Is your house hosting an unprecedented mob of persistent ants? Ours definitely is. However, when the cats started complaining about ants in their food bowls and most irritating, in their cat box, I was told this problem had to be addressed and solved.
The first facts I uncovered were not encouraging: colonies generally contain from 20-100,000 ants with a possible life span of 20 years. And like humans, their general health and longevity can be influenced by their place, called caste, in the matriarchal ant class system. Adult males live only a few days after mating with a female, but Queen Ants, the egg laying members of the colony, live the longest, even decades. Non-reproducing female Worker Ants spend their time serving the community and if food becomes scarce, it’s the Worker ants who will voluntarily stop eating. No surprise, they usually die of exhaustion or malnutrition, in a few weeks or months.
Reading further, I found ants are ectotherms and unlike humans, their body temperatures automatically adjust to that of their environment (within limits), no winter or summer wardrobes required.
Is Global Warming the reason there are ant infestations like never before? Partially, but until Earth has moved further into the permanent heat wave, the ants will adapt and continue spending time with us. However, when temperatures get above 120 degrees or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, they will expire. So Phoenix, Arizona probably doesn’t have this problem.
However, the series of 90 plus degree days we’ve been having dry up a number of the usual natural sources of water outside our houses. Moreover, it will deplete their food supply and cause them to venture outside their normal safe habitat and go where humans and animals congregate. In these circumstances, ants will establish their colonies in or near human habitation to have better access to food and water.
Why do we notice the ants? Because other insects don’t have the heat/cold tolerances the ants do and react differently. Termites find water by burrowing deeper into the ground, while Cockroaches already have their places staked out in our houses or offices. Neither, of them move in masses. Thus, we see the ants, who are looking for our crumbs and the cats’ food and water.
Tom Timberman is an Army vet, lawyer, former senior Foreign Service officer, adjunct professor at GWU, and economic development team leader or foreign government advisor in war zones. He is the author of four books, lectures locally and at US and European universities. He and his wife are 24 year residents of Kent County.