How is an ant hill made?

Ant hills are some of the most intricate nests in the animal kingdom, yet hardly anyone knows their inner workings, or much about them at all.  I know I always thought that ants just, pile some dirt wherever they want and then live in that hill, but it’s actually far more sophisticated. Here’s the real intricacy behind how ant colonies build their homes. First, they search for the most adequate spot, which needs to be most ground, close to water, but not too close for obvious reasons. Once they have found the perfect spot, the ants will begin to dig their home.

A nest is separated into chambers, with the bottom holding the Queen Ant and her eggs. As the ants carve this out they will bring the dirt to the surface and stack it around the entrance which makes the hill we see above ground. They create a system of chambers and tunnels underground which aids in the organization of the hierarchies of the colony. The chambers stack in a sort of staggering fashion to avoid multiple cave-ins, and each chamber is separated by ant type. There is a chamber for worker ants, a chamber for soldier ants, etc.  This helps the ants be able to work together in a more productive way and helps them do what they need to do to continue their circle of life.

How do ants work together?

Whether you see them walking in a straight line, carrying their food as a team, or building a colony together, it’s no secret that ants are very organized and have a secret way of communicating that we can’t see.  Surprisingly this “secret” communication they use has nothing to do with speaking. One way ants communicate is by releasing pheromones that are universally understood by one another to signal different things, such as calling attention to food and alerting others of enemies.  Like the story of Hansel and Gretel they leave a trail of breadcrumbs, or, in this case, if an ant finds food, they leave a trail pheromones for the other ants to follow. They do this by using their antennae as sensors and continuing the succession of pheromones as they continue on their path to alert others. Ants also communicate through touch, and will lightly touch one another with their antennae to signal something important is happening. Although ants may not speak to each other, that doesn’t mean they never communicate by sound. When ants aren’t in a good position to send pheromones, like being trapped for example, ants with make a sound by rubbing their leg against a part of their body to make a scraping noise, usually as a distress call. Ants can work together because they, like humans, are among the few animals that can communicate in a way that allows them to be connected, sometimes in a way far beyond what humans do.

Western Ant Invaders

Of the 2500 different ant species about 250 will reside in the Western U.S. Among the large variety of ants to be found in the Western United States, there are three species of ants that commonly invade, causing homeowners major headaches. These ants include the Odorous House Ant, the Carpenter Ant and the Pharaoh Ant.

Here’s what you need to know about these three common ants: 

What does an Odorous House Ant look like and what do they eat? 

The Odorous House Ant will be a dark brown or a shiny black color, and will be 1/16 to 1/8 –inch long. The Odorous House Ant will eat just about kind of sweet tasting foods like, fruits, grains, natural sugars, and milk.

What does the Odorous House Ant do? 

When the Odorous House Ant is crushed it will leave a very strong odor behind. Inside a Odorous Ant colony there can be found about 10,000 work ants. During the day they will be found in long trails looking for food. These trails can be found inside the home crawling over and under many different surfaces. Indoors they will build their nests in wall voids, under insulation, in crawl spaces, and within cavities in wood. Outdoors the Odorous House Ant will make a shallow soil nests under any material on the ground, and within hollow trees.

Upclose_Carpeter_AntWhat does the Carpenter Ant look like and what do they eat? 

The Carpenter ant can be a variety of colors, but most are tan to black color. Some can be reddish or orange. Carpenter ants are usually ¼ inch to ½ inch long with the queen being about ¾ of an inch long.  Carpenter ants will eat a range of different foods like plant juices, honeydew produced by aphids, and other insects.

What does the Carpenter Ant do with its time during the day? 

The colony of a Carpenter ant can house up to 100,000 workers.  Carpenter ants can be found within buried or partially buried moist wood such as dead trees, rotting logs, and stumps. Carpenter ants found by the home will be around the porch, pool decks, and any other structures that are made of wood and touch the soil.  During the day they will keep in contact with other Carpenter ants, and will be looking for food. 

What does the Pharaoh Ant look like and what do they eat? 

The Pharaoh ant is a very tiny ant; it will only be about 1/16 of an inch long.  Their body is a light reddish orange color, with black on the abdomen. Pharaoh ants will eat a variety of sweet food like honey, shortening, peanut butter, corn syrup, and fruit juices.

English: Compared size of a pharaoh ant

What does the Pharaoh Ant do? 

The Pharaoh ant, though very tiny, is a very big problem.  Once the colony is in the structure of the home they can grow in number to the hundreds of thousands. Worker Pharaoh Ants will forage for food much further than any ant. They will travel hundreds of feet from the colony and find their way back using trails, recognized by pheromones left behind by other Pharaoh ants.

How to get rid of these ants? 

Most ants can be killed using baits. The ant will take the bait back to the colony and kill the whole colony. Place the bait in an area where the ants are leaving a trail. With a major ant problem, it would be best to call a professional. A professional will be able to see the whole problem, and have more than baits to take care of your problem.

Texas Ants

Kissing_AntsTexas is home to a variety of many different ant species. The main reason why there are so many ants in Texas is the weather. The weather in Texas never really drops down past a freezing temperature for a long period of time. This will allow the ants to live out of their colony or nest year round, and infest yards and homes.

What ants live in Texas? 

Some of the ants that live in Texas include: Carpenter ants, Crazy ants, Fire ants, Ghost ants, Little Black ants, Pharaoh ants, and Thief ants. All of theses ants have different habitats, but can pose a huge problem on you and your family if they infest your home.

Where do these ants live? 

Most ants will live on the outside of your home, but some will be found inside your home as well. On the outside of your home, ants will be found around concrete slabs, under rocks, walking stones, and piles of wood. On the inside of your home, ants can be found in almost every room. The way ants can do this is by living inside the walls of the home. The walls will provide protection for the ants year round. If the ants are in the walls of your home it will only get worse if they are not exterminated.

camponotus japonicusWho does Ant Control in Texas? 

There are many companies that will take care of ants in Texas, but Bulwark Exterminating technicians are specialized in ant control. They have been taking care of ants in homes for 20 years. Bulwark Exterminating will come check your whole property for ants. They will then place baits down and treat around the whole home. On the inside they will also bait, and place a product in to the walls that will ensure an ant free home.

Ants Use The Internet?

Florida harvester ant polymorphic workers
Florida harvester ant polymorphic workers (Photo credit: bob in swamp)

Contrary to popular belief, Al Gore did not create the internet– Ants may have thousands of years ago.

New research from Stanford University suggests that Harvester Ants use their own type of internet, or “anternet,” for decision making inside the nest. These ant colonies are able to determine how many foragers need to be sent out by using a protocol system that is similar to the one IT professionals use to find out how much bandwidth is accessible on the internet.

Harvester Ant Evolution

It has long been thought by scientists that there may be some connection between ant behavior and computer science. Biologist Deborah Gordon and computer scientist Balaji Prabhaker of Stanford University have verified in this research that ant decision making and behavior is synchronized by a complex set of algorithms. It is suggested in the research that Harvester Ants have developed these algorithms over the course of millions of years of insect evolution, and that they still continue to evolve.

Transmission Control Protocol

After observing the Harvester Ants, the Stanford scientists were able to determine that the ants were using an algorithm similar to Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). TCP was a significant advancement in the formation of the internet. It permitted information technologists to take the internet from a few dozen nodes to the billions currently in use today. It works by moving a file from a source to the destination in a series of packets. The source is continually informed by the destination as to when the packets have arrived. So, if it’s taking too long, there must not be much bandwidth available, and the source will re-adjust by decreasing the rate of packet transmission.

English: Harvester Ant This ant is most likely...

TCP and Harvester Ants

Harvester Ants use their own type of TCP to determine how much food is available based on information brought back from the worker ants. The workers leave the nest in search of food. They harvest pollen directly from plants, gather dead insects, and forage for fallen seeds. Workers usually forage for only one specific type of food each day, changing their specialty daily, and will only return to the colony after it finds food. If the amount of food available is high, a higher number of worker ants will return. They’ll transmit acknowledgment messages, through the antennae, to the rest of the colony about the abundance of food. Much like TCP controls the release of data depending on bandwidth, the Harvester Ant colony will release worker ants depending on the amount of food.

What These Findings Mean for Pest Control Operators

All this new research is just confirming what many of us pest control operators already know… A Harvester Ant colony’s nest must be directly treated, not just the areas affected by the foraging ants. The foraging ants may be few, or many, depending on the TCP release of ants. No matter the number of foraging ants on a property, there will be thousands more inside the actual nest. Harvester Ant colonies will occur in open areas, and only have a single opening near the top of a dirt/gravel mound. There will be no vegetation within a three foot radius of the mound, and colonies are widely separated. Workers ants forage April thru September– Foraging throughout the day during cooler months, and only 5–11 am and 3–9 pm during the summer. Ant insecticide should be applied directly to the colony’s nest during the warmest part of the day when the ants are least active.

What Else Will Harvester Ants Teach Us?

Harvester ants continue to amaze us all with their capabilities. Working together as a collective, they are able of performing remarkably complicated responsibilities. As they continue to evolve, these ants may continue to teach our society more and more about network systems.



Zombie Ants – Friday the 13th Special

Zombie AntJust when you thought it was safe to sleep at night…

When little fire ants bite’s only meant a painful welt…

We bring you a pest control story worthy of Forbes, Times, and the Wall Street Journal…

Could it be evidence of  living dead are being found at less then centimeter high?

Fungus that eats on brains is stirring…

From the deep dark Brazilian Rainforest…

We bring you…

The Zombie Ant in…


So I am not sure if I should laugh, cry, or applaud. It is true that everyone these days wants to be sensational, yes even us dole boring pest control guys that run the same routine day in and day out. Sure Billy the Exterminator makes our jobs look exciting and fun, but really… spraying scorpions, baiting ant mounds, sweeping spider webs from the eaves… It’s not as glamorous as Dirty Jobs makes it seems. Granted on occasion stepping back 20 feet from a huge hornets nest and letting the Wasp Freeze fly is pretty cool. And the adrenaline certainly kicks in when those nasty flying pest going a buzzing. But can it be that we have reached a new level when we start calling ants dieing because they are infected with a fungus ZOMBIE ANTS?

Forbes Jumps on the Zombie Ant Viral Band Wagon

Okay, today’s post comes after receiving a notification of ants hitting Forbes’ News. Granted John Farrell makes his case that this news is getting way too much attention…

But to take up Larry’s point, the ants aren’t really zombies in the classic sense of walking corpses. They linger for a while, as automatons, before slowly dying. They don’t come back to life looking to eat their healthier compadres.

Come back to life looking to eat other ants… LOL.. Good one John. I mean that would be freaking amazing and truly worth a journalist’s time, yet somehow we are both still dedicating time to this social phenomena. For those that don’t pay attention to Yahoo… Zombie Ants was trending on Yahoo. (Does anyone know what that means?..) I guess John and I are really hoping that this will trend on twitter so that we can get some real mileage out of covering an unworthy ant story.Yes, it takes an oxymoron to know one. Again, crying or applauding are both equally felt emotions.

The Rest Of the Story

From the scientists corner: “Zombie Ants Have Fungus on the Brain, New Research Reveals”

For a scientist that studies ants all day long, little carpenter ants that start acting erratic by stepping out of line is a big deal. And it is a little uncanny that these ants will react in sync with the high noon sun phase, biting their fierce jaws on the vein of an unsuspecting leaf. Oh yes, it is frightening to think that “lock jaw” position is the zombie corpses last act.  The leaf now providing the perfect nutrition to foster more fungus zombie creating spores to attack the next ant that wonders it’s way. Fantastic story!

Let’s hear it from their own words:

“The fungus attacks the ants on two fronts: first by using the ant as a walking food source, and second by damaging muscle and the ant’s central nervous system. The result for the ant is zombie walking and the death bite, which place the ant in the cool, damp understory. Together these events provide the perfect environment for fungal growth and reproduction.”


Props to a very creative story and a killer headline and name. Who doesn’t want to know what a zombie ant is especially after a scientist has called it as such? And who says that a scientist can’t be sensational and that bugs can’t be fun? Everyday ant control needs a little extra fire in it. Exterminators what a splash of color in their work as well. So yes, there is that ever present exaggeration, but who believes in green Zombie’s anyways?

Related Pages: Charlotte Ant Control