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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ant Species / Types of Ants - Part I

Army Ant

There are over 200 known species of army ant, divided into New World and Old World types. All are members of the true ant family Formicidae.

New World army ants belong to the subfamily Ecitoninae. This subfamily is further broken into two groups, Cheliomyrmex and the Ecitonini. The Ecitonini group contains three genera, Neivamyrmex, Nomamyrmex, Labidus, and Eciton, the genus after which the group is named (Brady, 2003, Tree of Life). The most predominant species of Eciton is Eciton burchelli, whose common name is army ant and which is considered to be the archetypal species.

The Old World army ants are divided between the two subfamilies Aenictinae and Dorylinae.

The subfamily Aenictinae is made up of a single genus, Aenictus, that contains over 100 species of army ant.

The subfamily Dorylinae contains the aggressive driver ants. There are over 60 species known.

Army ant taxonomy remains ever-changing, and genetic analysis will continue to provide more information about the relatedness of the various species.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants 1/4 inch (6.4mm) for a worker up to 3/4 inch (19.1mm) for a queen. Nesting in damp locations, carpenter ants prefer to excavate wood that has been damaged by water. From their nests in the beams, floors or walls, they scavenge the house for food crumbs and insects. Carpenter ants may occur in several colors, although the most important species are black. One of the largest members of the ant family, carpenter ants take their name from their habit of chewing passageways (called "galleries") inside wood. They live in these galleries and make excursions, most often at night, to hunt for food and water. These ants often set up satellite colonies inside homes from parent colonies located outside in a tree or landscape timber.

Fire Ants

Belonging to the Solenopsis invicta family fire ants are stinging ants of which there are over 280 species worldwide.
A typical 'fireant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants and seeds. Fireants often attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants only bite to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom. For humans, this is a painful sting, which leaves a sensation similar to what one feels when they get burned by fire — hence the name fire ant — and the aftereffects of the sting can be deadly to sensitive individuals. The venom is both insecticidal and antibiotic. Researchers have proposed that nurse workers will spray their brood to protect them from microorganisms. The worker ants are blackish to reddish and vary from 3–6 mm in length.

Fire ants nest in the soil, often near moist areas, such as river banks, pond edges, watered lawns and highway edges. A single nest is usually less than a square yard, and may have several small openings on the surface or in cracks; the ants shift the entrance during the season and may move young ants between openings.

Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Only one queen survives, and within a year or so, the colony expands into thousands of individuals.

Little Black Ant

Belonging to the Monomorium minimum family. A very small, black ant closely related to the Pharaoh ant (an indoor pest ant). It nests in soil under rocks, logs or debris. It also builds nests in open areas of soil in lawns. The nests in the ground are small craters of very fine soil. These ants' colonies also are found under the bark of trees, in debris trapped in the crotches of trees, in wood damaged by termites, in firewood piles and in stacks of bricks and stones. Little black ants feed on a wide variety of foods, including live and dead insects and the honeydew produced by aphids. The ants are active foragers and forage in trails of a few or up to hundreds of workers. These trails can be located along sidewalks and foundations and up the sides of buildings.

Pharaoh Ant

Belonging to the Monomorium pharaonis family. Up to 300,000 workers with multiple queens will nest in wall and cabinet voids, behind baseboards, behind refrigerator insulation, inside hollow curtain rods, or in the folds of sheets, clothes, or paper. They follow plumbing and wiring and have been found in light switches and electrical outlets.

In colder climates they prefer to nest in heated buildings. Colonies are very mobile; workers, along with larvae, pupae, and even a few queens, may move to new locations if disturbed or if colony becomes too large. New nests can be formed by "budding" with as few as 5 workers, 10 preadults, and one queen migrating from the original colony. Development time (egg to adult) for workers is about 38 days at 80 degrees F. Workers live about 9-10 weeks, with only up to 10% out foraging at any given time. Queens live about 4-12 months, and males die about 3-5 weeks after mating.

Honey Pot Ants

Belonging to the Myrmecocystus family, honeypot ants, also called honey ants, are ants which are gorged with food by workers, to the point that their abdomens swell enormously. Other ants then extract nourishment from them. They function essentially as living larders.

Sometimes raiders from other colonies will attempt to kidnap the resident honeypot ants because of their relatively high nutritional value.

The insects are edible and form an occasional part of the diet of various Australian Aboriginal peoples.

Several different groups of ants have independently evolved a honeypot lifestyle. The best known are the Myrmecocystus honeypots of western North America and Camponotus inflatus of Australia.

Crazy Ant

Belonging to the Anoplolepis gracilipes Family. These are small, dark gray to black ants that are easily recognized by their extremely long legs and antennae. Crazy ants get their name from their habit of running about very erratically with no apparent sense of direction. Colonies most often can be found living in soil, under items such as logs, stones, landscape timbers, wood, debris and above-ground swimming pools. Crazy ants feed on a wide variety of foods, including other insects, grease and sweets. They have been known to feed on the larvae of fleas and flies, and also have been observed carrying away fire ant queens immediately after a swarm.

Size: total length around 4 mm.
Colour: body colour yellow, gaster brownish to greenish.
Surface sculpture: head and body mostly with inconspicuous sculpture; appearing more or less smooth and shining.
General description: head oval, antennae and legs remarkably long. Antennae 11-segmented, each segment longer than wide; scapes twice as long as the length of the head, or longer. Eyes relatively large and protruding. Mandibles each with 8 teeth. Clypeus protruding medially, with convex anterior margin; without longitudinal carinae. Alitrunk slender; pronotum narrow, with almost straight dorsum in profile. Anterior portion of mesonotal dorsum, back to the propodeum, gently concave in profile; metanotal groove absent. Propodeum without spines, propodeal dorsum convex in profile. One node (petiole) present; thick, with an inverted-U-shaped crest. Erect hairs present on head and gaster, lacking on dorsum of mesosoma. Stinger absent; acidopore present.

Yellow Citronella Ants

Belonging to the Hymenoptera Acanthomyops Family. The larger yellow ant belongs to the order Hymenoptera, the family Formicidae and the genus Acanthomyops. They are found mostly in New England and the Midwest, but are common coast to coast. These ants are large, ranging from 4 mm to 4.5 mm in length. The workers are pale yellow to yellowish-red, while the winged reproductives are brown.

The abdominal pedicel contains one segment. The antennae have 12 segments and the scapes (joints) are shorter than the head. The profile of the thorax is not evenly rounded, and the end of the abdomen contains a fringe of hairs. These ants are also called citronella ants because of the distinct citronella odor that is emitted when their colonies are disturbed or when an individual is crushed.

Even though this ant is a common structural pest, there is little information available regarding its general biology. The average colony consists of only a few thousand workers with just one queen. The larger yellow ant nests in rotting wood, in the soil, under stones and in the foundations of structures. It is common in the crawlspaces under houses, and is also often discovered by pest control technicians who dig trenches in preparation for termite treatments. This ant likes to nest in rotting and/or termite-damaged wood.

Larger yellow ant workers excavate soil for their nest galleries. Outdoors, they will pile up the dirt adjacent to their nesting sites, forming unsightly mounds. If there is an infestation under the floor of a building, the ants will move the soil and pile it up into mounds on the floor surface. This can be annoying to building occupants because they will continue to pile the dirt even when it is cleared away.

Dirt will also be thrown out between cracks in the floor and in the walls. Because of the ants’ nocturnal nature, homeowners rarely see them doing this excavation work.

The larger yellow ants feed exclusively on the secretions of other insects. They harvest the honeydew that is produced by subterranean aphids and mealy bugs. These insects are often underground, in rotting logs and under stones, which is why the citronella ants are often in these areas as well.

The day-to-day activities of these ants cause aesthetic problems around structures with piles of dirt. When it is time for the ants to reproduce and expand their colony, a new problem arises. Winged reproductives — both females and males — swarm between spring and early fall. Female swarmers are about 10 mm in length, while the males are considerably smaller. If the ant nest is under the structure, the reproductives will often swarm within the house.

Weaver Ants

Weaver ants (genus Oecophylla) are social insects belonging to the ant family, known for their communication and nest building behaviour. They belong to the genus Oecophylla. Weaver ants are social insects that have complex bio-chemical communication and make elaborate nests out of living tree-leaves. Weaver ants are found in the tropical forests of Africa and southeast Asia. They are colored a shade of red and are known for their painful, irritating sting.

Big Headed Ant (Pheidole)

Belonging to the Pheidole megacephala Family. Big headed ants have two sizes of workers -- major workers (soldiers) and minor workers. Major workers have a very large head in proportion to their bodies. Big-headed ants are most often confused with fire ants, but imported fire ants do not have workers with larger heads. Big-headed ants usually nest in the soil in protected locations such as under rocks, logs, firewood, patio blocks and landscape timbers, although they will nest in open areas of soil. They typically feed on live and dead insects, seeds and the honeydew produced by insects such as aphids and scales. They are considered major predators of fire ant queens, which are present in large numbers after a fire ant swarm.

Pheidole megacephala. Workers are either major or minor workers; major workers have very large heads. They nest in the soil under logs, mulch, firewood and next to the foundation of buildings. They often trail along sidewalks and the sides of buildings. They often forage indoors for food and water. The ant is yellowish-brown and is 2 mm to 3 mm long. There are two nodes on the petiole, and colonies are polygyne.

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