Tag Archives: ants

Ants, Nature’s Engineers: Creativity by Necessity.

Ants are one of the few groups of animals which change their environment to meet their needs.  In their case, necessity is truely the mother of invention.

A single ant is  capable of carrying up to 50 times its own weight, so working together as a colony means they’re able to accomplish impressive and seemingly impossible feats. In fact,  a large army of garden ants can construct an underground city big enough to house thousands of insects, within one week.

Ant nant-nest-flatests come in all shapes and sizes. Many species build their colonies underground, but not all. Some build above-ground mounds, while others build colonies in trees.  Some ants will even build a colony within the walls of a building. The exact structure and whereabouts of the nest varies with the species, soil type and situation.

Ants are industrious creatures and excellent builders. Here are a few of their amazing constructs.

Anthills: These nests are created as a by-product of worker ants digging underground tunnels. In fact, ants in general move more ant-hill-in-forrestearth (soil) than any other organism, including earthworms. As the worker ants excavate the colony’s tunnels, they dispose of the displaced earth by carrying it back out of the colony and depositing it near the entrance. They also get rid of any garbage found in the colony in this way. They carry these tiny bits of dirt and garbage in their mandibles. Usually, this combination of materials is dropped off at the top of the anthill, so it does not slide back down the hole into the colony.  Some species of ants work hard to create a specific shape to their anthills.

Tree Nests:  Some ants, such as the Carpenter Ant, build their nests carpenter-antby hollowing out rotting wood; they do not eat the wood. Workers take mouthful-sized chips of wood to the nest entrance, where they deposit the chips. This results in a pile of sawdust at the base of a tree. The nest itself consists of meandering tunnels that are free of sawdust. Nests may be present in rotting wood in trunks, limbs, or roots and even wooden fence posts.

There are a few ant species whose nests are constructed using leaves. The green tree ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) sews together weaverantsnestleaves with the silk produced by their larvae. The colony expands by enlarging existing leaf nests or by adding new satellite nests. Other species use plant fibers to construct coverings which are attached to the surfaces of leaves. These ants live within the chamber formed by the covering and leaves.

Rafts:  During floods and heavy rainstorms, passageways and chambers within underground ant nests fill with water and force the evacuation of the colony.  Fire ants have the unique ability to come together as a colony and build an “ant raft” using their own bodies. ant-raft-of-fire-antsWhen waters start to flood the colony, worker ants link legs and mouths together, weaving a raft in a process that can take less than two minutes.  The fine hairs on the ants trap enough air that those on the bottom layer of the raft avoid being completely submerged. Fire ants can survive in a raft up to several weeks, although they eventually to need reach dry land if they are to restart their colony.

Towers: Fire ants build complex towers as a means of avoiding

Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech.
Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech.

trouble.  Without any planning, using trial-and-error and only their own bodies, they create a bell-shaped tower structure that helps them survive. According to one study, an individual ant, can support as many as three other ants, which it connects to using sticky pads on its feet. Scientists think that their towers act like makeshift shelters until the ants can build more safe and durable accommodations.

Rules for building ant towers:

  1. Don’t move if there are other ants on top of you.
  2. If you are on top of other ants, keep moving you’ll find your spot.
  3. If you find an open parking spot next to other immobile ants, pull in and link up with your neighbors.

Bridges: Army ants build living bridges, moving ant-bridgehundreds of thousands of ants daily. They are creating shortcuts through their environment saving time and energy, and optimizing traffic flow. Other ant species form structures out of their bodies, but their constructs are not such a huge part of their lives and daily behavior as is the bridge building of the army ants.  Building “living” bridges across breaks and gaps in the forest floor allow their notoriously large and vicious raiding swarms to travel efficiently.

Fun Facts about Ants: On the order of 10 quadrillion ants live on the planet at any given moment. That’s about 1.4 million ants per human, based on a world population of 7.3 billion people.

T-Rex Ant: Not Living Up To It’s Fearsome Namesake, The Tyrannosaurus Rex

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet got it right.  Man has a limited knowledge of his own universe and there truly are, new and exciting things discovered every day. One of the newer discoveries is the T. Rex ant (Tyrannomyrmex rex).  Originally, dead  ant specimens were discovered in Malaysia in 1994 and were our only evidence of their existence until recently, when Mark Wong (National Geographic Young Explorer) and Gordon Yong (both, of the University of Singapore) discovered a thriving colony in northern Singapore.

It was nt-rex-antso small fete to find these ugly brutes, since their preference for nesting sites is moist, rotting wood buried under inches of soil. These ants create nest chambers inside the rotting wood, where they live, work and breed.  As luck would have it, military training activity and the debris left behind by soldiers (various trash items) brought them to the surface and to the attention of researchers.

Being named after the fearsome dinosaur, T. Rex, because of its hellishly, unique appearance, has proven a misrepresentation of its true personality.  This ant is no tyrant, it is shy, seemingly nocturnal and a picky eater. What surprised the scientists most was, when offered what

Photo by Gordon Yong, National University of Songapore
Photo by Gordon Yong, National University of Songapore

ants normally eat (honey, termites, insects and other ants) these denizens of the dark preferred to eat their own. Cannibalism is not unknown in the insect world but this finding reveals how much of a mystery these asian ants are.

According to these two intrepid entomologists, Wong and Yong, “There is this amazing world right beneath our feet, which we have hardly explored and we are excited to get started.”

Here are some interesting statistics:

To date, less than five percent of the ocean has been explored. The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, covering more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface, driving weather, regulating temperature, and ultimately supporting all living organisms.  http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

Worldwide, 17 percent of land is still virtually untouched — mostly because it is inhospitable to humans. In areas, capable of growing basic crops, and therefore most able to support people, untouched lands have diminished to 2 percent of the total. http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2014/09/earth-is-still-an-alien-planet-5-habitats-we-havent-explored/

Alaska holds the vast majority of least-altered lands in the United States.  www.grindtv.com/travel/7-reasons-alaska-still-last-frontier/http://www.grindtv.com/travel/7-reasons-alaska-still-last-frontier/

If ants are occupying more of your personal space than you would like, and you need to get rid of ants, check out this link or call a professional ant exterminator today. 

ants-and-kitchen-sink

Asian Needle Ants vs Argentine Ants: GAME ON!

As an invasive species, Argentine ants have been extremely successful invaders. These aggressive, territorial ants, which can live in super-colonies comprised of thousands of queens and millions of workers, easilyargentine_ant displaced native species as they spread across the United States. No other ant species has successfully stood up to these super troopers — until now.

 

So, what gives Asian needle ants (Brachyponera chinensis or Pachycondyla chinensis) an edge over the competition? Researchers have come to the conclusion that the Asian needle ant’s ability to tolerate cooler temperatures is a major factor in their success. In cooler months, both species become dormant and their basic activities slow way down. This temporarily stops reproduction, diminishing populations. Asian needle ants wake up and become

active much earlier inthe year than Argentine ants, getting a jumpstart on their competitors. They start to reproduce, forage for food, and build new colonies in Argentine ant territory as early as March, while the Argentine ants take another couple of months to rise and shine and get going. Finding their old territories already occupied, the Argentine ants typically move on to other areas.

In forests, Asian needle ants nest in rotting logs, under leaves and mulch, and under rocks. In human environments, they can nest anywhere from potted plants to under door mats, in landscaping materials, and even under dog bowls.

While they love to eat termites, Asian needle ants will consume just about anything it can get its’ mandibles around, from dead insects to other ants to human garbage.  Its’ aggressiveness, habitat versatility and eating habits could mean a great change to our eco-systems.  When these guys move in they eat other ants, devour their food sources, and take up their nesting spaces, forcing native ant species, such as Wood ants, Acrobat ants and Thief ants, to disappear. This is a problem because, these native species play important roles in the ecosystem. Many native ants are gardeners—they till the soil and plant seeds, and the loss of these ant species will impact the health of our forests, and in the long-run, destroy them.

acrobat-ant-crematogaster-scutellaris
Acrobat Ant

 

Redwood Ant
Redwood Ant

 

 

 

 

Thief Ant
Thief Ant

Not only is this ant of concern to its’ adopted habitats but it is also a health concern as it’s venomous sting causes burning and site redness (with dull nerve pain lasting up to 2 weeks) and in some extreme cases, allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).  Scientists have deduced that more people are allergic to Asian ant stings than to Honeybee stings.

Although not yet arriving in California, in great numbers, they are heading our way.  They have already been stopped 6 times at our boarders and appear to be hitch-hiking on imported food products, landscaping and plant materials and grandma’s potted plant.

What does an Asian ant look like?  It is shiny, black with lighter orange legs, has a stinger and is only about 0.2 inches long. The Argentine ant, in comparison, ranges in color from light to dark brown, doesn’t have a stinger (but they do bite) and are about 0.08 inches in length,  much smaller than the Asian needle ant.

For more info on common ants in California, follow this link: https://www.corkyspest.com/ant-id.html

 

A warm beverage, A romantic fire and BUGS !

Even sun worshiping, Southern Californians like the aroma,  romantic ambiance and the warmth that a fire in a fireplace brings to their homes during cool, damp, fall and winter evenings.  Although some enjoy the atmosphere of an electric fireplace, nothing beats  a real wood fire.

Be aware! Anytime you bring materials from the great outdoors into your home, you may be importing hitchhikers. Firewood, pine cones, seedpods and other natural items often host insects and arthropods. The majority, of these pests don’t pose a real threat to your home, furnishings or family, but it’s nice to avoid the unexpected fright and frustration tha their presence can elicit.

Firewood inswood-pileects usually belong to one of two groups:

  • those that actively feed on wood and
  • those only seeking shelter.

Here are some creatures that you might run into and some tips for keeping them  out of your home.

Beetles are the most common group of insects found within firewood. Wood borers often attack dead or dying trees and are in the woodeucalyptus_longhorned_borer_01 when it is cut. Often, the first indication of beetle activity is the presences of a powdery dust or frass coming from holes on the wood surface. Adult beetles may also be seen on or around the firewood.  Longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae), Flathead and metallic wood borers (Buprestidae), Bark and ambrosia beetles (Curculionidae), Powderpost beetles (Bostrichidae) are a few you might run into.

Termites: Termites accidently brought indoors with firewood will not infest structural wood.

Termites

Their presence in firewood, piled close to the home, may warrent an inspection for termites.

Ants: Some species of ants- including carpenter ants can be found in wood. There is little chance they will nest in the home, but if wood is brought indoors and warmed up,

carpenter_ant_nest_creemorethe ants can become active and create a nuisance anytime of the year.

 

Wood Wasps: Species of wood wasps, horntails and other wasp-like insects breed in dead wood.As with most of the insects mentioned here, they cannot re-infest wood or cause damage to a structure.

wood-wasp.

Spiders, earwigs, wood roaches, sowbugs, crickets and small flies may hide and/or overwinter in firewood. Oh, and don’t forget rats and snakes find woodpiles quite homey too.

Earwig and Black Widow
Earwig and Black Widow
Wood roaches and sowbugs
Wood roaches and sowbugs

 

crickets
House Crickets

Insect invasions of homes from firewood can be reduced by following these simple rules:

  • Avoid stacking the wood directly on the ground. This will keep the wood from getting too wet and reduce the chances for infestation by termites and ants.
  • Don’t stack firewood in or against the house or other buildings for long periods of time. Termite or carpenter ant problems can develop and cause more serious problems.
  • Use the oldest wood first, for it is most likely to be infested. Avoid the tendency to stack new wood on top of old wood.
  • Cover the wood during the summer and fall. This will keep it drier and exclude some creatures seeking overwintering sites.
  • Shake, jar, or knock logs together sharply to dislodge insects and brush off any obvious structures such as webbing or cocoons before bringing it inside.
  • Bring in small amounts of firewood that can be used up in a day or so and keep it stacked in a cool area (e.g., garage or porch) until it is burned. When wood warms up, the creatures in or on it will become active.
  • Do not treat firewood with insecticides. It is unnecessary and potentially dangerous due to chemical toxins released while burning.  Pesticide treated firewood is a “Health Hazard”!

Always obtain your firewood locally. Firewood from other areas could harbor, non-native, invasive pests, and has the potential to create a destructive infestation where you live or camp. Most experts recommend that no firewood be moved more than 50 miles from its origin. If you are planning a camping trip, away from home, don’t bring your own firewood with you. Buy wood from a source near the camping area. buy-it-where-you-burn-it-banner