Pests>>All About Ants

Hymenoptera: Formicidea

Characteristics

They bite using scissor like jaws that work sideways compared to human jaws
Elbow shaped antennae
Six legs
Brain has 250,000 brain cells
Hierarchical social system
Can lift 20 times their own bodyweight
Typically workers are 5mm long, and queens up to 20mm long, depending on species
Typical life expectancy of approximately 50 days, depending on temperature, conditions and species
The eye of the ant is made up of many smaller eyes (compound eye)
Over 10,000 species. One of the most well known in the UK is Lasius niger, the Common Black Ant
Workers leave a trail of scent behind which act as guides for other workers towards food sources and as a way back to the colony
Legs all have three joints
They prefer sweet, moist foods
Ants have various ways of defending themselves, according to the species, but the most common defence is their sharp jaws. Most species are not predatory.

 

Life-Cycle

Egg
Larva
Pupa
Adult

 

Social Structure

Gregarious
Caste system
They live in colonies with a typical structure of queen and workers (sterile females). Males (also known as drones) have wings and fly from the colony when adult as do fertile winged females. Once they have mated, the males die and the pregnant females land and search for a suitable spot to dig in for the winter. Once spring arrives they lay their eggs and, with the help of the first batch of newly born workers, they attempt set up new colonies for their offspring. Those that are successful become queens.
Whereas the queen stays in the nest (with the exception of nomadic Army Ants), the female workers forage for food (thus becoming pests to humans), defend the nest and look after the young, including feeding them and burying their larvae at night to avoid them being killed off by the cold, and recovering them in the morning. They will also perform household duties such as removing rubbish from the nest
A colony may have more than one queen
Ants can show a great deal of sophistication collectively, apparently without any central direction. For example, they have been known to raid other ant colonies and kidnap newly hatched ants and bring them back to their colony as slaves.
Ants have been known to pack themselves tightly together on cold days, with workers taking turns to be on the outside of the pack. How any given ant knows it is her turn to go to the outside is not known.
Each colony has a distinctive smell

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