Ants are one of the most common insects all around the world. We identify them as “pests” when they invade our homes and gardens. Ants are quite unique, they have many features which make them one of the largest social insects living in large colonies or groups. Ants are strong individually as well as in numbers. A single ant can lift 20 times its own body weight. Ants do not have lungs, oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and then carbon dioxide leaves through the very same holes. The carbon dioxide released by the ants is a natural source and is good for the environment as opposed to the forced amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels in industry, transport, and the generation of electricity. Ants working together are effective predators and contribute in decomposition and soil nutrients.
There are several different species of ants which have different impacts on our environment. To name a few we have the Argentine Ants, Leaf Cutter Ants, Carpenter Ants, Army Ants and so many other species as well. Ants all have strength in numbers and use this to their advantage. Ants have a huge influence on the environment as a result of their activity as “ecosystem engineers” and predators. Ants recycle large amounts of nutrients each day by cutting up leaves and twigs and moving soil. They work in large colonies and can move more soil than worms. They prey on a wide range of animals, even larger prey, they are able to attack with their vast numbers. Their presence alone can lead to an increase in density and diversity of other animal groups. They can play a key role in local environments, having a big influence on the grassland food web. The common red fire ant is extremely aggressive and diverse, thereby affects the environment immensely.
There are two different species of fire ants, black and red fire ants, which were introduced into the country via South America. Also two local species, the southern fire ant, and the tropical fire ant. By far the most aggressive species is the imported red fire ant, which spreads fast and causes the most economical and environmental damage. It is estimated that fire ants cause damage to 57 species of plants. They devour the germinating seeds of various crops including corn and soybean, they feed on developing fruits such as okra and citrus. Fire ants create underground tunnels which affect the growth of vegetables and fruits. During times of drought, fire ants build mounds over the emitters in drip irrigation systems, this can hamper water flow to crops, these mounds also do damage to machinery during harvesting operations. Their nasty sting also prevents people from harvesting crops by hand. Their sting also prevents livestock from accessing their food causing starvation and dehydration. Fire ants are omnivorous, they devour both plants and animals and cans cause serious disequilibrium in an ecosystem. They can impact various ground nesting animals, such as insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Urban environments are also hit by these vivacious creatures, they build nests within walls of homes and offices creating problems with the strength and balances of these structures . The fire ant’s sting is painful and since they have strength in numbers, can be dangerous to small children and the elderly.
In light of all the negative impacts the fire ant has on our environment, also there is some good. They prey on a variety of pests, including the southern green stinkbug, striped earwig, and tobacco-bud worm eggs, just to name a few. Most notably in the aftermath of fire ant infestation of northeastern Louisiana, the lone star tick vanished. Ticks are disease carriers such as tick fever. Ants are curious creatures and if we take a closer look at them, can be fascinating as well as beneficial.