Ants are widespread throughout Australia, including Tasmania, in all terrestrial habitats. Bushland areas have numerous coexisting species. Fewer species can live in suburban gardens and buildings.

Economic and health impacts of ants

Ants are mainly a nuisance pest rather than a health problem. Ants cause problems primarily when they forage in buildings for food or water and when they construct nests in buildings and gardens. When searching for food, they are attracted to a wide range of foodstuffs. They will also search indoors for water during dry periods. When desirable items are found many species will recruit fellow nest mates to help gather the food and return it to the nest. This can result in large numbers of ants appearing over a short period of time.

Ants can be a nuisance when attempts are made to establish plants through direct seeding. Workers will forage for the newly planted seeds, removing them to their nests and causing reduced germination.

Some ants build nests in walls and foundations, or indoors in potted plants, enclosed areas, and even in cavities in toilets and sinks. In almost all cases nests are limited to pre-existing cavities or spaces between objects or in rotten wood. Ants will seldom attack solid structures. Thus they generally will not cause structural damage to buildings but will take advantage of existing deterioration. A few species will occasionally attack electrical wiring and cause extensive damage.

Outdoors, nesting activity can result in excavated soil being deposited in gardens and on brickwork. In most cases this causes little property damage but some species can form large numbers of chambers close to the surface. These chambers can cause soil to become soft and uneven, causing serious problems when found in some types of pastures or crops.

Several species of ants pose serious health threats to people who are sensitive to their stings. In extreme cases hospitalisation may be required. Other species are known to carry diseases. Fortunately these cases are uncommon in Australia.

Handy hints to keep ants at bay…

• Keep the kitchen benches and floor as well as other areas clean and free of food crumbs.

• Keep outdoor areas free of food such as rubbish, crumbs and pet foods.

• Remove or treat sap-sucking insects, which may be providing honeydew for ants to eat.

• Seal any unnecessary gaps into the house that may allow ants to enter.

Information above taken from page from Bayer Animal Health Australia, Insects and Spiders in section on Ants