We've had this ant problem for a long time now. There are these red ants about the length of a fingernail that inhibit a tree opposite our house across the road, they seem to be making a nest in the leaves or something. We usually park our car near the tree because there is limited space here (our neighbours including ourselves have 3 cars each). These ants are always found on the car but I've never considered them anything more than an annoyance. I'm only afraid that they might be inside the car while we're driving and my folks say they have a painful bite which scares me. Plus these ants are cannibalistic I think, I see them rushing to one of their own dead and picking them up back to their nest. When provoked they lift their torso and front 2 legs in some kind of intimidating pose. Today, we found a horde of them all over our car, many were dead due to a chemical smoke run conducted by the local town council to get rid of mosquitoes. What's next? The whole colony is going to come down and collect their dead? I quickly pulled a hose and washed away everything but those that were alive had really strong grip and won't budge even to strong water pressure, so I squashed them and in the process had some crawling up my legs.
Please tell me what to do if anything. I'm tired of it.
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
It sounds like these ants are probably in the genus Oecophylla (pictured below), or more commonly known as weaver ants because they weave leaves together with larval silk to make their nests.
They are highly territorial, but even though they lack a functional sting, they can inflict painful bites and will spray formic acid in the bite wound to intensify the pain.They are probably sticking to your car due to a hairs on their feet that can stick to very smooth surfaces! As for collecting their dead, they are not cannibalistic, but they do take their dead back to a 'trash heap' near their nest. Ants are very tidy animals and communicate using pheromones, so when one ant dies, it emits a certain smell that indicates that it is no longer alive. To prevent any potential spread of disease, they gather their dead (similar to the way we collect and contain our waste).
You can read a bit more about weaver ants in this previous post:
And more about the hygienic behaviors of ants here:
Gracen Brilmyer & the AntAsk Team