While there are more than 10,000 ant species worldwide, only about 25 species commonly infest homes. Ants can range in size form 1/12 to 1 inch (2 to 25 mm), depending on the ant species. A close relative of bees and wasps, ants can be identified by their three distinct body regions: head, thorax and abdomen, as well as antennae. Ants have a narrow "waist" between the abdomen and thorax, large heads, elbowed antennae, and powerful jaws.
Ants are social insects, which mean they typically live in large groups or colonies. These colonies can consist of millions of members, depending on the species of ant, and can be located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees.
Let's take a look at the most common ant species impacting Austin, TX:
ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS
The odorous house ant is a common ant throughout North America and frequently considered a nuisance in homes. They can build nests in a wide variety of places and their colonies can contain as many as 100,000 works and numerous queens. They are also highly tolerant of other ant species and occasionally live in compound colonies with other ant species. Worker ants can follow long foraging trails and feed on sweets, meats, fats, and grease. The most obvious identifier, however, is the odor of rotten coconuts when the ant is crushed.
Pavement ants get their name because they often choose to build nests underneath and inside the cracks of sidewalks, driveways, and slab foundations. They are aggressive colonizers, often waging war against nearby ant colonies and leaving hundreds of small, dark ant corpses across concrete surfaces in the aftermath of a conflict. Pavement ants are capable of building large nest with up to 30,000 individuals. They feeds on small seeds, grease, and, at times, other insects. They are strongly attracted to sweets and fruits and will forage as far as 30 feet away from their nest in search of food.
Pharaoh ants are present in many parts of the world and are one of the more common species of household ants. They also carry the dubious distinction of being one of the most difficult household ants to control, as they have the ability to survive indoors. This ant is considered a serious pest simply due to its ability to get into things and will consume all types of foods, especially sweets and, sometimes, other insects.
Fire ants are common in the southern half of the US. They are a very active, aggressive, and resilient species of ant. Preferring dry, sunny, and flat conditions, they typically building their nest mounds in the ground near landscape areas or structural foundations as loose earth is preferable for mound construction. At times, nests may appear as visible cone-shaped mounds that can grow to be larger than two feet in diameter and seven to twelve inches high. These large mounds help colonies regulate the temperature of their tunnels, allowing them to survive severe drops in temperature.
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