Why Do We Need Ants?

Ants are an ancient gift to earth. Texas is home to over 210 species of ants, including over 250 native species and several invasive species. The latest figure on Oklahoma is 47 ant species according to a 2016 checklist from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma.

In 2006, the U.S. National Science Foundation, based on collective research, reported, “Ants are considerably older than previously believed, having originated 140 to 168 million years ago, according to new research on the cover of this week's issue of the journal Science.”

Researchers now believe that the first ants we know of went extinct. In March 2024, Science.org published research that the many species of ants occupying earth today are connected to the evolution of flowering plants about 100 million years ago. No one knows why the first or “stem” ants went extinct.

There are approximately 15,700 recognized species and subspecies of ants worldwide, possibly an equal amount of unnamed ant species, and an estimated 2.5 million (20 quadrillion) modern ants per person on earth. In the first 30 to 50 million years of ants, ants were not nearly as populous as they are today. 

Life on Earth Needs Ants

Things we know ants, is that ants make decisions based on instinct, not emotions, they work in harmony inside and outside of a vast plantation of soil, and ants can lift up to 20 times their own body weight. Humans would have to lift about 4,000 pounds to equal an ant’s strength. Some research has found that ants do behave on an emotional level after a sweet treat.

If ants went extinct, this would affect every organism on earth by crashing the entire food chain. Even if only one species went extinct, this would affect thousands of other organisms. Different species carry out the specific tasks, like aerating soil, disperse seeds, provide food for other organisms, and many other environmental tasks. We explain.

  • Aerate soil: Ants dig tunnels that aerate the soil, allowing oxygen and water to reach plant roots.
  • Disperse seeds: Ants take seeds down into their tunnels to eat the nutritious elaiosomes that are part of the seed. These seeds often sprout and grow new plants.
  • Provide food for many organisms: Ants eat a wide variety of organic material and provide food for many different organisms.
  • Improve soil for plant growth: Ants' digging often improves the soil for plant growth.
  • Act as decomposers: Ants feed on organic waste, insects or other dead animals, helping to keep the environment clean.
  • Predate other insects: Ants are predators of other insects and their eggs.
  • Source food for many invertebrates and vertebrates: Ants are a source of food for many invertebrates and vertebrates, including woodpeckers and other insectivorous insects. 

Why Do People Hate Ants?

Pest Management Professional conducted a poll on why people hate bugs by surveying 3,500 people. They found the ten most hated bugs, and ants are the 8th most hated bug, behind scorpions at #9 and fleas at #10. Their poll showed that 3.4% of men hated ants versus women at 2.2%. Surprisingly, roaches were the least hated bug at #1.

Some species of ants directly attack humans, like the abhorred fire ant from Brazil. They are dangerous by aggressively injecting venom when they sting once on a human or animal. However, the average human can survive over 1,000 fire ant stings, but 500 stings may kill a child.

A single fire ant can continuously sting its prey. Fire ants can blind dogs and cats. Especially susceptible to fire ants are young and newborn animals. Fire ants inhabit lands throughout the Southern United States and in parts of California and Puerto Rico.

It has been almost 100 years since it is believed that South American cargo ships delivering soil strips in Mobile, Alabama accidentally introduced fire ants into the U.S. They were first reported in 1918. By the 1990s, fire ants had hitched to California with colonies of honey bees for pollination purposes.

What Pesticide Control Companies Do

Ant killer sprays kill on contact. But we see only about 20 percent of an ant colony working outside of their anthill/nest. Pesticide companies use a combination of insecticides and baiting to kill an entire ant colony. Using only insecticides can cause a nest to divide, where they increase and make the problem worse.

Pesticide companies most commonly use pyrethrins and pyrethroids, including Permethrin as ant insecticides. Most ant baits come in the form of a gel. Ant baits use a food-attractive ingredient and a slow-acting insecticide. The bait needs to be slow-acting to allow the entire colony to feed on it when the forage worker ants bring the food down into the nest.

Pest control technicians know which ingredients work for a specific species. Different species have different food preferences. Ants quickly realize that certain foods are killing them when they begin to feed on bait. It takes two to three days before forage ants get it to the nest and one to two weeks to kill an entire colony.

Adult ants cannot chew solid food, but can easily suck up liquids and gels. Forage ants take food granules to their larvae in the nest. Larvae digest solid food by regurgitating digestive fluids onto granules. This transforms the solid granule to a liquid and food for other ants.

Commonly used insecticides for ant control around residential homes can result in post-treatment runoff and may contribute to contamination of surface water in watersheds. This pin-stream method of residential ant control is used for crack and crevice applications. It directs a concentrated stream of insecticide at a specific area.

DIY Fire Ant Control

The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension recommends ”broadcasting a bait insecticide over your entire yard sometime between late August and mid-October, and then treating individual, problem mounds with an approved mound drench, granule, bait, or dust insecticide”.

Individual mound treatments can be chemical or organic. Of course, there are numerous DIY methods available on the internet. The price pest control companies charge ranges from $80 to $100. These companies also offer plans for many insects and pest on a yearly basis.

Interesting Ants Facts

  • They have superhuman strength.
  • They do not have lungs.
  • They do not have ears, and some ants do not have eyes.
  • They have two stomachs.
  • They can swim.
  • They hear by feeling vibrations in the ground.
  • They use their antennae and the hairs on their body to feel around while foraging for food.
  • They are as old as dinosaurs.
  • They are the only species besides humans that farm other animals. Most commonly, they farm aphids in order to keep a steady supply of honeydew. 
  • The bullet ant is said to have the most painful sting in the world!
  • The harvester ant’s queen, (pogonomyrmex species), can live up to 30 years.

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GOOD. Water stained; 75 degrees; 3.56 feet above pool. Striper fishing is great on live bait anchoring on humps in 20-30 feet of water and drifting flats in 15-25 feet of water. Topwaters are working early in the backs of creeks and along river channels. Catfish are good on cut shad and prepared baits. Channels are on the rocks and shallow flats in 10-20 feet of water. Blue catfish are on deep humps in 40-50 feet of water. Bass are slow on shallow crankbaits and top waters early along the banks. Look for bass in the shade during the day near docks in 8-15 feet of water. Shad fry are everywhere so downsize baits to catch numbers. Crappie are slow on jigs and minnows near docks and on brush piles using electronics to spot active fish in 10-18 feet of water. Report by Jacob Orr, Guaranteed Guide Service Lake Texoma. Water level continues to be high. Smaller striped bass are surfacing feeding on shad hitting topwaters and swimbaits. Slab bite is starting to turn on producing better quality fish in big schools in deep water. The slab bite will only improve. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors.

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