Classification of Ants and their Life Cycle

Article by Bruce Gow
Classification

Hymenoptera (meaning “membranous wing) is the scientific order to which all of the ants belong. Inside the species of Hymenoptera you find that all ants fall into the family Formicidae, a family to which we ascribe more than 8,800 species currently. It’s very likely though that this number will increase over the coming years, mostly due to new discoveries of species in the more tropical regions of the globe. Within the family of Formicidae there are eleven sub-families however, in Aus we find that the three most prominent sub-families are Dolichoderinae, Fomicinae, and Myrmicinae.

Dolichoderinae:

Identifying characteristics: Theyr abdominal pedicel is composed of only 1 segment, there is no sting, and the end of the abdomen is without a fringe of fuzzz. The workers are also known to be monomorphic. Pest species within this sub-family are the blackhouse ant, whitefooted house ant, the Argentine ant, odorous garden ant, meat ant and the ghost ant.

Formicinae:

Identifying characteristics: Abdominal pedicel is composed of a single segment, sting is also absent, as with Dolichoderinae, the tip of the abdomen is also without a circular ring of fuzz. Pest species include the carpenterant as well as the hairyant.

Myrmecinae:

Identifying characteristics:Abdominal pedicel within this family consists of two segments. The sting is present and the tip of the abdomen has a circular ring of fuzz. The pest species consist of the coastal brown ant, fire ant, pavement ant, pharaoh ant and Singapore ant.

There are about four to five thousand species of ant found within Australia however, out of this the vast majority are not troublesome and the species mentioned above are considered “vagrant” or “tramp” species that have been introduced from oversease.

Basic Ant Biology and Behaviour

The “vagrant/tramp” species (such as the Singapore ant, Argentine ant, white-footed house ant, pharaoh ant, black house ant and coastal brown ant) are the ants found to display behavior such as the infestation of structures and properties. They do so in search of sustenance, mainly looking for a convenient food and water source and endeavor to take any and all sorts of foods found in a domestic home. These range from oils and butters to sweeter food types as well as meats grain-based items such as biscuits, cookies and bread. The majority of these ants are very capable of nesting indoors in the space between: walls, the ceiling and insulation, crevices and so on.

Larger colonies of ants that are found to nest within the earth can cause serious damage to the structure within soil. This can lead to crops failing due to falling over as well as small buildings, foundations and paths being structurally compromised by the poor soil quality.

Out of the ant family there are species of ants that are attracted to plastics and tend to cause damage to PVC irrigation as well as the installations of electric components etc. There have been various house fires in the northern regions of Australia that are suspected to have started due to ant damage leading to electrical systems short-circuiting.

Some of the “tramp” species also have a painful sting whereas others resort to biting and then spraying the bite with venom causing it to grow agitated.

Though they are an essential part of our environment, there have been species that are found to be injurious to human enterprise and as such have been classified as pests. The most prominent of these are the Australian bulldog and Jumper ants. There have been recorded cases where there are serious allergic reactions (and in a few cases, death) due to the stings of these ants. The meat ant and green weaver ant are other troublesome ants that are native to Australia

The Ant Life Cycle
Colony Structure

Ants always live in colonies. These would usually consists of a large work force and a single queen, or in some cases several queens, with a successive life-history in the stages of eggs, larvae and pupae. This composition of the colony is known to occasionally vary seasonally.

Adult Castes

Worker: The worker ants of the domestic species commonly forage in columns and it has been noted that at times they co-operate to bring home larger food items.

The adults are also known to imbibe liquid food, including sweet solutions, juices from meat and the blood of prey insects to sustain their energy and day-to-day survival requirements.

Winger reproductive (male):

The male ants are winged and appear similar to wasps. They don’t resemble the workers or queen at all and their sole function is for reproductive purposes. They also don’t work in the nest, but are released for mating flights after which they disperse and die.

IMMATURE STAGES

Egg: All fertilized eggs are only laid by the queen as she is the only mated reproductive within the entire colony and as such is the mother of all its inhabitants.

All of the ant workers are females and cannot mate or lay fertilized eggs, though there have been some very rare exceptions to this rule.

Larvae: The larvae feed incredibly voraciously during the growth process. They are also the only members of the ant colony that eat solid food.

Pupal Cocoons: These paper like sacks are created from silk produced by the glands opening near the mouths of the larvae. From inside the cocoon the larvae change into pupae and eventually into adults.

[Generally ants have pupae that are naked however, some which lack cocoons can look like white, immobile adults]

We’ve had extensive experience with ant management and as such know which treatments and insecticides work. We0 also only make use of low-toxic and non-toxic chemicals as to assure the safety of your family and pets. You can ring us up on 0417 251 911 or contact us via our “contact us” tab and we’ll get back to you with a quote.

We also have a follow up article on the process of identifying different ant species from one another: Identifying Ants

“Ants are an incredible insect and do play a major role in the ecosystem. But they can become a serious threat when they infest a home and start compromising its security.” – Bruce Gow