The pavement ant is one of the most common house-infesting ants in Toronto and the GTA. They were introduced to North America by hitching a ride in the holds of merchant ships arriving from Europe in the 18th century. Pavement ants have flourished in North America, having spread throughout the Atlantic Coast, Central Canada, the Midwestern and Southern United States, and the Pacific Coast. Of all the insects our customers bring to our storefront for identification, the pavement ant is the most common.
Pavement ants are three to four millimetres long and brown to black in colour. The head and thorax exhibit fine parallel lines, and there is a single pair of spines on the thorax. Pavement ants often nest under sidewalks, driveways, patio stones, and the foundations of homes. A small pile of sand or soil adjacent to a paved area, or on a crack in the concrete are typical signs of pavement ants, as they are the entrances to their nests. However, in some cases there may not be a mound of soil to indicate the presence of a nest, so their absence does not guarantee the absence of ants. If there aren’t any pavement stones or concrete slabs to nest under, pavement ants will happily nest under any object laying on the ground, such as logs, cardboard, and firewood, or even mulch and leaf piles. In the winter they retreat into our homes to avoid the cold and seek out food and water. While they do create large colonies, and are voracious eaters, pavement ants do not cause any structural damage to our buildings.
Pavement ants will eat a wide variety of foods, ranging from human-made sweets and pet foods to other insects, but their favourite dishes are oils and greases. They form trails leading to food sources, so the location of food found by one worker can be communicated to the rest of the colony. Workers will forage for food up to thirty feet away from their nest, so ants seen inside a home might belong to a colony located outside.
Colonies of pavement ants depend on their queens for reproduction. Each colony has multiple queens, each laying eggs which will hatch into new workers for the colony. These workers are incapable of reproduction, but perform key tasks for the colony, such as tunnel excavation and food foraging. The vast majority of pavement ants are workers. The reproductive ants (both male and female) are about twice the size of the workers and possess wings. This lets them fly longer distances to establish new colonies which will not compete with the original colony for resources. Reproductive ants are also known as swarmers, and they tend to appear in the spring. However, they can appear at any time of year, especially if the ants have nested in a building with a sub-slab heating system. Pavement ant swarmers are often confused with subterranean termite swarmers, which begin to swarm around the same time of year.
While pavement ants may be so tiny that most of us think of them as only a nuisance, and while they may not cause structural damage, they can still have an adverse effect on your home. Pavement ants which find their way into your kitchen or pantry will spread germs in your stored food. If pavement ants become established within your home, it can be difficult to root them out yourself, due to their incredible adaptability. Aetna Pest Control has all of the expertise and equipment necessary to control pavement ant infestations.
Pavement ants are highly aggressive towards other insects. They are so common, and so populous, that neighbouring pavement ant colonies will wage wars against each other over valuable territory. Pavement ants have also been to space! From September 2013 to September 2014, astronauts on the International Space Station observed how pavement ants adapted their food foraging strategies to a zero-gravity environment. This research could one day be applied to create algorithms for controlling teams of robots.