Ants: What You Need to Know

With over 12,000 species all over the world, ants are considered common insects that are especially prevalent in tropical forests. Not only that, they are also considered pests as they are usually present in places where they aren’t supposed to be in, bringing with them diseases, health risks as well as destruction to food and property. In other parts of the world, some species can even sting and be fatal.

Before you go and embark in a ruthless killing spree, first you need to identify what you are up against, right? As mentioned, there are thousands of ant species all over the word. Therefore,not all ants are created equal. In order to come up with a better control strategy, you must understand the specific differences among the species so you could get rid of ants in your home more effectively.

Health Risks and Damage to Food and Property

More often than not, ants are just a nuisance. However when they start to destroy and/or contaminate food in your home and damage crops, that’s when the problem starts to become serious.

Normally, ants set up their nests outdoors, but they can swarm and sting if their colonies are disturbed. There are kinds that can destroy wood and weaken home structures such as the carpenter ants.

Here are few of the common ant species you are most likely to encounter at home or in your backyard:

Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile)

Argentine Ants

These ants are light to dark brown in colour. They do not swarm and do not sting. The workers will follow long distances of food trails to keep their nests out of track. They prefer sweet foods yet, sometimes, they eat live and dead insects, meat and damaged fruits. Argentine ants are territorial. They drive other ant species out of an area.

Black House Ant (Ochetellus)

Black House Ant

They are black and shiny and are only 2.5 to 3 mm long. Black House Ants are one of those that are called Common Ants. They are attracted to sweets. They are considered as a nuisance as they scavenge in kitchens, dog poop, garbage, so they can potentially spread diseases such as salmonella. The most effective way of getting rid of this ant species is to find its colony and treat in.

Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta)

Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta), a widely introduced pest species.

Their Queens are 1.59 cm long, while workers are 3.18mm – 6.35mm long. They are coppery-brown in colour, with a darker abdomen. Fire ants have a very distinctive two-segment antennal club. Their workers’ diet consists of dead animals (insects, earthworms, vertebrates). They also collect honeydew, proteins and fats. Their nests are usually mounds found next to objects on the ground and are up to 40 cm high. If disturbed, these ants can inflict a painful sting that can leave a pustule 48 hours later. Fire ants destroy crops and invades homes, hence they are considered a major agricultural and urban pest.

Odorous House Ant (Tapinoma sessile)

Odorous House Ant

These ants are 1.59mm-3.18mm long, are either black or brown in colour, and they have 6 legs and antennae that have 12 segments. They feed mostly on household food like fruits and sweets. They are usually located where there is moisture like house plants and sometimes on toilet lids. They emit a distinct odour that smells like coconut when crushed. Their colonies range in size from 100-10,000.

Pavement Ant (Tetramorium caespitum)

Pavement Ant

They are blackish or dark brown in colour, 3mm long, have 6 legs, 2 spines on the back, 2 nodes on petiole, and they have grooves on the head and the thorax (uneven with 1 pair of spines). Their main source of food is mostly foods that humans eat, as well as those of pets. They usually enter houses during the night, moving through pipes and wires. Their nests are located under the stones, woods or boards that are often in lawns. Their colonies are mostly found near water.

Whitefooted House Ant (Technomyrmex difficilis)

Whitefooted House Ant

These ants are either dark brownish or black with yellow-white feet and are approximately 3mm in length. This type of ant does not bite or sting. Their nests can often be found outdoors, like in tree trunks, galleries once inhabited by termites, under loose barks or plant debris, along the fences or even in outdoor furnitures. They can also be found indoors, particularly, in the kitchen area near the bins, or where food is usually prepared or stored. They are usually seen foraging for food at night during warmer temperatures.

Ghost Ants (Tapinoma melanocephalum)

Ghost Ant

 

1.6mm long with pale/translucent legs and abdomen, ghost ants get their food indoors, normally sweet and greasy substances. When they’re outdoors they feed on insects that produce honeydew. They set up their nests both indoors (small spaces, wall voids) and outdoors (flowerpots, under objects on the ground or under loose barks). Typically, they can be found in high moisture areas, usually in kitchens and bathrooms.

Prevent Ants from Returning by:

  • Sealing up holes and points of entry
  • Storing food in secure containers
  • Cleaning food and liquid spills immediately
  • Removing unused pet food
  • Sweeping food and dirt

Get Rid of Ants for Good

At Defence Pest Management, we take pride in offering the fastest, most comprehensive and systematic way of providing pest management service throughout Brisbane. Consult with us so we can discuss your problem and come up with the best solutions.

ants in a building

Ant Species That Might Be Living In Your Home Right Now

Australia is a home to more than a thousand ant species, some of which are known to be pests. These critters gain access to homes, as well as other types of establishments, through crevices or from underground while they are in search for food and a breeding ground for their colony.

Although ants are mostly associated with sweet items, certain types can also feed on oils, fats and meat. During drier seasons, you might find them lingering around leaking pipes or under the sink as they search for water indoors. Most ant species, when gathering food, will leave a scent trail to mark the path to their food source. Other workers in the colony will then help with foraging, making their numbers grow in no time.

Common Ant Species in Australia

Some of the most common ant species that our team at Defence Pest Management often find during pest inspection in residential properties include:

Green Tree Ant

Green tree ants are mostly found in bushy and shrubby areas, including backyards and gardens, where they build their nests, using leaves. Also known as weaver ants, they pull the leaves together forming a balloon-like nest where the ant eggs, larvae and pupae are found. These ants usually have a yellowish-green appearance and a long, single-segment waist. If their nest is attacked, they use their jaws for biting and release a fluid into the wound that can cause discomfort.

Meat Ant

Meat ants have a dark-red colour and are about 1 cm in size. Their colonies are typically found underground. Dead meat and plants form part of their diet, which is why they can be beneficial for farmers. However, they can also be harmful, especially when there is an infestation, as they can bite intruders repeatedly.

Argentine Ant

Usually about 1.6 mm in length and appear light to dark brown, Argentine ants can bite if their nest and activities are disturbed. They prefer sweet foods, but can feed on almost anything. The colonies of Argentine ants are one of the hardest to track since they can follow long distances of food trail.

Black House Ant

Black house ants can enjoy a variety of diet, including oil or grease, meat and sweets. The adult ant can grow up to 3 mm. They can be found nesting under logs and woods or stones. Black house ants are among the most common species of ants that invade homes – they gather food from the garbage or any leftovers lying in the kitchen that are sweet or greasy.

Odorous House Ant

The odorous house ants, when crushed, can produce a distinct smell that is similar to a coconut, which is why they are also referred to as coconut ants. They are mainly attracted to sugary foods and nectar since their main diet includes honeydew. Once odorous house ants find a food source, their queens, workers and the entire nest will move closer to the location of the food source, which can result in huge infestations in properties from where food is gathered.

Fire Ant

Fire ants are known to be pests not only in homes but also in farms. They build and live in mounds and eat most types of food, including sweets, oils, proteins, as well as other insects and dead animals. If disturbed or attacked, fire ants can be aggressive and can sting. The sting can be painful and may result in a bump in the skin, which can last for several days.

Bulldog Ant

Bulldog ants are among the most dangerous ant species, with their stings causing extreme discomfort and may even lead to allergic reactions in humans. They can grow up to 20 mm in length and are usually black or red. Bulldog ants live under rocks, logs and in the soil. If their nest is attacked, they retaliate with repeated bites and can even track and follow intruders.

Eradicating the Pesky Ants

Most people, as soon as they see ants will immediately try to get rid of everything they find in their surroundings. However, dealing only with the ones you see on the surface will not completely clear out the infestation. The difficulty lies in tracking down the ant colony, which might actually be a few feet deep in the soil, or located within the walls of your property.

Depending on the type of the ant, they may also start attacking when disturbed, which could result in bites and can even pose dangers to health. To avoid these problems and to ensure the complete elimination of ants, our technicians at Defence Pest Management can help you with pest management. Not only will we provide a thorough inspection; we also use high-quality equipment to ensure an effective pest treatment.

Australia’s Ants: Friend or Foe?

Research indicates that there are approximately 15,000 species and subspecies of ants worldwide, and Australia is home to about 15 percent of these various ant species. Ants can be found in every state and territory in Australia. Some of the more familiar ants in Australia include species such as the: bulldog or bull ant, green tree ant, meat ant, green-headed ant, jumper ant, and sugar ant.

One of the most prevalent pests found in and around homes, ants can be an irritating nuisance. Ants can cause damage by building mounds or disturbing pavement; they also carry diseases and can spoil products. Some species can sting, bite, or cause severe allergic reactions. When ants are a problem, pest eradication may be the solution.

Ant Control Methods

There are three basic strategies or methods that can be utilized to successfully treat ant problems. These three methods include: inspection, chemical treatments, and baiting. An inspection is the first step in controlling an ant problem because it is vital that the ant species be correctly identified. Each ant species has a propensity for certain foods and nesting conditions. A pest inspection can accurately determine which species is causing the problems thereby allowing for easier location of the ant’s nesting area.

Once the ant’s nesting area is located, chemical treatments or baiting can be used to eradicate the ant infestation. Both of these methods have advantages and disadvantages. Chemical treatments provide continuous protection because they can act as a barrier preventing future infestations. These liquid or dry powder treatments are safe for humans and pets. The effectiveness of this treatment will depend on the type of chemical used and the placement of the treatment.

Baiting works indirectly to annihilate the ant infestation. The bait used and the location of its placement will depend on the species of ant. Bait will be carried back to the nest, and the ants will feed on the bait. Over time, the ant colony will begin to die. However, bait will not eradicate the ant infestation immediately and may have to be replaced periodically.

What You Can Do

Even though ants do play an important role in the natural food web, their presence in and around a property can be annoying and sometimes destructive. There are some preventative measures that property owners can take to proactively combat ant infestations. Reducing the food sources available for ants is important. Ensuring that rubbish is in properly sealed bags and cleaning up spills immediately are both crucial to preventing ant infestations. Another measure is maintaining the vegetation around the building. When vegetation is allowed to touch the building or its eaves or gutters, the potential for an ant infestation increases..

Ants on a hand

The Danger with Fire Ants

Keeping pests under control is an everyday task. In addition to termites, one of the most annoying pests would have to be the ant – in particular, the Fire Ant. The presence of the red fire ant was first discovered in 2001, which caused a lot of uneasiness within the communities. Fire ants are not just dangerous to fauna and flora, but could potentially damage the cattle and crops industries. Originating in South America, it was later introduced to North America by mistake. In addition to being harmful to animals and plants, the fire ant also has the ability to damage electrical equipment.

Commonly, these ants are found around agricultural areas and electrical equipment. Their nests have no visible entry or exit points and are often domed in shape. Fire ants are described as being brown with a black/dark brown abdomen. Fire ants also tend to swarm and they are aggressive in their stinging. If you come across fire ants then don’t disturb them, go and call Bio Security (a government department specialising in protecting our economy, environment and people’s health against pests and disease) straight away so they can then initialize the eradication methods, alternatively contact your local pest control company in Brisbane for further advice.

Stings are painful and can last hours with burning and itching sensations. If you are bitten by the fire ants the symptoms can be as follows:

  • Swelling of the face, eyes and throat
  • Severe sweating or flushes
  • A blistered rash in the area that you were bitten
  • Chest pains and nausea
  • Breathing difficulties and faintness

It can also, in severe cases lead to unconsciousness and death. The first aid for treating fire ant stings:

  • For the relief of the bite, apply a cold compress
  • Wash the area gently with soap and water, but leave the blister intact
  • If you have an allergic reaction to insect bites then you will need to seek medical attention immediately.

A huge effort and progress has been made in the eradication of these pests. Australians are urged to be vigilant and report and suspected cases of fire ants. It is an everyday fight in the eradication of these pests throughout South East Queensland. If you are unsure whether or not they are fire ants then contact a pest inspection specialist in Brisbane to be sure. At least if it turns out not to be fire ants, you can set your mind at ease that you have done your part to keep our native flora and fauna safe from harm. It is important for all Australians to stay vigilant and report any sightings.