Types of Ant Nests
Ant nests generally are divided and categorized into three major groups – ants that nest in soil, in wood and ants that are opportunistic nesters.
Opportunistic nesters mean that the ants will nest practically anyplace that meets their needs for food, moisture and protection. For example, carpenter ants, a species that usually nests in wood may also be found nesting in parts of a home they consider a substitute for a nest in a tree or some other woody plant.
Ant nests may also be conspicuous or hidden, depending upon the preferred habitat of the particular ant species.
Most species of ants are soil nesters since the soil meets their needs for food, moisture and protection. Since soil nesters move a lot of soil in the process of building their nests, they also provide a valuable service to the soil-based ecosystem they occupy by their tunneling and de-compacting of the soil.
Unquestionably, many forms of plant and animal life would not be so successful without the positive impact of soil nesting ants.
We usually don’t see the nests of soil nesting ants, unless they are built underneath a stone, log or other object located on the ground surface or are indicated by a mound of soil at the entrance to the nest.
Regardless, the appearance of their nests varies greatly by species. For example, some soil nesting ants will construct a relatively simple nest which has one vertical tunnel, but with branches on each side of the tunnel where the ant food, eggs and larvae are housed.
Other ground nesting ants build extensive below ground galleries that go several feet below ground and consist of a network of interlocking tunnels that connect with each other. In some species, fire ants for example, the nest is covered by large dirt mounds that functions to protect, strengthen and insulate the below ground nest.
Signs of Soil-Nesting Ants
Other signs of ground nesting ants are piles of displaced soil moved from one place to another as ants excavate soil from their belowground nest to the ground surface. The pavement ant is a species that generally follow this practice and the soil they displace often shows up in cracks on sidewalks, driveways and patios.
Wood Nesting Ants
Wood nesting ants are probably best represented by carpenter ants that usually nest in wood that is dead, dying, rotting from fungi or else contains a good bit of moisture. These ants do not consume wood, but the bits and pieces of wood produced during the ant’s nest construction in wood are often seen deposited outside the nest.
The typical carpenter ant gallery is smooth, free from soil and constructed with parallel tunnels. This observation and the appearance of carpenter ant “sawdust” is usually a giveaway for the activity of a wood nesting ant species. These ants usually are not too problematic since they generally infest tree limbs, tree holes, stumps and fallen logs.
However, wood nesting ants such as carpenter ants are a major problem should they build a colony in the structural wood members of a home or other building. If this occurs, contact your pest management professional and request an inspection and preparation of an effective pest management plan.
Opportunistic Nesters Can Be Hard to Control
Ants categorized as opportunistic nesters include some of the most difficult ant species to control. As mentioned above, opportunistic nests will select almost any location such as under objects such as rocks, concrete slabs that air conditioners rest upon, old termite galleries, inside wall voids and inside home insulation.
One interesting fact surrounding the nesting sites of opportunistic nesters involves their likelihood of temporarily nesting in unusual places for only a short time before moving to more favorable, permanent locations.
Another likely issue associated with opportunistic nests is their behavior of creating new nest sites by a process known as budding.
Colony budding occurs when one or more fertile queens and a group of workers leave an established nest and move to a new nest site. Budding may occur for a number of reasons, one of which is the colony’s response to pressures such as insecticide use. When insecticide use is detected by the colony, a queen and workers may just up and move to a new location and begin a successfully functioning budded colony.
The potential of colony budding is just one more reason to contact your pest control company when dealing with some of these indoor ants.