A mature queen termite can lay up to and over 10,000 eggs a week. Times that by 52 and that’s a lot of termite activity.
Although ants are environmentally important, some can also be pests to people. Their nests and the ants themselves may be considered unsightly and they may kill or damage seeds or seedlings. Some ants bite or sting, eg. the bull ant. Ants can also cause damage to houseplants, nursery plants and crops by the cultivation of sap sucking insects such as scale and aphids. Ants use the honeydew produced by these pests as a food source and in turn protect the sucking insect from attack by predators.
Ants are social insects which live in nests. The nests vary in size depending on their age and the species of ant. They are generally found in the ground, in wood or under rocks, although ants can also nest in walls, fireplaces, under paths and in buildings. They are most active from October to March.
Ants are a very successful insect group with over 1200 species occurring in Australia. All species can be beneficial to the environment. Some eat insect pests such as termites, their nests improve the soil, they quickly recycle nutrients back into the soil and they are food for a wide range of native birds, reptiles and other small animals.
Common Species within Australia
The Black House Ant (Iridomyrmex glaber) and White Footed House Ant (Technomyrmex albipes) are small black ants 2.5-3mm long. They nest in rockeries, near or under paths, in wall cavities and in potted plants. They eat a variety of foods and are attracted to sweet substances. They give an annoying bite but do not sting.
Sugar or Carpenter Ants (Camponotus species) are 5-15mm long, they have orange/brown bodies, black abdomens with an orange/brown band and black heads. They nest in decayed moist wood or sometimes in the soil. They feed on dead and live insects, honeydew, household waste and are attracted by sweet food. These ants do not sting and rarely enter houses.
Meat Ants (Iridomyrex purpureus) are 12-14mm long and are red/purple and black. They like sunny areas and often build large gravelly mounds. They feed mainly on animal material, and honeydew. They can bite but do not sting and rarely enter houses.
Bulldog or Bull Ants (Myrmecia species) have red bodies and black abdomens. They are about 20mm long. These ants can cause a painful sting. They rarely enter houses and are usually found in the garden or bushland areas.
Argentine Ants (Iridomyrmex humilis) Are about 3mm long and are light to dark brown in colour. They do not have the formic acid smell ants usually have and they are very active in their movements.