Did you know an ant can carry twenty times its own weight? 

If humans were like ants we would be able to carry a hippopotamus.

 

These incredible and industrious insects can be found all over.  Perhaps you have wondered about their value or grumbled about their intrusiveness. Ants have been blamed for ruining many pleasant picnics at the park. They make their appearance within minutes of the food being set up by boldly running all over your checkered table cloth, watermelon slices, sandwiches, and homemade strawberry shortcake.

There are many species of ants in North America. Let’s take a closer look at a couple that are commonly seen in the Wilden area. If you have ever had ants in your house it is likely the brown or black Odorous House ants. When crushed they give off an unpleasant odour that has been described as rotten coconut. They are 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch in length. They get into your home mostly by finding cracks in the structure where they build their nests. What is worse, they leave a pheromone scent, when they have found food, so they can find their way back and lead other ants to the food. 

Another common ant is the Pavement Ant. Pavement ants are 1/8 of an inch long; they are the ones that leave piles of dirt or sand along the edges of pavement, cement or stone work. They build their nests under these hard structures. A colony can have thousands of members. They can be quite a nuisance by disturbing the placement of structures making a mess with piles of sand and of course many of them running around looking for food. These insects will eat just about any morsels that you have left out, even grease from the BBQ.

Ants naturally eat a large range of other insects. They like human food too, especially sugary sweets. Melon is a great attractant and it is not uncommon to find discarded melon rinds completely covered in ants.

Is there anything good about ants? The answer is yes. My nephew Waylan says, “People are like ants, alone we are weak but together we can accomplish anything.”  Ants survive by working together they are a super organism with thousands working in precise unison for the common good of the colony (a topic worth learning about). They are central to the ecosystem and if eradicated other organisms would be negatively impacted. For example, many birds rely on ants as a primary food source. Bears eat ants and their larvae especially if berry crops are poor or succulent plants are limited. Also, ants aerate the soil equal to or even more than the valuable earth worms. Aerating the soil results in better drainage, which in turn helps plants grow and then ultimately provides food for animals.

The next time you are out walking or hiking and see some ants, I hope you will stop and observe this surprisingly beneficial insect.

 

– Article by Flora McLeod

*Featured image by Tasha @beautybehindthe_lens*