How Ants Work

Everything You Need To Know About How Ants Work

Have you ever looked at an ant hill and wondered, "How do those ants do that?" Well, the answer might surprise you. They build those towering, volcano-like ant hills without speaking a word to each other. All their communication is done through touch, chemical signals, and sounds. Today, we're going to take a look at the incredible ways ants communicate. In doing so, we will be able to better protect our Middle Tennessee homes from ants of all shapes and sizes.

ants on a rock middle tennessee
 

Touch

Ants have a limited sense of sight—if they're able to see at all. This is not too much of a big deal because ants spend a lot of their time underground in the pitch dark, where sight would not be all that useful anyway. Instead, ants rely on touch as they go down into tunnels to grab granules of dirt and carry them out. With each granule they grab, their mound grows a little larger.

Now, it might seem as if we're saying that ants fumble their way through this process as they go down into the ground but that isn't what we mean at all. We're talking about touch as a form of communication.

When two ants meet, they touch their antennae together. If there are more ants in one location, they will touch other ants more often. This signals the ant to perform certain behavior patterns such as, "Pick up dirt and carry it out," or "Go in a circular pattern to help find food."

Chemical signals

Another important way ants communicate is by the use of chemical signals, called pheromones. A great example of this is when an ant finds food, she will return from the food source and leave a pheromone as she goes. Other ants pick up the scent and use it to find the food.

Pheromones can be used in many ways. The queen will use pheromones to let her workers know when she is nearing the end of her life or when the colony should split (which is called budding). Workers can warn other workers of a threat or an alternate nesting site. Those chemicals are very useful.

Sounds

Last, but definitely not least, ants communicate through the use of sounds made by stridulation. That is a fancy way of saying they rub body parts together to make noises. These stridulations are not fully understood by researchers but they've learned that a queen can use her stridulation to control her colony and that some insects are able to mimic these sounds to turn ants into their slaves. Researchers have also been able to record and play the queens stridulation and cause workers to come to attention.

How does all this fit into the big picture of pest control?

  • Tracking. If ants create a mound in your yard, you're going to know exactly where they are. But how do you locate an ant colony when you find thousands of ants in your kitchen? The answer is to track those pheromones. There is a good chance the ants you are seeing in your kitchen have made a line from the food source back to their nest. Before you clean those ants up and get rid of those trails, contact your service professional. Not only will removing the pheromones remove the trail that will help your service professional solve your pest problem, it could cause worker ants to warn their colony of danger and budding could occur, making your problem worse.
  • Defenses. Since ants are able to warn their colony of danger, it is important to refrain from doing something that will freak them out, such as spraying them with a fast-acting insecticide. The best solution is to use bait. And this should be applied by a professional because different ants have different preferences for food. Your service professional will properly identify the ant pest you're dealing with and select the appropriate bait for the job.
  • Relentlessness. If you have ants near your foundation walls, they're going to explore every inch. It is what they do. And all of these communication abilities help them to find tiny entry points and exploit them. But routine pest control service applied around your home can work to prevent entry and reduce ant populations.

Ants are amazing creatures, but they can also be bothersome pests. If you need help solving an ant problem or you'd like to avoid ant problems in the first place, reach out to us. We're here to help. If you are a current customer with a year-round pest control services, just call. We'll come back and treat for ants for no additional charge.

 

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