There are approximately over 1000 species of ants living in South Africa. Most ants are beneficial to our environment by helping keep harmful insect numbers down and disposing of dead organic matter such as carrion and dead plants, but a few species tend to come in conflict with us humans due to their foraging habits where they often enter human habitation whilst looking for food. Ants can be a nuisance in any household but some ants can be carriers of disease and contaminate our food. Typically only about 5% of an ant colony goes out to forage for food, leaving the remaining 95% back in the nest and out of sight. Some ants prefer to eat carbohydrates and sweet stuff, while others prefer proteins and fatty foods.
BROWN HOUSE ANT
They are about 1.5-3.5mm long and are a yellowish-red to reddish-brown colour. The soldiers of this species have a large head and often the workers will remove the heads of the soldiers during winter as it is easier to breed new soldiers than to feed the old ones. They often nest in the crack between a buildings foundation and the soil. They mainly live outside but very often enter our home on foraging for food and water. They can often be found in pot plants. These ants eat sweet and protein food stuffs and mainly forage at night.
These ants are roughly 3-6mm long. They are a darkish brown to almost black colour. They tend to raise their abdomen above their thorax and release a repulsive odour when threatened. Their colonies tend be small. These ants prefer to eat sweet foods and will often tend to aphids for their honeydew secretions.
Also referred to as ” Malmier’. These ants are about 2-10mm in size with a reddish brown colour with the head being more saturated red than the body. These ants are very aggressive and predatory and tend to dominate other ant species in their vicinity. They prefer to eat sweet carbohydrate foods and thus they ‘farm’ Aphids and Coccids for their honeydew. This can lead to an outbreak of Aphids on plants. These ants live outdoors and nest underground with no visible mounds surrounding their nests entry points.
The adults are about 2.2-3.8mm long. They are light to dark brown in colour. They have multiple queens per colony, about 1 queen per 100 ants. They prefer to eat sweet foods and can often be found “farming” with aphids. They stop foraging when it gets above 30°C. These ants were accidentally introduced to South Africa in the 1900’s from South America by the British cavalry where the ants would live amongst the imported horse fodder.
These ants are about 1.5-2mm long. They are a yellow orange colour with a darkened abdomen. Their colonies can become very large, into the hundreds of thousands. They prefer to nest in warm, protected areas near food and water. They tend to forage at night and prefer to eat protein foods. They can often be found feeding on pet food that has been left outside. They are dangerous vectors for disease due to their foraging habits.
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