There are more than 10,000 ant species that occur worldwide however only about 25 species commonly infest homes. Ants will eat practically any kind of food, but are especially attracted to sweets. Ants can live from several weeks to several years. Depending on the species, they can range in size from 1/12 to 1 inch (2 to 25 mm).
Ants are close relatives of bees and wasps and are can by identified by their three distinct body regions: head, thorax and abdomen, as well as antennae. (However, winged forms of ants, which leave the nest in large numbers in warm weather to mate and establish new colonies, are often mistaken for winged termites, which also leave their nests to mate and the two can be easily confused. However, shortly after their flights, both ants and termites lose their wings, so wings usually aren’t present.) Ants have a narrow “waist” between the abdomen and thorax, while termite’s body is not constricted and they have a broad waist. Ants also have large heads, elbowed antennae, and powerful jaws.
Ants are social insects, which mean they typically live in large groups or colonies. Depending on the species, ant colonies can consist of millions of ants. Their structured nest communities may be located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees. There are three kinds of ants in a colony: The queen (or queens), the female workers, and males. Ant communities are headed by a queen whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Depending on the species, a colony may have one queen or many queens. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties. Male ants often have only one role—mating with the queen soon after which they may die.