Warren’s World of Wildlife – Ants in Your Pants

Ants in Your Pants

It’s that time of the year again when Ants make a reappearance. No, I don’t mean Adam and the Antz are doing a Spring tour, I’m on about the insects, usually black that find their way in our gardens and homes. Colonies of ants are the UK’s fastest growing pest problem, if you think back a few years you might have seen the odd few but you’d only see large colonies when you went to warmer climes such as Greece and Spain. But due the more humid summers recently, they’ve certainly increased in number and last year saw an influx of flying ants for a short time.

However, the most common type of ant found on these shores is the black or garden ant. Just to confuse matters, they’re dark brown, not black if you look at them close up. These are usually between 3-6 mm, have three pairs of legs and their bodies divided into three sections, head, throat and abdomen, joined together by tiny waists we’d all be jealous of. Like humans, ants are social.

They live and work together in highly organised societies called colonies. These are headed by the Queens, who seems to spend most of their time laying eggs, her brood, who look after her, worker ants to build the colony and forage for food and soldier ants, who are responsible for defending the colony from any attacks and also protecting the workers as they go around with their duties.

They all work to each others strengths, for example a soldier ant wouldn’t be able to survive alone as it has a large jawbone, so cannot forage for itself and needs to be fed by the worker ants. One can’t survive without the other.

Although black ants are generally harmless, you don’t want them in your house and although they’re not particularly destructive, ant hills can cause problems under paving, they can take wood from sheds for their nests and if you take pride in your lawn, the ant hills won’t be particularly welcome.

Black ants eat insects and sugary substances such as nectar and old fruit. They are farmers of aphids, and they actually protect them from predators, as they collect the sugary honeydew they produce, which they then carry around to feed their mates, moving from plant to plant spreading these other garden pests to new healthy plants. They take some aphids underground as Autumn changes into Winter no doubt to try and have enough to get them through hibernation. They have their uses in the garden, they can be good for soil, mixing it up and increasing its fertility.

They find their way into your home looking for food, attracted by uncovered food, exposed pet food and empty food packaging or containers, they don’t carry diseases, However any ants you find in your home may have travelled through dirty places and could contaminate any food they come into contact with.

In all honesty, if there’s just a few milling around at the garden wall and they’re not causing any damage then it might be just as well to leave them be but if they’re in the house or there’s a lot of them then they’re best got rid of using bait. Bait works really well because of the way ant life is structured and the way they work for each other. The baits are sugary sweet, which attracts the ants who feed on it, it’s now that these famous insect workers start working for me by taking it back to the nest to feed the rest of them. It’s also slow release so they’ve plenty of time to get it there! The ants in the colony then feed on the bait and they also feed on each other when they die, it can take a while, up to three weeks in big colonies but it is, very effective.

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