Ants are similar to termites in that they have a complex organisation of their social system. They live in colonies with a Queen, a King, workers, soldiers and reproductives. However, ants are not related to termites at all as they belong to the Family Formicidae, within the order Hymenoptera. This group includes bees and wasps, while termites belong to the more primitive order Isoptera.
Life Cycle and Habits:
Ants have three clearly defined body segments - the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have large compound eyes and elbowed antennae. Individuals undergo a complete metamorphosis from egg, to larva, to pupa, and emerge into one of the adult castes of worker, queen or male.
Ants will generally live in permanent nests but can change location when conditions prove unfavourable. Their feeding habits can be that of either predator or scavenger. Worker ants will forage from nest to food source, communicating to the group by laying scent trails or using smell, taste, sight and hearing.
Ants have an ecological role in the breakdown of organic matter, however, when they reach pest status they become a source of annoyance as they invade and scavenge in our homes. Due to their omnivorous eating habits, and because they scavenge in garbage, their ability to spread disease is obvious. Ants can nest in wall cavities, roof voids and skirting boards. Also, their excavations in the garden can cause unsightly cracks in paths.
Ants in Australia:
Ants in Australia can be roughly separated into three groups:
1. Sugar feeder ants
*Argentine ant - Linepithema humile
*White - footed house ant - Technomyrmex albipes
*Black house ant - Ochetellus glaber
*Carpenter ants - Camponotus spp.
2. Protein feeder ants
*Pharaoh ant - Monomorium pharaonis
*Odorous garden ant - Iridomyrmex spp.
*Meat ant - Iridomyrmex purpureus
*Bulldog ant - Myrmecis spp.
3. Fat and oil feeder ants
*Coastal Brown Ant - Pheidole megacephala
*Red imported fire ant - Solenopsis invicta
*The Argentine Ant - a native of South America, infests in huge numbers and is a successful scavenger.
*The Coastal Brown Ant - a small brown ant with 2 castes of workers. One caste has an enlarged darkened head.
*The Whitefooted House Ant - small black ants such as these and the Black House ant, are successful scavengers in the kitchen and garden.