Army Ants: Facts, Types and Life Cycles
I tried being bitten by an army ant. And trust me, it does not sting like the typical ant bite.
Have you seen the difference between the typical ant and the army ant? These creatures have a more developed mandible that they use for battling fellow ants and dismembering their prey. Army ants secrete a unique enzyme that breaks down the tissues of their prey. The gruesome part is, that it does not kill it. It just makes it easier for the army ant to tear its prey apart! Did you know that army ants are blind? They sense light but do not discern their whole environment. Because of this, they communicate with each other through a chemical, known as the pheromones which they can detect through their antennae. Ants use an approximate number of 10-20 pheromones to communicate, each means a different thing when perceived.
There is a reason why army ants are named that way. They are overly aggressive and nomadic in nature that indiscriminately kills their prey with their massive number. Army ants are also known as driving ants, legionary ants, or visiting ants because they do not stay in one place for a long time. They are what we call a nomadic. They move from one location to another, wiping everything in their path. The hunting group of army ants is called swarm raids or column raids that can consist around 200,000 to 20 million ants. Imagine how fast they can devour prey that is even a thousand times bigger than them. Scorpions do not even pose any problem against these army ants. To them, to kill the huge scorpion as their prey is just for sport.
In all the 12 thousand identified ant species, only 200 are considered as army ants. According to entomologists, army ants are common among the southern United States, Central, and Southern America, even in Asia, and Africa. Did you know that there are two species of army ants in general? It refers to the New World Army ants and the Old-World Army Ants. The former classification of ants is usually found in North, South, and Central America. They are common from Kansas to Argentina.
According to experts, these are quite smaller than the old-world army ants because they only grow to about 5 mm. The old-world army ants comprise of almost 100 species which are more common in Africa and in some countries in Asia. Unlike new world army ants, these ants actually form anthills in which each colony consists of over 20 million ants, including the queen. The term “army ant” defines 5 different ant subfamilies, namely, “The Ponerinae, the Myrmicinae, Dorylinae, Leptanillinae, and the Ecitoninae. In a 2003 study, they found out that the ecitonine and the doryline families form a certain group called the monophyletic group. From the term itself, they share the same genetic markers that suggest a common ancestor, unlike any other ant species.
Other studies also found that species such as the Aenictinae and the Ecitoninae build their colonies like any other species. They build nests called the bivouac which can usually be found in tree trunks and burrows dug by these ants. The process of building a bivouac is complicated, at least to the common human eye. But it is actually one of the most organized structures in the environment. Bivouac is made by holding onto each other’s legs and build a ball-like structure that serves as a nest for the queen and its offspring. The older female workers are placed on the outer portion of the nest, while the younger female workers comprise the interior. When they sense even the slightest bit of disturbance, the soldiers start to gather on top of the bivouac and prepare themselves to battle. And mind you, do not engage when you see soldier ants at war. They will aim to kill everything, literally everything in their path.
Army ants are considered as social insects because they live in a social caste or hierarchy in their colony where there are three social roles, namely: the soldier ants, the worker ants, and the queen. The soldier ants are comprising the largest number in the colony. They are characterized by an oversized head and a very huge mandible for killing and defending their kin. Worker ants, on the other hand, our smaller in size and they have smaller mandible but they’re not less aggressive as the one soldier ants. The role of the worker ants is to work on the front lines, scout for food, and cart food back to the colony. They are also responsible for taking care of the queen and its offspring.
Lastly, the queen is the most important part of the colony. She is responsible for their reproduction and survival. Without a queen, the colony is bound to die along with her unless they find another suitable queen for the nest. The thing you know that the queen and can survive for 10 to 20 years? She is considered the largest of the ants. Since she reproduces hundreds of thousands of eggs, the whole colony that comprises millions might all be her offspring, most of which are females for breeding. The common army ant can grow up to ¼ of an inch in length. However, the soldier ants can grow up to around .5 inches to cope with their job in the colony. In general, army ants are characterized by a pale, orange head, with dark orange legs and a large, dark mandible. If you see these creatures inside your home. Make sure you steer clear. They can sense danger even when they are blind. You would not want your children or pets to get in contact with this barbaric species.
According to the experts, army ants live in two phases – the nomadic phase and the stationary phase. The first stage is characterized by continuous wandering. It begins at around 10 days after the queen’s reproduction of eggs. This phase lasts up to 15 days until the larvae start to develop. During the nomadic phase, it is the job of the workers and soldiers to capture insects such as cockroaches, spiders, and other insects that they come across. At the end of this phase, the larvae start to spin its pupal case and will no longer require food. Then comes the stationary stage that lasts up to three weeks where the larvae start to pupate. This stage is where they give all the food to their queen to prepare her for the next breeding. This is also the phase in an army ant’s life where it starts to hatch and emerge from their cocoons as a part of the next generation of workers and soldiers.
How to get rid of Army Ants
Army ants gather their strength in numbers. But it does not mean that they are weak when they are alone. It is inevitable to see army ants at home from time to time especially when they established a nest around your home. Whenever you see one, engage with utmost care. Did you know that the bite from an army ant can cause anaphylactic shock, especially to those who are allergic to ant bites? As much possible watch out for these ants especially when you have children and pets around. To get rid of army ants on your own, you need several tips to follow.
You can create several types of solutions and spray them directly on the ants. This solution includes water and any of the following solutes: orange oil, lemon juice (may be applied as is), detergent, salt, vinegar, cinnamon, peppermint, borax, baking powder, and many more. You may also apply these solutions on your lawn to avoid any army ants to infest your plants on your garden. Plus, this helps prevent any more ants and other insects to infest your home.
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