Black Ants and Pharaoh’s Ant (Lasius niger – Monomorium pharaonis)

Common Black Ant

The queen ant lays a variable number of eggs. 3 to 4 weeks later legless grubs hatch. 3 weeks later larvae mature. 2 weeks after pupation adult ants emerge.

Late summer winged and mature males leave the nest and mate and then the males die whilst the females find new nest sites.
Many thousands of ants live in a nest in a social hierarchy tending to various functions

Black Garden Ants nest mainly in dry soil and humus. Although their nests are most often noticed in gardens – in flower beds, lawns, and under paving stones – they are also common in dry grasslands and heaths.

From their nests, they forage widely for food along scent-marked trails across soil and ground vegetation, and – most noticeably – across paved surfaces and into houses, where they are attracted to sugar and crumbs.
Outside human habitation, they feed on many things: small live insects, dead insects, nectar, seeds, etc. They also feed on the sugary secretions produced by aphids, some other sap-feeding insects and certain caterpillars, and often tend them to protect the source of this food from predators.

The ant builds its nest in soil, under stones or in tree stumps and it frequently nests underneath paving stones. It may sometimes occupy the nests of other species of ants, colonies number around 5,000 individuals. Small black ants ‘milk’ aphids, collecting drops of sweet honeydew exuded by the aphids. An extensive range of food is eaten, including seeds, flies, flower nectar and other small insects, which are killed and taken back to the nest Aphids may even be taken into the nest.

Winged reproductive males and females engage in a mass mating flight in hot, moist weather throughout July and August. Males die after mating, and females set up new colonies. Queens mate only once, storing adequate sperm inside her body to last her lifetime. The mating flight makes sure that the species disperses; also increasing the chance that males and females from different nests will mate, avoiding inbreeding, the winged reproductive adults of different colonies in one area fly at the same time.

After finding a suitable site, the queen begins to produce eggs. The resulting workers are non reproductive females, who take over the care of the colony. After hatching, the larvae at the beginning feed on un-hatched eggs, they are then fed with regurgitated fluid.

Foraging worker ants cause a nuisance as they travel widely in search of food, following well-defined trails and clustering around the food source. Primarily a nuisance pest, the Black Ant does not pose a significant threat to public health, although they are obviously an unpleasant sight and may damage food used for human consumption.

Pharaoh’s Ant

Monomorium pharaonis, or Pharaoh’s Ants as they are commonly known, are a common species of ant that can be found in urban environments around the globe.
Monomorium pharaonis originated in Central and West Africa though has managed to spread over the last century mainly due to the increase in international trade, because of this it is known as a tramp species. It has now established itself as one of the premier ant pests in urban environments; this is mainly due to its biology, aspects of which it shares with two other tramp species that are also considered major pests. The main concern with these species is their potential as a vector for disease when hospitals are infested as well as the general nuisance factor.
The workers of this species of ant are only around 2 mm in length, with the queen being larger between 3 and 4 mm long, while the males are around 3 mm. The colouration of the workers is light yellow with a darkish abdomen. The characteristic of the Pharaoh’s ant appearance is the double ‘waist’ known as the pedicel, which in fact constitutes the first segments of the abdomen

Monomorium pharaonis is a highly polygynous species i.e. there are many queens within a single colony. Colonies are also polydomous (live in multiple nest sites) forming a network of trails between nests.
These two aspects of pharaoh’s ant biology mean that colonies can reach mammoth proportions.Queens lay approximately 350 eggs. Larvae hatch after 2 weeks and are fed by workers.
After a number of skin changes pupation takes place. Full grown ants hatch soon afterwards depending on temperature. Colonies are 50,000 to 1000,000 strong with many queens, workers and male pharaoh ants that make it so aptly adapted to living in urban environments as well as enabling it to extend to almost every corner of the globe.
Despite being a tropical species they manage very well in colder climates through the advent of central heating.

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