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Ants are hymenoptera, social insects spread throughout the world, present on earth for millions of years; there are many kinds of ants, only in Italy there are a few dozen genus of ants, such as the ants of the genus Formica, Lasius, Messor, Myrmica, Aphaenogaster, leptothorax; one of the most famous genera is Formica rufa, or red ants, very well known as they are sometimes aggressive even with human beings. These insects produce nests in the ground, or in cracks between dry stone walls; in these nests a single queen ant lays the eggs, while the worker ants take care of the eggs, and later of the larvae, arranging them in special rooms in the anthill, producing new galleries and looking for food. Not all species and genera of ants share the same nutritional requirements; in articular, ants present in Italy often feed on seeds or other insects.
Despite what one may think, ants do not feed on plants, leaves or wood; only some genera, widespread in tropical areas, use foliage as a substrate on which to cultivate particular fungi, which they later use for feeding. The ants present in Italy tend to collect the seeds of spontaneous grasses that grow in the garden, or to prey on small insects, of which they also collect dead specimens, keeping the lawn and the forest clean. Ants also tend to collect from the environment materials rich in carbohydrates, such as flour or bread residues, or even nectar from flowers, and honeydew from other insects.
Ants in the garden
Having an anthill in the garden is generally not particularly harmful for plants or humans, as these insects do not feed on plants and do not bite warm-blooded animals. It can sometimes be annoying to have ants of messor ants, where many winged ants are born in the spring, which swarm to build new ant-nests, just as happens with swarms of bees. Also in this case, the winged ants are only annoying and not harmful.
The damage that ants can get in the garden is not due to the ants themselves, but to their symbiotic behavior: many anthills tend to live in symbiosis with some species of other insects, in particular aphids, mealybugs or leafhoppers. Ants repair these insects from predators, and protect them, since feeding on lymph these insects tend to secrete the surplus of sugar they ingest, which is cleaned up by the ants, which use it as food. This surplus is called honeydew, and is typical of aphid or cochineal colonies. In fact, the presence of many bees in the aphid colonies prevents the honeydew from percolating and becomes fertile ground for the fungi of the fumaggini.
Ants also tend to breed specimens of these insects, in the sense that if the anthill moves for any reason, they also tend to carry aphids or mealybugs with them, to move them to places closer to the new anthill.
So if we see many ants on our garden plants, we can be sure that an infestation by other insects is taking place on these plants, which will soon ruin the plants with their stinging or sucking mouthparts.
Ants in the house
Ants often find it interesting to enter homes; generally they do it because they are attracted by large quantities of easily available food, and often they are sugar, bread crumbs or flour.
In fact it is very unlikely that the ants will tend to permanently settle in the house, and therefore, to get rid of it, it is enough to find the source of food from which they are drawing; often it is simply a jar of jam closed badly, or dirt on the outside of sweet fluid. Or the joints in the drawers in which oven-baked products are kept allow the small insects to penetrate and plunder the pantry (so to speak, since the trunk is unlikely to be of a clearly visible and calculable entity). So in general it is not necessary to spread insecticides in the house, it is sufficient to remove the food source that the ants are using, placing it in an enclosed place, or simply cleaning up better shelves, drawers and cans.
Ants: Insecticides against ants
Ants are insects with a strong sociality; the anthill is often defined as an organism, as each insect has a specific specialization. Often it is not necessary to use insecticides against ants, it is much better to remove the source of food to which they are drawing. So in the house we clean up crumbs and flour, or drops of jam accidentally fallen; in the garden we try to eliminate aphids and scale insects.
Usually even a few specimens dead due to an insecticide product, convince the entire anthill to move, because they understand the danger of food in the place where they are. For this reason, small traps with insecticidal baits are often much more effective, rather than spreading large amounts of powder, spray or gel insecticide. These insects constitute anthills inhabited by many thousands of specimens, it is therefore very difficult to get rid of an entire anthill; it is much easier to convince ants that there is no food for them in the place where they are, or even to convince them that the place where the anthill is located is inhospitable.