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  • Writer's pictureMichael Zawadzki

Ants: What You Should Know

Trouble distinguishing an ant from a termite? This can be difficult because termites and ants do look very similar, especially during the spring when female termites seek a mate before losing their wings and finding grounds for a new nest. When wings are present, the front wings will be longer than the back wings on ants. Only reproductive ants, (queens & and males) have wings. Queens shed their wings after the nuptial flight.

Ants are social insects that typically live in underground colonies, made up of workers and a queen. Most queen ants live for many years and breed millions of baby ants. The queen, the female workers, and males make up the ant colony. The queen and the males have wings, while the workers don’t have wings.

Ant colonies also have soldier ants that protect the queen, defend the colony, gather or kill food, and attack enemy colonies in search for food and nesting space. If they defeat another ant colony, they take away eggs of the defeated ant colony. When the eggs hatch, the new ants become the slave ants for the colony. Some jobs of the colony include taking care of the eggs and newborns, gathering food for the colony and building the anthills or mounds.

  • An ant has three distinct body regions: head, thorax and abdomen, as well as antennae

  • An ant’s head contains many sensory organs

  • Two antennae (“feelers”) are attached to the head; these organs detect chemicals, air currents, and vibrations

  • The queen is the only ant that can lay eggs

  • Once the queen grows to adulthood, she spends the rest of her life laying eggs

  • Depending on the species, a colony may have one queen or many queens

  • Queen ants may live for up to 30 years, while ant workers live from 1 to 3 years

  • Ants are active during warm/hot weather, but hibernate during cooler/cold weather

Ant invasions usually start with a few lone ants striking out to find a food source for the rest of the colony. Scout ants mark a scent path to the food and then return to the colony. The scent trail leads other worker ants straight to the food source. Ants will eat practically any kind of food, but are especially attracted to sweets.

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