Types of Australian Ants

 

Some ant species live in colonies that are supported by a single queen while others are supported by multiple queens. Although there are 1,300 ant species known in Australia, there are relatively few that we commonly see as pests. These include:

Argentine Ant

(Linepithema humile)

argentine-ant

Appearance

  • Workers about 1.6mm long.
  • Light to dark brown in colour.
  • Do not swarm.
  • Bite – do not sting.
Life cycle and habits of the Argentine Ant

Lifecycle

  • Worker ants produced in spring and increase in numbers up until autumn.
  • Winged ants (reproductive Kings and Queens), produced in early spring, before the workers, mature within three months and mate soon afterwards.
  • Argentine ants mate in their nest so no swarming is seen.

Habits

  • Worker ants will follow food trails for long distances so nests are not easy to track.
  • They prefer sweet foods but will also eat live and dead insects, meats, cereals and damaged fruit.
  • Argentine ants drive out other ant species from an area.

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Black House Ant

(Ochetellus)

Appearance

  • Shiny and black.
  • 2.5 - 3mm long.
Life cycle and habits of the Black House Ant

Lifecycle

  • Larva hatches out of the egg as a white grub which is narrower towards the head. They are fed by the adults.
  • The larva pupates and appears creamy-white, looking similar to an adult. Sometimes they have a protective silk cocoon around them.
  • The adult emerges with the three defined body sections: head, thorax and abdomen.
  • The length of time between the egg stage and ants emerging as adults can take 6 weeks or more; it depends on a variety of factors such as the species of ant, the temperature and the availability of food.
  • Fertilised eggs become female, unfertilised become males.

Habits

  • These ants are regarded as a nuisance and scavenge in kitchens, garbage and also dog excrement, therefore potentially spreading diseases such as salmonella.
  • 'Common Ants' include the intensely black 'Black House Ants', and they are attracted to sweets.
  • The light yellowish brown 'Coastal Brown Ant' prefers to feed on meat products and grease.
  • The most effective control measure is to find the colony and treat it.

Bull Ant

Also known as Bulldog Ant

(Mymecia)

Appearance

  • About 18 - 20mm long.
  • Tends to be red or black.
Life cycle and habits of the Bulldog Ant

Lifecycle

  • When a Queen starts to nest she digs a small chamber to lay her eggs in. There is one Queen ant that lays all the eggs and one or only a few males that are just there to mate with the Queen.
  • The ant’s life cycle passes through egg, larva, pupa and adult phases.
  • Almost every ant is born female. The eggs hatch into small grubs, which grow into a particular caste (most are workers, then soldiers).
  • The Queen Bull Ant leaves the nest at night to forage and supplement the food supply for her progeny (baby bull ants).
  • The Queen may live for several years.

Habits

  • Very aggressive (if a nest is disturbed, there will be a massive outpouring attack).
  • Bulldog Ants typically nests outdoor in soil and under logs and rocks.
  • Located mostly in bushy areas (they seldom enter buildings).
  • They can inflict a very painful sting to humans.
  • The stinger does not remain in the victim, so the Bull Ant can sting repeatedly.
  • They feed on other insects and things such as honeydew from scale insects or plant nectar.
  • Each ant belongs to a specific caste and has a specific job to do (there are worker ants, soldier ants, the Queen and the Male – who mates with the Queen).

Carpenter Ant

(Camponotus)

Appearance

  • Carpenter ants are polymorphic which means they can come in a variety of sizes.
  • There are three size classes, each with different job classifications: Major workers are the largest ants in a colony and contain most of the large soldier ants; while media and minor carpenter ants are mid and small in size respectively and whose jobs are to gather food and construct colonies.
Life cycle and habits of the Carpenter Ant

Lifecycle

  • Carpenter ants are nocturnal, you will often have to wait for night time to find a trail, which could lead to the nest.
  • Carpenter ants do not tend to travel in large numbers, so a trail may be difficult to spot.
  • Carpenter ants usually do not just set up one nest, but a whole series of ‘satellite’ nests too, which ensures the colony’s survival even if one nest is destroyed.

Habits

  • Carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects as well as anything people consume.
  • As the name suggests, carpenter ants can do considerable damage to wooden objects.

Coastal Brown Ant

(Pheidole megacephala)
coastal-brown-ant

Appearance

  • About 1.5-2.5mm long.
  • Tend to be yellow brown to brown.
Life cycle and habits of the Coastal Brown Ant

Lifecycle

  • Eggs laid are small in size.
  • Larvae are fed by the adults and after several moults the larvae pupate.
  • Once adults, 3 different castes exist:
  • - Workers are wingless and sterile that lives for approximately a year. Workers are the nest-builders, food suppliers, feed larvae, look after eggs and defend the nest.
  • - Males are winged and exist to mate with females.
  • - Females are also winged until after mating and are also the largest in size. Females become the reproductive queen of the colony and live for many years.

Habits

  • Nest in soil and build along pathways around the house including gardens and walls.
  • Dry areas for nesting.
  • Will excavate leaving mounds along foot paths and other areas that are unsightly.
  • Will attack foods around the property including meat, sweets, fruit and greasy foods.

Flying Ants

(Alates)

Appearance

  • Fertile male and female ants produce wings on maturity - these are the only ant species to have wings
  • Flying ants have two sets of wings: a front pair and a back pair.
  • The back pair of wings are generally shorter than the front pair and can have a brown tint to them.
Life cycle and habits of the Carpenter Ant

Lifecycle

  • Flying ants swarm during the summer months. This is believed to be due to the temperature, humidity and wind conditions being just right for them.
  • After they have successfully mated, the male flying ant dies and the queen locates a new place to start her new colony and begins work on building the nest. The location for this depends on the species.
  • Once a nest has been found the new queen will shed her wings and start a new colony. If successful, the new queen will lay her first batch of eggs, looking after the young until they develop into workers.
  • From then on, her sole purpose is to keep laying eggs for the colony with the workers taking on the rest of the duties of the colony, such as looking after the young, foraging for food and expanding the nest.

Habits

  • Flying ant swarms is the mating process of ants where the virgin queens and males from different colonies of the same species collide and reproduce in the air.
  • Flying ants can often invade your home through open doors and windows. Depending on the species, they can pose a huge threat to your property.

Fire Ant

(Solenopsis spp)

fire-ant

Appearance

  • Queens 1.59cm long. 
  • Workers 3.18mm-6.35mm long. 
  • Coppery–brown on the head and body, with a darker abdomen. 
  • Solenopsis has a very distinctive two–segment antennal club, which is most visible in the front view of the female reproductive ant.
Life cycle and habits of the Fire Ant

Lifecycle

  • After swarming from the nest and mating, the queen searches for a suitable spot to lay her eggs. Once found, she can lay up to 125 eggs in late Spring. 
  • Larvae hatch within 8 to 10 days, and the pupal stage lasts for 9 to 16 days. 
  • Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands and broken down wing muscles until the first worker ants emerge. After this first batch of larvae moult into workers the queen’s role returns to egg laying – she can lay up to 1500 per day. Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging. 
  • Fertile males are produced later in the season.

Habits

  • Foraging workers diet consists of dead animals, including insects, earthworms, and vertebrates. Workers also collect honeydew and forage for sweet food, proteins, and fats. 
  • Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late Summer. Males perish after mating. 
  • Nest locations can be a mound of up to 40 cm or next to objects found on the ground, e.g. logs. 
  • If aggravated, these react aggressively and can inflict a painful sting, resulting in a pustule some 48 hours later. 
  • These ants are a major agricultural and urban pest, destroying crops and invading residential areas both outdoors and indoors.

Garden Ant

(Lasius niger)

Garden Ant

Appearance

  • Workers 4-5mm long.
  • Queens 15mm long.
  • Dark brown-black in colour.
  • 1 small segment at waist point (pedicel).
  • No sting present.
Life cycle and habits of the Garden Ant

Life Cycle

  • Queens overwinter in soil. Eggs are laid in late spring.
  • Larvae hatch 3-4 weeks later. 
  • Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands until the first worker ants emerge.
  • Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging.
  • Fertile males are produced later in the season.

Habits

  • Foraging worker ants follow well–defined trails around food sources. Sweet foods are preferred but high protein foods will also be taken.
  • Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late summer. Males perish after mating.
  • Nest locations – often outdoors in soil and below paving slabs on the sunny side of buildings.
  • Nest locations can be identified by the presence of finely powdered soil around nest exit holes.

Ghost Ant

(Tapinoma melanocephalum)

Appearance

  • Pale/Translucent legs and abdomen.
  • 1.6mm long.
Life cycle and habits of the Ghost Ant

Life Cycle

  • Continuous breeding colonies.

Habits

  • Feeding – indoors: sweet substances and grease; outdoors: insects that produce honeydew.
  • Nesting – indoors: small spaces, wall voids; outdoors: in flowerpots, under objects on the ground, under loose bark.
  • Locations - attracted to high moisture areas, can be found in kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Colonies can occupy several different nesting sites.

Green Ant

(Rhytidoponera spp)

Appearance

  • 5-6mm. 
  • Black with metallic green head. 
  • Distinctive appearance and odour
Life cycle and habits of the Green Head Ant

Lifecycle

  • The ant’s life cycle passes through egg, larva, pupa, and adult phases.

Habits

  • Typically nests in small colonies under paths and among rockeries. 
  • They live in bushy and urban areas. 
  • Feeds mainly on materials of vegetable origin. 
  • Rarely enters houses. 
  • Can inflict a painful sting to humans.

Odorous House Ant

(Tapinoma sessile)

odorous-house-ant-image

Appearance

  • Brown or black. 
  • 1.59mm-3.18mm long. 
  • Antennae have 12 segments and are not terminated with a club. 
  • 6 legs.
Life cycle and habits of the Odorous House Ant

Lifecycle

  • Time to adult phase of development is 34-38 days. 
  • Typically live for several years.

Habits

  • Feeding - eat most household foods, especially sugary food, eg sweets and fruits such as melon. Also eat pet food. 
  • Locations – attracted to moisture. In hot, dry environments nests can be found in house plants and even lids of toilets. 
  • Odour - produce a coconut smell when crushed. 
  • Colonies - range in size from 100-10,000.

Pavement Ant

(Tetramorium caespitum)

Appearance

  • Dark brown or blackish.
  • 3mm long.
  • 6 legs.
  • 2 spines on the back.
  • 2 nodes on petiole.
  • Grooves on head and thorax.
  • Thorax uneven with 1 pair of spines.
  • 12-segmented antennae with 3-segmented club.
  • Winged ants are often mistaken for termites.
Life cycle and habits of the Pavement Ant

Life Cycle

  • Visible spring and summer.
  • Have been known to emerge any time of the year in heated structures.

Habits

  • Feeding - eat almost anything that humans eat, and also pet food.
  • Visibility - seen entering houses looking for food, most often at night. May move through pipes and electrical wires.
  • Nesting - in lawns or under stones, wood, or boards. Mounds built along sidewalks, baseboards, and near foundations in clusters.
  • Colonies found near water.

Pharaoh’s Ant

(Monomorium pharaonis)

 Pharoahs Ant Monomorium pharaonis

Appearance

  • Workers 1.5-2mm long, yellow-brown with brown abdomen.
  • Males 3mm long, black, winged.
  • Queens 3.5-6mm long, dark red in colour with wings.
  • Black eyes, 2 small segments at the pedicel.
Life cycle and habits of the Pharaoh’s Ant

Life Cycle

  • Multi-queen colonies.
  • Swarming can take place at any time of the year.
  • Winged adults seldom fly so rarely seen. Wings are soon lost after mating.

Habits

  • Well–defined trails are laid which are often associated with heating systems. Feeds indoors on high protein foods — meat, fats, blood, dead insects, etc.
  • Swarming characteristics — new colonies are often formed through nests that have been disturbed e.g., as a result of insecticide spray treatments.
  • Each queen produces up to 3,500 eggs in its lifetime.
  • Nest locations — deep seated in cavities in heated buildings. Often found in hospitals. Associated with humid conditions. Colonies can range from a few dozen to 300,000 individuals.

Singapore Ant

(Monomorium destructor)

singapore-ant-image

Appearance

  • 2-3mm. 
  • Light brown with darker posterior abdomen. 
  • Head flattened and blocky.
Life cycle and habits of the Singapore Ant

Lifecycle

  • The ant’s life cycle passes through egg, larva, pupa and adult phases.

Habits

  • Eats a variety of food materials, including protein and sugar-type materials. 
  • Typically nests in and around buildings, in cracks, crevices, wall cavities, behind skirting, under paths etc. 
  • The most problematic feature of this pest is its attraction to plastics in electrical, irrigation and other equipment. 
  • It has a fairly painful sting.

Sugar Ant

(Camponotus app)

sugar-ant-image

Appearance

  • This species vary greatly in shape, size and colour. 
  • Range from 2.5 to 15 mm, and are some of the most often seen ants due to their size and often bright in colouring.
Life cycle and habits of the Sugar Ant

Lifecycle

  • The ant’s life cycle passes through egg, larva, pupa and adult phases.

Habits

  • Often nests in a variety of sites ranging from holes in wood to the roots of plants, twigs of trees and shrubs, between rocks or in the soil. 
  • They can also be seen during the day however, they are most active at night. 
  • They are unable to sting, but they do possess strong mandibles which can bite. In self-defense these ants are also able to spray acid from their abdomens to deter predators. 
  • They feed on dead and lives insects, household waste and are attracted by sweet food. 
  • They rarely enter houses.

Whitefooted House Ant

(Technomyrmex difficilis)

white-footed-ant

Appearance

  • Dark brownish / black colour.
  • Yellow-white feet.
  • Approx 3mm in length.
Life cycle and habits of the Whitefooted House Ant

Lifecycle

  • A colony can contain up to a million ants, thus these are very invasive ants which can be hard to eradicate.
  • Nearly half a colony is made up of fertile females so reproductive capabilities are huge. These are winged and larger than wingless females.
  • Winged males mate once before they die, wingless males are capable of multiple mating.
  • Adult workers are wingless females and are the ones seen looking for food.

Habits

  • They do not bite or sting.
  • Although colonies are vast in numbers, they tend to spread out into satellite colonies which nest in different locations.
  • Ideal nesting locations outside include trees - in trunks or galleries that might have once been created by termites, under loose bark or plant debris, nearer the home in attics, under roof shingles, in wall voids, along fences and in outdoor furniture. Indoors they can be found in the kitchen area near bins or where food is stored or prepared.
  • These ants are attracted to sweet substances - plant nectars, flowers and sweet human food substances. Also attracted to aphids and mealy bugs which secrete honeydew.
  • Most likely to be seen foraging for food in large numbers, most likely at night if temperatures are high.

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