Ants - a general question

The Snark

Dumpster Fire of the Gods
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Does anyone know about, of have info they could direct me to, regarding typical lives of any colonies in the wild through the various seasons of the year?

I've been observing the vast assortment of ants here and have failed to understand the logic, the operations, through the year.

Example: Right now, hot season, most activities have ceased. A month and a half ago, cool and dry season, numerous species invades the house in miniature colonies. Any food source left out was swarmed in minutes. But no massive ant trail invasions. We get the major invasions during the last half of the rainy season. Then during part of the year they are all about moving their nests and trails of egg bearers are a common daily sight,

So what is their rationale? Methods to their madness?? Do their various operations even correlate with the seasons?
 

Bunyan van Asten

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So, let me start. There are, as you probably know, thousands of species. Each species has a different lifestyle, so i'll go off of what i think you are describing: a Lasius family member.
As with most species, the queen is born in late autumn and is basically useless to the colony until late spring to late summer. Nuptial flights usually occur between april and late september. That's when litterally hundreds of thousands in not millions of unmated queens and males fly and mate. The males die after mating, and the queen mates with 4-8 males in just one nuptial flight. After mating, the queen searches for a suitable spot to start a colony. After she has dug a "founding chamber" and blocked herself off, she lays eggs and after some weeks those eggs form into larvae, then pupae, and finally workers (other species also have different casts, but i'll get into them later). The queen lays 10-20 eggs at first, and the workers are smaller than they will be when the queen has layed more eggs. When the workers hatch, they're pale white and fragile, like all inverts when they hatch out of an egg/cocoon. Most workers will stay with the queen, but it's always the oldest that go out and search for resources. If all goes well, the queen will lay eggs in early autumn but they won't come out until next spring after they've hibernated. When the colony has around a hundred workers, it will usually have a small population boost. This only happens if conditions are good, like nice weather, big supply of food and quite a bit of predators. Ants make satallite nests, these are mostly used as storage or brood chambers. Ants use pheromones as communication, they have 3 main types: found food, enemy spotted, evacuate the whole nest. When a worker finds food, say a dead cricket, it runs back to the nest to alert her sisters, leaving a pheromone trail behind. They will gather around thier prey and tear it apart to bring to the nest.
If you have any questions about anything, just ask me and i'll give answers to everything i can.

Now to the different casts.
You have the ordinary workers. Every species has this cast, most species have only this cast and the queen in the nest.
Thier role is to care for the queen, feed the larvae and pupae, build rooms, scout and defend tge nest.
Then you have the soldiers, a lot of species have these too, like Formica and Camponotus to name the main families that have this cast. Thier role is to defend the nest at all cost, scout and kill, that's it.
You also have "big heads" sometimes they're soldiers, but when they are not, they serve as nutcrackers or to chew leaves.
I can't really think of anything else at the moment, so if you have any other questions, just ask!
 

The Snark

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So during this lull in the ant presence around here, the queen has recently completed mating and has started up a new colony that won't be making its presence known for several months? Like late summer?

Now we also have micro ant invasions. These too have ceased for the time being. So this yearly cycle is roughly the ant rule of thumb?

Every 3 years or so we have a massive infestation of ants. Normally we get enough to turn a square meters of white tile floor black. But the major invasion usually covers the entire downstairs, about 60 sq meters, making it too dangerous for the cats to venture down there. They may alternate with just a trail, 2 to 3 inches wide where they will break apart and haul off a couple of cups of cat food in about 1 hour.
So why the cycle of the occasional massive invasion?

The typical variety of ant we have here is very similar to the small black ant in the US in appearance. However, these bite big time and it takes up to 2 hours for the pain to subside. Mixed in with these are smaller ones in the same trails about 2/3rds the size. Then another version accompanies roughly 3 times the size and then there are the soldiers (I guess), maybe 5 to 10 in a ten meter long ant trail, about 1/2-3/4 inch long with the massive mandibles. These all go down the same burrow holes. So are there different sub species of queens working in concert together or what?
 

Bunyan van Asten

Arachnoknight
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So during this lull in the ant presence around here, the queen has recently completed mating and has started up a new colony that won't be making its presence known for several months? Like late summer?

Now we also have micro ant invasions. These too have ceased for the time being. So this yearly cycle is roughly the ant rule of thumb?

Every 3 years or so we have a massive infestation of ants. Normally we get enough to turn a square meters of white tile floor black. But the major invasion usually covers the entire downstairs, about 60 sq meters, making it too dangerous for the cats to venture down there. They may alternate with just a trail, 2 to 3 inches wide where they will break apart and haul off a couple of cups of cat food in about 1 hour.
So why the cycle of the occasional massive invasion?

The typical variety of ant we have here is very similar to the small black ant in the US in appearance. However, these bite big time and it takes up to 2 hours for the pain to subside. Mixed in with these are smaller ones in the same trails about 2/3rds the size. Then another version accompanies roughly 3 times the size and then there are the soldiers (I guess), maybe 5 to 10 in a ten meter long ant trail, about 1/2-3/4 inch long with the massive mandibles. These all go down the same burrow holes. So are there different sub species of queens working in concert together or what?
All the following answers will be per alinea of text.
1.yep, in late summer you'll start seeing some workers walking around nests with almost no ants, that's a new nest

2.well, depending on where you are, yes, this is a yearly occurance in most places of the world.


3.Well, i don't know the reason for it, but that is probably becayse every 3 years the weather conditions are as good as they can get.


4.As far as i know, no, not a single ant species works with another, modt of the tine when ants of differens species or different queens meet eachother, they just bump into eachother, other times it results in an all out war.
Do you have any photos of the ants you have walking around, thier trails and thier nests? Maybe i can give you some more info on why the invasions are getting out of hand like that.
 

The Snark

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Do you have any photos of the ants you have walking around, thier trails and thier nests? Maybe i can give you some more info on why the invasions are getting out of hand like that.
Thanks for the info. Starting to make sense now.
We finally got a camera that will give good pics of their assorted parades. It will be a few months.

There is also one more rare variety here. Black, about the size of the common red ant in the US. They are often seen in a line, maybe just 3 or 4 on up to about 50. They run bumper to bumper, the front ant sometimes meandering aimlessly, sometimes obviously following a pheromone trail. These weird little trains zooming along pretty fast. Ever heard of this?
 

Bunyan van Asten

Arachnoknight
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Thanks for the info. Starting to make sense now.
We finally got a camera that will give good pics of their assorted parades. It will be a few months.

There is also one more rare variety here. Black, about the size of the common red ant in the US. They are often seen in a line, maybe just 3 or 4 on up to about 50. They run bumper to bumper, the front ant sometimes meandering aimlessly, sometimes obviously following a pheromone trail. These weird little trains zooming along pretty fast. Ever heard of this?
If those sting, it's probably camponotus and you should control them, they can kill a human being if it wanders in the vecinity.
 

myrmecophile

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Oh wow..Without an Id can not give accurate info. However Camponotus do not sting, EVER. Therefore they are not deadly. The ant which apparently has different sizes working together may well be Pheidologeton, the behavior sounds right. They are raiders, much like army ants. May also be dealing with Solenopsis which due indeed sting quite severely. The "rare" ant sounds like a Ponerine of some sort.
You will likely get better ant related information at http://www.formiculture.com/
There are several professional myrmecologists which frequent the site and can actually give you some accurate information, esp if you can post some good pictures.
 

The Snark

Dumpster Fire of the Gods
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I think it was one of the train ants that banged my other a while ago. Made her shriek, eyes watering.

On the grand scale of things... the viper that tagged her pants leg in the carport, the Hannah that zoomed over her foot in the yard a month ago, the river behind the house an Aedes factory farm, and so on, I'm not quite ready to go blastomatic on ants yet.


Had a 'let's elect Trump' ultimate moron pile of poop irony come down the other day. A government entourage descended on our village inspecting every house for stagnant water pools and puddles mossies could breed in.
With a half kilometer of stagnant water river behind the house and a zillion acres of rice fields flooded 3 to 4 months a year and they are looking for old tires and planter pots with standing water. Right.
 
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