The ants go marching one by one at first, but before you know it, those one or two ants become a whole line leading inside your kitchen pantry. Just how are ants able to invade a home in such short order, in such large numbers?
The answer lies in how ants communicate with one another and the roles various ants play within their colonies.
HOW ANTS LAUNCH INVASIONS
Ants originate from large groups called colonies. Colony sizes vary, but for some species, a single colony can contain thousands or even millions of ants. For all the ants to survive, they function as a superorganism, cooperating to an incredible degree based on instinct, environmental cues, and communication from other colony members.
The Queen and the Brood
Every colony starts with one winged queen ant after she mates with one or more male ants. Interestingly, a queen ant starts out just like any ant; obtaining a diet that’s high enough in protein is what enables her to develop into a queen physically.
The queen lays her brood and feeds her discarded wings to the larvae after they hatch. When the larvae are mature and strong enough, all of the females become worker ants. Their jobs are to build out the nest, look for food, and care for the next brood that comes along. Although the queen ant’s title suggests that she delegates responsibility or assigns roles, ants divide labor on their own, according to their personal preferences and the colony’s needs.
Scouts and Foragers
If you’ve ever noticed the odd ant or two in your kitchen and wondered where the rest of them are, then you probably saw a scout. While most of the other ants are busy digging tunnels and chambers underground or tending to newly hatched larvae, these “special forces” are venturing into the great unknown in search of food for their voracious colony.
Scouts are how an ant invasion begins. Once the scouts find a promising food source (like your unsealed bag of Oreos), they head back to the colony using visual cues they’ve memorized to find their way. All the while, the scouts release pheromones. These pheromones act as a trail for the rest of the colony to follow, straight back to the food. That’s why ants tend to form a line when they first invade your home.
After the scouts send word back, the first ants to invade usually will be foragers. Other types of worker ants may also join the invasion to obtain as much food as possible as quickly as possible.
We all know that teamwork requires excellent communication, and that’s as true for ants as it is for humans. However, instead of using words, ants communicate by releasing pheromones and picking up the pheromones of other ants with their antennae. This communication method allows them to achieve a “hive mind” and not only complete tasks more efficiently but to even problem-solve more effectively.
Ants’ ability to think as one unit makes these tiny creatures a force to be reckoned with. While they are able to alert each other of threats and send messages like “Retreat,” ants won’t always run in the face of danger. Some types have been well-known to attack other ants and even creatures many times their size (humans included). Fire ants are one such aggressive type, known for their painful bites and stings.
Need Help Fighting Off an Ant Invasion?
Whether they’ve infested your home or your backyard, its best to contact a pest control professional for a thorough, long-term solution to your ant problem. Ignoring an infestation or unsuccessfully trying to stop one on your own can lead to multiple issues:
Irreversible structural damage (from carpenter ants)
Worsening the infestation if the nest gets disturbed
At Horizon Pest Control, our New Jersey and New York exterminators have the training and experience to find the root cause of your ant infestation to keep the problem from becoming a recurring one. Give us a call today at (201) 365-9886 or contact us online.