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Canadian ant types

Common ant species found in Canada that can infest structures include the black carpenter ant , Argentine ant, pavement ant, pharaoh ant, odorous house ant, , and thief ant. Carpenter ants are the most commonly encountered causing damage to structures, while pavement ants and pharaoh ants more often cause a nuisance problem indoors. The former is especially large in size, while the latter is attracted to high-protein and sugar foods.

Once an ant colony has established itself, it can be difficult to remove it. Before controlling an ant infestation, you need to know what species of ant you are dealing with and if you see ants frequently or see signs of a nest nearby. You should know which species of ant you are dealing with before trying to control it. For proper control methods, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of ant behavior, nesting habits, and types of problems ants cause.

Identification and appearance

Ants are easily identifiable; they usually come in black, dark brown, red and tan. All species differ in size, from 1.5 mm all the way up to 13 mm in length. As with any insect, their body is divided into three sections; head, thorax and abdomen. The thorax is attached to the abdomen through a waist-like structure called petioles or nodes. For some ant species there’s just one node while others have two. Each ant has three pairs of legs which they use for movement, except for the reproductive swarmers who have two functioning pairs of wings used for mating and taking off on flight journeys.

The habitat

Ants are highly social insects, typically living in large colonies of hundreds of thousands. Many build nests in the soil, while certain species such as carpenter ants drill into wood to form their nesting chambers. Three social castes exist: the queen, drones and workers. Queens lay eggs and regulate nest activities via pheromone communication; out of its population, they are usually the only ones with that ability. The workers however go out to forage for food which then leads them to human dwellings due to the sugary foods, meats and grease that we leave out being particularly enticing.

The diet

Ants are social insects living in colonies, often reaching hundreds of thousands. Their nests can be found in the soil or wood, depending on the species. Within a colony, there are three distinct castes: a queen, drones, and workers. The primary role of the queen is to lay eggs and use pheromone communication to control activity in the nest. Despite this, workers tend to be seen outside the nest when not swarming season searching for food which may lead them into our homes due to their attraction to sugary foods, meats and grease.

Cycle of life

When a queen ant mates with a male ant, she lays oval, white, transparent eggs that are very small – only 0.5 mm across – making them hard to spot.

Adult ants regurgitate the food they have already eaten to feed these extremely hungry larvae after these eggs hatch.

Larvae shed their skin and become pupae, which look like white adult ants with folded legs and antennae.

These pupae eventually become adult ants, either new queens, female workers, or male drones.

In contrast to the wingless female workers foraging for food and feeding the larvae yet to hatch, new queens and male drones fly away in nuptial flights.

When they mating, the male drone loses its wings, and the queen builds a new nest. She begins laying eggs, controlling the gender of her eggs to match the needs of the colony.

The queen of the ant can lay eggs for decades, living for up to 30 years, while workers and drones only live for a few weeks.

Do ants biting?

A few species of ants have jaws that can penetrate human skin, but most cannot. Ants such as black carpenter ants can bite if provoked. The mouth parts of ants have evolved to bite and chew solid food. Most Canadian ant species rarely bite humans, but some species, including European Fire ants, sting and inject formic acid into the wound, causing a burning sensation.

Winged ants

Ant colonies are highly organized, with hundreds or even thousands of sterile female workers doing the day-to-day work within the nest, such as gathering food, tending larvae and defending against threats. The only job of one or more queens is to guarantee continuity by laying eggs. A new colony usually forms when reproductive queens and males – identified by their wings – swarm away in a nuptial flight, spurred on by external conditions. During this flight they can either take off from the ground or remain airborne while mating. Following this, the queens look for a suitable place to start laying eggs, shed their wings and settle down. Males however die soon after mating has been completed since they have served their sole purpose. An interior presence of winged ants often signifies an existing colony nearby, especially during the colder months of the year.

Ant problems

Ants can be an unappealing and troublesome presence in the home. Pharaoh ants, in particular, are linked to spreading infections, particularly in hospitals and eldercare facilities. They may also cause damage to outdoor areas such as yards and gardens. In addition, when nesting indoors they can damage woodwork, insulation, and wires as they build their nests. Plus, some species of ants are capable of painful stings which may lead to redness at the sting site, aching muscles and headaches due to ant venom.

The home is infested with ants

The pest species of ants often establish colonies in populated areas, invading Canadian homes.

Foraging ants enter houses to scavenge for crumbs, oil or grease spills, sugar, and other edible items found in kitchen pantries, contaminating food items easily.

Cracks in wall or foundations, as well as gaps or other small openings where moulding or plumbing connect with a building, are common entry points for ants.

Ant colonies can successfully invade homes by following invisible trails created by scouts sent by the colony to search for food.

I have ants. Why do I have them?

There are more than 100 species of ants in Canada, including black carpenter ants, pavement ants, pharaoh ants, odorous house ants, Argentine ants, and thief ants.

Food attracts foraging ants into homes to scavenge for crumbs, oil spills, sugar, and other edibles.

It is often the case that ants gain entry to buildings through cracks in walls or foundations, or through other small openings that appear where mouldings or pipes are connected to the structure.

By detecting and following invisible trails left by scouts sent previously to find food, large numbers of ants can successfully invade homes.

What can I do to prevent ants from invading my home?

Keep your home clean and sanitary, store food in tightly-sealed containers, clean up crumbs and spills promptly, sweep the floor regularly, rinse food containers before recycling, keep the structure well maintained, repair all cracks in walls and foundations, and seal all doors, windows, and entry points.

What should I do if I see ants?

Many species of ants, including pharaoh ants, will contaminate your food and spread disease, especially in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

It is possible for ants to cause damage to lawns and gardens if they nest outdoors. If they nest indoors, they can chew wood, insulation, and electrical cables when they build nests. The venom of some species of ants can cause inflamed skin, cramps, and headaches in some people. In order to stop this ant invasion in its tracks, you need a professional pest control service.


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