Ants may be something you almost never notice, or perhaps you’re always wondering “Why do I have ants in my house?“. Either way, there are one quadrillion (10,000,000,000,000,000) of these insects on our world—more than a million ants per person.
Let’s jump into the world of those tunnel-dwelling workers, soldiers and queens and find out a bit more about them.
Roger’s ant (Hypoponera punctatissima) can also reach 3mm in length but are much paler in colour than their Pharaoh cousins.
Image by: AntWeb.org
Pharaoh’s ants (Monomorium pharaonis) are yellow-brown in colour, and can reach up to 3mm. They also have wings.
Image by: Animal Diversity Web
Garden ants (Lasius niger) are by far the most common type in England—4mm-5mm black bodied insects.
Ghost ants (Tapinoma melanocephalum) are the smallest of the bunch—they are semi-transparent and can reach up to 1,5mm in length.
Image by: AntWeb.org
They live in artificially-created ant mounds in class-based “societies”. Most ant societies compromise of workers, soldiers, drones and queen. Ants prefer sweets, sugar, foliage and rarely wheat products. Workers collect food and return it to their hives, where they store it for future consumption. Some ant species leave acidic trails around for orientation reference.
When ants come in the house, they are looking for two things – food and shelter. Ants may come in the house because:
- Food was left out unsealed. That includes sugar, honey, pet food, ripe fruit, flour, etc.
- Juice and soda containers were thrown in the bin without rinsing.
- Your counters haven’t been wiped in a while and are covered in sticky spots and various scents
- There is a valve leak or water build-up on your property
- It’s seasonal – ants come in the house in the summer because they need to work harder to collect food for the winter. Hotter and drier weather means more ants in the house.
- It’s biological – some ant species prefer to build their nests indoors. That includes Pharaoh’s ants, carpenter ants and pavement ants.
- While ants are not known to carry any diseases, they still spread detritus, unhygienic matter and allergens in your property.
- They can also cause huge damage to phone, electricity and computer networks in your premises.
- At least one mass blackout in the UK has been caused by out-of-control ant hive near electrical wires. Such incidents can easily start a fire.
- Though small, their mandibles are powerful enough to sever wires and damage your appliances.
- Ant bites are often painful, especially for young kids and babies.
Unlike cockroaches, few people are allergic to ants. However, ants can be much easily ingested than cockroaches. Their small size allows them to remain unnoticed in your food. They also leave a trail of pheromones some people are allergic to. Ant bites can result in swelling and inflammation. They usually do not need special treatment.
Ants are unwelcome guests to our homes and offices but they are extremely important to the ecosystem. They feed primarily on dead plants, animals and detritus. This recycles those materials and fertilises the soil. A study conducted in the 1970s estimated that ants add 1,5cm of topsoil every 250 years. Ants also serve as the primary food source to a vast number of animals. Spiders, reptiles, birds, other insects and even mammals such as the anteater prey on them.
Some animals exist in a symbiosis with ants. For example, the Macrocheles rettenmeyeri lives on the foot of army ants. It serves as an extension to their claws in exchange for feeding on ant blood. A more general example is the relation between ants and fungi. Much like human farmers, many ants cultivate crops of different fungi to serve as a food source.
Unlike most other pests, ants can be easily detected. They do not hide from humans and do come out during the day, which makes it easy to spot live insects. A single specimen might not be an indication of an infestation but regular appearance of more than one ant does indicate a problem.
Some species, such as the Pharaoh ant, leave a transparent trail of pheromones on their way. Those trails shine under bright light and smell unusually. Ant nests are harder to spot. They can look as innocent as piles of dirt or detritus on the ground.
Ants prevention is similar to roach prevention. If you’re wondering why do ants come in the house, tightly seal and store away all food. Ants are even better than cockroaches at accessing hard-to-reach areas. Thus, an open box of oatmeal in the cupboard can result in an infestation.
Make sure you sweep all surfaces after cooking, and clear up any debris. Block off any access points, especially those at ground level. If you see ant mounds in your garden, slowly pour boiling hot water over them. This will not cause their complete extermination, but will keep their population at bay.
What to do in case of an ant infestation
1. If your premises are infested by ants, make sure there is no food source that attracts them.
2. Keep all edibles in sealed containers or inside your fridge.
3. Swipe the floors—not only will this take care of any food particles on the ground but it will destroy the pheromones trails ants leave behind.
4. There is little you can do to exterminate their hives without professional help. Still DIY products such as killer gel are efficient against small garden ants infestations.