Army Ants

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Ecitoninae spp.

Appearance

What Do They Look Like?

  • Abdomen: Their abdomens are oval-shaped, and the stinger is located in this body segment.
  • Head: Army ant heads consist of eyes, mouthparts, and antennae. They use their antennae to smell, touch, and communicate with each other.
  • Mouth: Mouths consist of two jaws, or mandibles, which resemble scissors.
  • Thorax: An army ant’s thorax is located between the head and abdomen, and is connected to the abdomen by joints known as nodes.

How Did I Get Army Ants?

The common name army ants conjures up scenes from horror movies where they invade and kill people, animals, and consume everything in their path. While Army ants that live in the tropical areas throughout the world may actually swarm an area with thousands of feeding adult ants, the scenes in the movies are only partially true to life.

Interestingly, there are army ant species present in the U.S., but their distribution is limited to the States located in the southern half of the country. These pests are nomadic and don’t stay in one location for long. In fact, army ants form temporary nests above ground as they travel. While foraging for food, they may enter homes through cracks and holes.

How Serious Are Army Ants?

As pointed out above, United States army ants don’t pose the same dangers to small animals and livestock as tropical varieties do. Since the pests mostly feed on other ants, the problems they cause have more to do with spreading bacteria and contaminating food. An army ant may also sting, resulting in an allergic reaction in some cases.

Aggressive Pests
Although they usually live in humid climates, army ants can venture into agricultural environments and densely forested areas to forage for food. Army ant colonies can diminish the food sources of other animals such as birds, beetles, and reptiles. As a group, they are capable of killing:

  • Chickens
  • Goats
  • Lizards
  • Pigs
  • Snakes
  • Other animals

Signs Of Infestation

Army ants are easily recognized by the presence of huge numbers of foraging, trailing ant workers who search for food to sustain the colony. The colony is built of the ants themselves and is observed above ground. Sometimes, army ants will get inside the home and forage for food scraps.

How Do I Get Rid of Army Ants

If you suspect army ants have invaded your property, do not delay in calling your pest management professional for advice and assistance. In addition to performing the direct pest control work needed, your pest management professional will also provide some preventive control tips for excluding ants from your home, including:

  • Cleanliness: Regularly clean and remove potential food sources.
  • Exclusion: Keep out ant foragers by sealing and screening places where ants can get inside to establish a new colony or forage for food. Exclusion is especially important on the foundation of your home.
  • Landscaping: Keep mulch away from the foundation and never let your landscaping plants contact the side of the house.

What Orkin Does
Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage army ants and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep army ants in their place…out of your home, or business.


Behavior, Diet, & Habits

Army ants are carnivorous, nomadic, and aggressive. They attack freely, eat without discrimination, migrate to locate food sources, and maintain a complex social hierarchy.

What Do They Eat?
Their primary food source is other species of ants. Adult army ants are unable to eat solid items and ingest only liquids.

Colonies
Colonies of army ants consist of a queen, workers, and soldiers. Workers are infertile females and are unable to establish their own colonies. Instead, they forage for food, bringing prey into their nests. Smaller army ant workers also tend to the queen’s eggs, while the soldier ants defend the nest. A single colony can contain up to 24 million individual ants.

Nests
Army ants typically nest in trees above the ground but also can form a bivouac, creating a nest from the bodies of the ants themselves. During this process, they use their claws and mandibles to attach themselves to one another, forming protecting walls to safeguard their queen and larvae. This structure is temporary and disassembles when the army ants mobilize.

Where Do They Live?
Unlike other ant species, army ants are known to be nomadic, making temporary nests while traveling from one location to the next. During the nomadic stage, they march at night and stop to rest in daylight. This nomadic stage may last several days.

Geographic Range
There are over 200 species of army ants that exist worldwide. They are found in the southern United States, but are more common in Central America, South America, Africa, and parts of Asia. Army ants thrive primarily in tropical areas and are common in:

  • Deserts
  • Mountain heights
  • Lowland tropical forests
  • Rainforests
  • Scrub forests
  • Swamp areas
  • Volcanic islands

Reproduction

Queen’s Role
Reproduction is the role of the colony’s queen who produces a cyclic brood of immatures. Queens are large, without wings, and never leave the colony. Queen army ants will mate with multiple males and may produce up to 4 million eggs per month in a healthy colony

Egg Laying
The queen’s reproductive cycle controls both migratory and stationary stages of the army ants. When they have collected enough food, they begin their stationary phase and create temporary nests. They remain stationary for two to four weeks, during which time the fertilized queen lays up to 30,000 eggs each day.

Larvae
At this point, larvae from the previous stationary stage begin to spin cocoons, becoming pupae, and then adults. As the population of the colony increases, army ants once again enter the migratory stage.

Lifespan
The army ant queen and her colony can survive up to 20 years. However, male drones will die soon after mating with the queen, and workers survive only one year.