The ant life cycle has four distinct and very different life stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. This is known as complete metamorphosis. It generally takes from several weeks to several months to complete the life cycle, depending upon the ant species and environmental factors.
Once the pupa stage is complete, the adult ant comes on the scene. At the time of emergence, the adult ant is fully grown, but darkens in color as it ages. Adult ants are one of three different colony castes: queens, workers or males. Queens are fertile females that lay all the eggs in a colony. Workers are females that do not reproduce, but do gather food; feed the larvae; and maintain and clean the nest. Workers are wingless, and it is the worker stage that is seen foraging around for food or defending the colony from intruders. The male ants are winged, but their only job is to mate with the queens during the swarming process.
Ant control can be difficult, but there are some things you should know about how ants’ behavior can lead to big headaches for you and your home:
• Ants can enter through even the tiniest cracks, seeking water and sweet or greasy food substances in the kitchen pantry or storeroom areas.
• Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.
• They can nest about anywhere in and around your house; in lawns, walls, stumps, even under foundations.
• Colonies can number up to 300,000 to 500,000, and whole colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
• A colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years, and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
• Most do-it-yourself ant control approaches kill only the ants you see. Some truly effective treatments can penetrate and destroy nests to help prevent these pests from returning. Also, home remedies don’t account for the fact that different kinds of ant infestations require different treatments.