The Black Ant “Lasius niger”
- 2-3mm in length
- Come from a line of highly evolved insects that are found in many parts of the world, and throughout Northern and Western Europe.
- In the UK it is regarded as a native species and can be found close to mans dwellings.
It can survive all year round outdoors. It is usually the worker ants that are seen away from the nest, and it’s these ants that tend to be a nuisance inside your house or building. Their nests are found in gardens. They prefer sandy soil which is used to pave garden paths and in foundation of houses is another area where they could harbour a nest. Worker ants forage for a wide range of food, which include dead insects, seeds from flowers, nectar, and anything sugary. The nest itself can survive many years, young queens leaving the nest as “flying ants”, start new ones each year. The mated Black Ant Queen, (12mm body length) starts her colony by digging down into the earth forming a small cell. In this cell she will eventually have laid a large number of white eggs that hatch after 3-4 weeks into white legless grubs. The female feeds them on nourishing secretions from her salivary glands, and when the larvae are mature they pupate within the cell.
It takes around 2 weeks for the adult ant to emerge from the pupae, and this first generation will consist of worker ants only. The worker ants tend to the queen and the larvae, bringing into the nest various food while also enlarging the nest. In late summer you may find that you are being swarmed by flying ants in your garden. These are the sexually mature males, and large females emerging from the nest in large numbers for a short period of time. This “swarming” frequently takes place in the afternoon and from many nests. The winged ants fly away, mating on the wing, and finally settle exhausted. Usually the males will die quickly, and only a small proportion of mated females will survive to go on to form new colonies. There is only one queen for every one nest, if two nests were to join up then the two queens would fight to the death for control of the colony.
Pharaoh’s Ants “Monmorium pharaonis”
- 2mm in length. Pale straw yellow with darker head and abdomen.
- The Pharaoh’s Ant is a tropical species that has been transported throughout the world by international trade.
- Here in the UK it was first reported in London back in 1828, now it is found throughout the UK.
Due to the Pharaoh Ant being a tropical specie it is only found in heated buildings, and particularly associated with hospitals, prisons, and other institutions. Not usually found in domestic housing, as it requires constant warm temperatures all year round. Due to the Pharaohs’ Ants, liking such warm conditions the need for water is high, so often found within travelling distance of kitchens and bathrooms or other water supplies. They are small mobile active ants at all times of the day. Foraging on a wide range of food stuffs. Known to be particularly attracted to suppurating wounds of patients in hospitals, causing intense irritation and the ever present prospect of the transmission of pathogenic bacteria. The worker ant will travel many metres from the nest to forage for suitable food. Once suitable food is found, the worker ant will communicate this information to others using a chemical (pheromone) trail for others to follow to the food. So it is a common sight to see a long trail of ants leading from the nest to the food source.
A Pharaoh’s Ants infestation will consist of more than one nest, and these colonies will contain several queens who all lay eggs. These nests are unconstructed meaning that they occupy a suitable crevice. They are also found in wall cavities, underground ducting systems. Pharaoh’s Ants are a lot more difficult to control compared to The Black Ant. If they sense danger or the nest is threatened, the workers will move the pupae and young larvae away to start new colonies. This is known as budding, and this is the way the Pharaoh’s Ants colonies are spread throughout the building or complexes. When this migration does takes place a queen is not always present or needed, the worker ant come produce new queens, and males, from the developing young. The queen is only 4mm in length, and lays eggs within her nest which hatch in around 1-2 weeks, into tiny larvae or grubs. These are legless grubs which are then fed by the young workers, inside the nest. The larvae will take 2-4 weeks and several skin changes before reaching the pupal stage. The pupal stage will last another 2-4 weeks before the adult ant emerges from the pupae.
Other Ant Species
- Ghost Ant. (Tapinoma melanocephalum) 1.5mm long. Dark head and thorax with pale abdomen and legs. Tropical species that nests outdoors. Found in buildings that are heated all year round in UK.
- Argentine Ant. (Iridomymex humilis) 2-5mm long. Slightly shiny brown to dull in colour. Tropical species. Found in heated buildings across in UK
- Crazy Ant. (Paratrichina longicornis) 2-3mm long. Dark brown, with whitish hairs, and a purple sheen. Nests outdoors in Southern USA. Found in doors but only in large buildings in UK.
- Big-Headed Ant. (Pheidole megacephala) 2-3mm long. Yellowish to light brown in colour. Has a large head. Nests outdoors in the USA. Found in plant pots in UK.
- Roger’s Ant. (Hypoponera punctatissma) 2-3mm long. A tropical ant .Dark yellow-brown. Is very hairy and has no eyes. Usually found in buildings that are heated all year round in the UK.
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