by Doris Donnerman
(last updated July 26, 2008)
Exceptionally social insects, with the ability to modify their habitats, defend themselves, and exploit resources, ants inhabit every landmass on Earth. Ants use pheromones to communicate with each other. A pheromone is a chemical that triggers a natural behavior response in members of the same species. Ants use an entire gamut of pheromones, including food trail pheromones and alarm pheromones.
Ants leave pheromone trails to point the way to food. When an ant hunter finds food, she leaves a pheromone trail while traveling back to the colony with the food, and soon other ants follow the trail to the food source, depositing pheromones on the way back to the colony. When all of the food is gone, the ants stop depositing pheromones, signaling to their fellow workers that the food is gone.
Ants use alarm pheromones to signal danger. If you've ever stepped on an ant on your front sidewalk, only to see hundreds of ants a while later tearing the squashed ant apart, it's because the crushed ant emitted an alarm pheromone, sending other ants into attack mode. That is why you should never step on or otherwise squash an ant. The alarm pheromone, in low concentrations, will merely attract other ants—such as humans going to the scene of a train wreck just to have a look. But when the squashed ant emits high levels of an alarm pheromone, hundreds of ants converge in an attack frenzy.
If you have ants in or around your home, never step on them or squash them, since doing so will only signal other ants to come to the scene of the crime. Instead of resolving your ant problem, you'll simply exacerbate it. Instead, buy a quality ant killer from your local home improvement store, or set out ant bait or traps, or use all-natural remedies for ridding your home of ants. Some all-natural products that will drive ants away are Hedgeapples, bay leaves, lemon juice, chalk, and sage.
You can also sprinkle powdered charcoal, dried peppermint, talcum powder, bone meal, red chili pepper, or paprika around your home to create an ant barrier. But never step on or otherwise squash an ant, unless you're prepared to deal with an onslaught of frenzied ants.
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