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Ants are the most frequently encountered insects within homes, and everyone knows what they look like. Ants are characterized by a tiny waist that separates two bulbous segments, the abdomen and thorax. The ants people see within their homes are workers that are most likely searching for food and/or looking for a new habitat to colonize. These workers most likely come from one nest that houses one or multiple egg-laying queens, soldiers and secondary reproductives. The worker ants people find indoors may also come from one or more secondary nesting sites located indoors, outdoors or both. Worker ants regularly leave the nest to forage while their nestmates wait for them to return with food. Since mature ant colonies generally contain thousands of nestmates, workers have many mouths to feed.

Most people have witnessed indoor worker ants carrying food crumbs within their jaws while rapidly crawling across the ground looking as though they have someplace to go. When these ants are spotted, most people assume that they are just carrying food home to save for later, but this is not the case. Given their tiny waistline, adult ants are not able to put down solid foods; instead, they rely on liquid sustenance, such as nectar from flower stems, and the runny innards of their insect prey. The crumbs workers carry back to the nest are fed to larvae, which resemble tiny maggots that start out translucent before developing a dark exterior. Unlike adult ants, larvae chew, swallow and predigest solid foods, and they often regurgitate the food as a liquid that adult ants then consume. Both adult and larval ants feed each other constantly through a process known as trophallaxis, which involves sharing liquified food through mouth-to-mouth and mouth-to-anus contact. Trophallaxis allows ants to communicate important information about the colony, and it allows larvae to recognize their nestmates. Pest control professionals exploit ant trophallaxis to control the pests, as ant baits and insecticides are always in liquid form in order to facilitate the spread of poison throughout an entire colony.

Have you ever had an ant infestation within your wall voids?