2.0 mm. Light yellowish brown – dark brown, with a clubbed antennae.
  • Prefers to live indoors in warm areas, around water heaters or ducted heating pipes.
  • Will eat almost anything but prefers high protein things like meat and blood, and is found in some hospitals.

Coastal Brown Ant – Pheidole megacephala

  • 5 – 2.5 mm. Light yellowish brown, with a very large head.
  • Often lives in brickwork, behind skirtings or architrave’s, and around paths and rockeries.
  • Feeds on materials of animal origin like dead insects, fat or grease.

The Argentine Ant – Linepithema humile

  • 1.5 - 3.0 mm. Light brown to brown, with a single flattened node on the pedicel.
  • Lives in soil and rotting logs but will move inside in wet periods of weather.
  • Prefers to feed on sweet foods and will damage clothing if eating soiled areas.

Odorous Ant – Tapinoma minutum

  • 2 – 3 mm. Brown – dark brown, if crushed leaves a distinct odour similar to rancid butter.
  • Commonly nests under stoves or cupboards, and will be found in subfloors.
  • Eats household foods of most kinds, like breadcrumbs, and scraps.

Whitefooted (Black) house ant – Technomyrmex albipes

  • 5 – 3 mm. Black with white ‘feet’ tarsi.
  • Lives in rockeries, under paths, and in wall cavities.
  • A general feeder eating most anything.

Carpenter Ants – Camponotus spp.

  • 7 – 12 mm. Colour varies, with a circle of tiny hairs at the end of its abdomen.
  • Most commonly nests in decayed or moist timber, although may nest in soil.
  • Forages mostly at night eating dead or live insects, honeydew from sapsuckers, and waste.

Treatment Options

At ADAPTABLE Pest Control we like to utilize a range of treatment options in our approach to ants. There are non-chemical approaches using physical and cultural methods as well as chemical alternatives.

Working with the customer in cultural control involves altering conditions to make the environment less attractive to the pest. Much of which involves recommendations for things like the care of pot plants that provide water and a food source for ants. There is also correct storage in closed containers of rubbish or food items, along with correct cleaning in areas such as kitchens, & BBQ’s.

Efforts can be taken to seal, where feasible, cracks and crevices that provides entry points such as around pipes through floors or walls. Also sealing around window frames and cupboards.

With chemical treatments again there are a number of control options. They will be governed by things like the species, the size of the population, the distribution of the problem, the type of construction of buildings as well as many other factors. The chemicals used can include synthetic pyrethroids, pyrethrins, as well as others, and can be as surface sprays, dusts or as bait formulations.

It is important to note that a nest will not be eradicated unless all queens are killed. This can only occur if chemical is carried to her by workers or applied directly. In all honesty both are difficult to achieve and guarantee, and may take an extended period to be successful. Often a nest can be successfully eliminated only for a new colony to inhabit a pre-made nest. For this reason it is often easier to create a chemical barrier to the areas inside the home and keep ants out - without ever removing them completely from an area. Talk to the technician if you have any concerns you would like clarified.

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