Ants are remarkable creatures. Capable of lifting an object up to 50 times their weight, living in mounds and creating intricate tunnels, it is possible to study ants for decades and still marvel at their lifestyle and capabilities. But when these insects start invading your home, office or other building, all you will likely want to know is how to get rid of them. We will get to that in a minute. First, we give you…
The Complete Guide to Ants Found in New Jersey
Before we start talking about the most common ants you will find in New Jersey; it is important to understand the role ants play in our ecosystem. Not only do ants make up more than 15 percent of the earth’s animal biomass, but they also play an important part in aerating the soil, recycling organic material, feeding other animals and insects, and providing an important source of protein for many people in different parts of the world.
A Little Lesson in Ant Behavior
Ants are known as eusocial creatures with a complex social system. There is a distinct division of labor, with each ant playing a vital role in the overall colony. There are intricate methods of communication between ants that allow them to lead one another to food sources and shelter. Ants also have an uncanny ability to problem solve. Have you ever placed a rock in the middle of an ant line? Within seconds the line is reformed, going around the rock as though it had never interrupted them in the first place.
Ants are the most active in the warm months – usually spring and summer. They also evolve via metamorphosis the way caterpillars turn into butterflies. In a matter of about two months, ant eggs will develop into larva then into pupae before erupting from small cocoons as fully developed ants. When they emerge, they are either workers or reproductives – meaning the role they will play in the colony is already decided. Worker ants feed and groom the queen, forage for food, defend the nest and care for the young. Reproductives, well… reproduce.
And boy, do they Reproduce…
Winged reproductives are only produced every three to six years when it is time for ant populations to expand from their crowded colonies or when the colony reaches maturity. Between March and July, hundreds of these winged pairs emerge from nests and pair up to form new colonies in new locations. After they have mated, the male dies, the female bites off her wings lay eggs and begin the new colony as its queen. In fact, queens can live up to 20 years as the head of a colony while workers typically only live between one and three years. They will spend their entire lives laying eggs to repopulate the colony with workers who then take care of her.
Of course, not all ants create new colonies this way. Some types of ants are more like children who grow up and leave home to build a new nest. Of course, when new nests are created by this process, called “budding,” the new nests are typically set up near the original (parent) nest. This type of colony also has multiple queens instead of just one meaning they can grow much faster than if there is a single queen.
An Ant’s Diet
Ants will eat just about anything. Not only are they omnivores, but they are also opportunistic eaters attracted to sticky liquids and sweet foods. Cut a watermelon outside near an ant colony, and they will find the remnants on your picnic table in no time. That’s not to say they’re at all picky. Small crumbs left behind on counters, food in pantries, even dead insects can be feasts for these six-legged insects. Once inside your home, they also typically find their way into food boxes and unsealed storage containers.
While there are dozens of species of ants found all over the state, there are three types that typically infest homes and other buildings. The most destructive and disruptive of insects, ants are easy to acquire and difficult to get rid of for their industrious colony building efforts that go on behind the scenes (and walls).
Types of Ants Found in New Jersey
Carpenter ants are the typical ant you think of when you think of ants in your home. Usually found in damp parts of the woods, carpenter ants create colonies by chewing up damp pieces of wood with their strong jaws. They do not consume the wood the way termites do, but rather use it as the foundation for their homes as they create intricate tunnels in the walls of your home. They love areas around windows, under eaves and in decks and porches for the moisture content in the wood. They have also been known to have a single parent colony and several other branches that spread out in all directions. Make no mistake, while carpenter ants are typically not dangerous to humans, they are destructive to your home.
An orange-brown color, citronella ants get their name for the lemony scent they give off when they are crushed. Citronella ants are subterranean insects, feeding on the excrement of other insects. These ants are swarmers, moving to new colonies by sending out their winged brethren to find a new home.
These winged swarmers are often confused for termites when they are found inside of homes. However, they do not feed on wood, nor do they reproduce inside of homes or feed on human food. Rather, they tend to aphids the way farmers tend to cows, carefully giving them plenty to eat so the citronella ants can eat the excrement, or honeydew left behind. Since citronella ant colonies are found underground, not much is known about their breeding habits. That is why your Pride Pest Service professional locates and exterminates these ants at the colony instead of treating the swarm. This way, whatever reproduction process is happening at the source will stop, thus stopping the infestation.
Acrobat ants are light brown and get their name for their ability to raise their abdomen over their thorax when they are disturbed. These tiny (around one-eighth of an inch) ants have a stinger and segmented body and can bite if the colony is disrupted. Acrobat ants are predatory, typically stinging wasps or other insects with their abdomen before eating them. However, they tend to stay close to home when they hunt for food, typically staying within a 100-foot radius of their nest. They are expert excavators, moving leaves, dirt and wood scraps to dig their homes. They can also post a threat to the structure of your home if they decide that it is an ideal place to nest.
Homes with siding that have areas where bits of foam insulation are on the ground may have an acrobat ant infestation within the walls. Homes with wet, rotting wood and peeling paint around windows and door jams are ideal locations for acrobat ants to make themselves at home. Acrobat ants are also capable of stripping electrical and phone wires in the walls of your home. If you suspect that you have an acrobat infestation, contact Pride Pest Service immediately before any permanent structural damage occurs.
Odorous House Ants
Also known as “sweet ants,” odorous house ants usually measure between 1/16th and 1/8th inch long. While they are named for the smell the almost sweet smell they give off when they are crushed, these ants are especially attracted to food left behind in trash cans and countertops. They tend to forage swarms and can be found on floors and counters as they find sweet liquids and foods. Their small size also means they can gain entry into your home through very small openings and find their way into boxes and food containers.
Part of the reason why odorous house ants are so difficult to get rid of once they enter your home is their tendency to expand by budding. Since a single colony of house ants has multiple queens who lay eggs, it is possible for these swarms to grow very quickly once they are inside of your house. Even though they do not sting humans, waking up to find a swarm of ants feasting on yesterday’s toast crumbs makes them a nuisance of epic proportions.
Pavement ants are usually brownish or black with antennae and usually measure 1/8 inch long. Look on any sidewalk or patio in the spring where food has been present, and you will find swarms of these creatures. Like most ants, pavement ants are opportunistic, eating anything they can forage. Pavement ants love to nest under pavement, stone, wood, and building slaps and can swarm inside of buildings built on slabs, especially during the spring months. Usually, a pavement ant colony is small, but several queens bud into other colonies, making them a nuisance once they have decided to share your home. They are also especially difficult to exterminate since they swarm beneath the foundation of your home rather than in any particular access point.
Pharoah ants are small, yellow and almost transparent. These ants are expert foragers and will immediately return to the nest to alert the others if they find a potential food source. Also known as “sugar ants” in the South, Pharoah ants reproduce quickly, find seemingly insignificant food sources in a flash, and make a nuisance of themselves wherever they go.
Regardless of the type of ants, you see in your home, remember that for every ant you see, there are hundreds (if not thousands) that you do not see. Contact the professionals at Pride Pest Service for immediate, effective insect eradication the second you see an ant and let our trained professionals rid your home of these pesky pests.