Ants build their nests everywhere, inside plants, hollow logs, dead trees, or deep in the ground, even inside electronics. The nests come in all sizes. Some nests may have as few as a dozen ants living in one chamber underground and some nests can have millions of ants inhabiting them. Read More….
Carpenter ants and black carpenter ants make two types of nests. The main nest is built by the queen, she tunnels into decaying wood to begin the main nest. This site must be damp all the time for the eggs and younger larvae to survive. Read More….
European Fire Ants
The European fire ant is a nasty pest that can be found all over Europe and in some parts of North America and Asia. They are now found on southern Vancouver Island. They are mainly red, with slightly darker pigmentation on the head. Read More….
Also known as meadow ants, the species spends most of its life underground in meadows and your lawns. The nests are often completely overgrown by grass, sometimes the nest site locations can be found by looking for small mounds of loose soil material between the grass stalks. Read More….
The odorous ants emit an acrid, rotting coconut smell when crushed, this is what gives this ant its name. This ant is up to 1/4 cm long with a reddish-brown to black colored body. If the odorous ant perceives a threat, it may move in quick motions while raising its abdomen in the air. Read More….
Pavement Ants measure approximately 1/3 cm in length and have reddish-brown to black bodies, pale legs, and antennae. These ants are found throughout the Pacific Northwest. Pavement ants earned their name because they nest in cracks in driveways and under sidewalks, piling the resulting dirt in a mound on top of the pavement. Read More….
Thatching ants should be avoided by humans when possible as they have a very painful bite and will spray the bite with an acid that causes a burning sting. Ant colonies start with a single queen ant who will build up her colony from hundreds to thousands as she reproduces. Read More…
Ants are perhaps the most successful of all insects. There are approximately 8,800 species of ants in the world. With about 580 species in North America, of these, 83 are found in B.C. In most areas of the world, ants are among the most dominant Insects. But it is not in terms of diversity where they dominate, but rather in numbers, in many areas they make up a large portion of the overall insect population.
Most people have encountered ants in a negative context, such as discovering carpenter ants in your home. Ants can be serious pests in some areas. However, ants are a key factor in ecosystem function and their removal would seriously alter their ability to function and many other organisms would be impacted negatively. Ants are also a staple food for many birds such as woodpeckers, and they are an important dietary component for bears. For example, ants and ant larvae are the main food source eaten by bears during the early spring. Bears will search for ants during this period. On Vancouver Island, black bears depend on ants throughout late summer and fall when the berry crop is poor.
Carpenter ants are among the dominant ants in sub-boreal forests, where they are perhaps the most important organisms in physically breaking down wood. Many species of ants are fierce predators and as such can be beneficial. Some species like thatching ants can have huge nests, containing many thousands of workers, so they could have a significant impact on forest health by preying on the caterpillars of defoliator moths, at least in B.C.
Ants can affect their environment in many ways. Some ant species have been shown to surpass earthworms in the amount of soil they transport to the surface. Many plants have evolved to have their seeds dispersed by ants. Many ant species farm aphids and their relatives for their honeydew. In return, the aphids are protected by the ants from predators and parasites. Ants sometimes actively move aphids from plant to plant like a farmer moving his herds around.
Many ants utilize dead wood for nest construction. The most well known of these are the carpenter ants. These large, but often shy and non-aggressive ants construct their nests in decayed logs or standing trees. In a preliminary survey of ants, it is found that deadwood is a preferred nest substrate for most ant species in B.C. on Vancouver Island. The western thatching ant is a relatively widespread species on Vancouver Island. It is often locally dominant in forest stands with sandy soils. This species can construct impressive thatch mound nests. I have seen these nests get as big as 2 meters across and contain hundreds of thousands of ants.
The odorous house ant is very widespread in North America. In spite of its diminutive size, this ant can be rather aggressive. Because of its small size, it is easily overlooked. Nests are often found in association with wood, but the majority of their nests are under moss or in soil. They will also nest in any place they can hide in your home and I have even found temporary nests in electronics like radios and televisions.
The ants most commonly seen are those that occur in and around human dwellings and in cities. Carpenter ants get their name as a result of the habit of many common species to nest in wood, including human dwellings. Most commonly, people notice carpenter ants when they swarm in spring, but since nests can be quite large, workers are also noticeable around well-established nests.
Many species of ants invade homes, but some do this more commonly than others, the small odorous house ant, a species more or less ubiquitous throughout North America is the most common ant found in our homes on the Island. They are small black ants that scurry around and get their common name from a characteristic odor they give off.
Red ants tend to be less noticeable. These ants have a stinger like bees and can inflict painful stings in spite of their small size. They are usually slower moving and somewhat more cryptic with small nests, but many are commonly seen in cities where their nest entrances are located in sidewalk cracks and between paving stones.