Ants in your house or yard: June 2012 Archives

Hello,

I have a two part Ant question that I am just so curious about.

We have a patio paved with stones and we have an Ant nest under it.We have seen the small reddish ants and their activity.

1. My question is are the Ants able to predict when it will rain? A day before rain comes we notice small sticks sticking out of the Ants nest holes.The sticks are in a very regular pattern,spaced about 6-10 inches apart.After the rain is gone for a day the sticks go away.

2. Is there more to plugging the holes beyond keeping rain out? Are they funneling water?


It is just so fascinating,we love watching wild creatures and their behaviors and when it's right out the back door, WoW!

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Thank you so much for your time. We hope to hear from you soon,

Chance and Rois



Hi Chance and Rois,

Thanks for contacting us with these puzzling observations! I am not entirely sure about both your questions and here are some thoughts. As far as I know, it has never been scientifically proven that ants were able to predict rain, but there are many stories which claim it. There are also studies that claim that ants might even be able to predict earthquakes, because they sometimes nest on fault zones. It is hypothesized that ants detect Helium which is released before an earthquake.

Coming to your second question, I can only guess. I have never observed this behavior myself, but I've seen ants that cover their nests with rocks. This might be to prevent intruders from coming in or for keeping the rain out. In my own driveway, which has lots of cracks in the concrete because of tree roots, I also sometimes observe little sticks standing out. But we have little ants in the driveway and I think that earth worms are pulling the little sticks in to feed on them. They seem to chew them down. However, the sticks I see are much smaller and look softer than the one that you were showing. I found a picture online in which an earth work pulls a leaf into the ground to feed on it.

I think the only way to find out what is pulling the sticks in would be to dig it up. Let me know if you do so and what you find.

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Here is a picture of an earthworm pulling in a leaf. (image taken from http://www.planet-wissen.de/alltag_gesundheit/landwirtschaft/wiese/wiesenaufbau.jsp)

I hope these thoughts help!

All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

Hello,

I've always thought red and black ants were carpenter ants but I cannot find any picture of a carpenter ant that looks like these--and my land is crawling with them. We do have black carpenter ants on our porch (most unfortunately), and these are something else entirely.

Could you identify these for me? Is there anything I need to do to keep them in check within my ecosystem, and what natural controls would be optimal?

Thank you,

Chaya

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Hi Chaya,

Carpenter ant is the common name for ants in the genus Camponotus, but the ants on your land are wood ants in the genus Formica. We have a few previous posts that mention these ants here and here. Wood ants are native to North America and play an integral part in your local ecosystem by clearing away other insects and harvesting fallen pine needles for their nests. They are relatively harmless and do not normally require special control measures unless you find them to be excessively bothersome. They often change the location of their colonies so you may notice their numbers vary over time, even without any outside influence. Many wood ants can also construct large thatch mounds like the one shown here:

FormicaObscuripesNest-M.jpg Photograph courtesy of alexanderwild.com

Thanks for being concerned about your backyard ecosystem!

Ben Rubin, Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team


Antweb,

I just found this little line of some LITTLE ants. The have distinctly black heads and clear-brown bodies. Very strange. I have some sugar ants in another part of the kitchen, but these new ants are smaller and definitely different. They seem to be attracted to water/liquids. They move in uniform lines, but they are wide lines. Help?

Nicholas
Tomball, TX

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Dear Nicholas,

Without a picture, it is hard to say what species you have crawling around your house. However, by your description, it sounds like they could be Tapinoma melanocephalum. Follow the link to the AntWeb species page for Tapinoma melanocephalum to see whether your ants match our guess.

In terms of getting rid of the ants, check out this previous post for some good advice.

Hope this helps!

Best,

Max Winston & the AskAntTeam

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