Significant species and habits
Ants belong to the order of insects known as Hymenoptera which includes some of the most highly evolved insects such as wasps and bees. They have a caste system by which nest building, nursing of young and foraging for food is undertaken by workers (sterile females).
Reproduction is performed by fertile females (queens) and males.
All ants possess:
• Elbowed antennae
• Biting mouthparts
• A narrow waist between the abdomen and thorax
Three main species may be encountered in and around food premises:
Pharaoh’s ant (Monomoriumpharaonis)
Of tropical origin and has taken advantage of heated premises, notably hospitals and high rise flats.
Argentine ant (Iridomyrmexhumilis)
Also requires high temperatures but can thrive on a variety of foods.
Roger’s ant (Hypoponerapunctatissima) Prefers
damp locations, particularly in crevices around drains, and is not confined to heated premises.
Black garden ant (Lasiusniger)
Native of the UK and readily enters buildings in search of food. Ants live in colonies founded by a single, fertile female or queen. In some tropical species, several new queens remain in the parent nest. All spend most of their time laying eggs. There is generally only one queen in colonies of the garden ant. In contrast with most other insects, the larvae of ants are fed until they become adult.
A particular feature of mating in the garden ant is the swarming which usually occurs in summer, when winged males and females leave the nest. The swarming period of flying ants is of short duration and signifies the beginning of the breakdown of the nest. Swarming also occurs in the Roger’s ant. At such times the winged females (the few males are wingless) may be found in considerable numbers on window-sills and in fly killer catch trays.
Pharaoh’s ant queens have wings, but rarely fly. They form new colonies by “budding”, taking a few workers from the parent nest and moving to a new site a short distance away. Both garden ants and pharaoh’s ants lay pheromone trails which are then followed by other worker ants to food sources. Proteins (meat, nuts, cheese, and blood) are the preferred foods of Pharaoh’s ants. Garden ants also feed on these foods, together with sweet foods. Like some other insects they also collect seeds and nectar and feed on “honeydew” from aphids. Roger’s ant does not follow scent trails and seems to feed exclusively on protein such as dead insects, also small insect pupae and springtails, which they sting, then drag back to the nest.
Pest status of ants
Although considered as a nuisance pest, the presence of ants can still have an impact on the safety and saleability of food.
Contamination of foods
Ants find their way into kitchens and production areas and there is a risk that food may become contaminated by ant bodies. Many infectious organisms are present in hospitals and these may be transmitted to patients by ants crawling on infected surfaces and used dressings.
Food containing ants must be discarded to prevent contaminated product being sold or served. The presence of ants in packaging will also make the product unsaleable. The disposal of waste food may result in a greater chance of rodent infestations.
Lost reputation and employment
Most food business staff handle foods which are highly attractive to ants. Prosecutions by environmental health departments, stopped production and the adverse publicity from product recalls will lead to damage to the company’s reputation and financial loss. It will also lead to job losses if premises are closed down.
Home remedy :
There exist various home remedies that can be used to get rid of ants. One of them is using vinegar to wipe areas that have been infested by ants. You can also use pepper mint oil as a home remedy.