Temperature and time may affect ant management


June 25, 2024

Being able to find food faster than your competitor is a key to survival, and I would argue there are few insects on Earth better at this than ants. One component to their success is the ability to search for food when others cannot.

Some ant species are known as “thermal specialists,” meaning they can tolerate extreme temperatures that would kill other insects. For example, a handful of desert-dwelling ants in the genus Cataglyphis have evolved ways to tolerate surface temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit when foraging. While not as extreme, the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) similarly relies on a comparatively high temperature tolerance to forage during peak daytime temperatures when other ant species may be forced to find cover until temperatures cool down.

Photo: Kaan Sezer / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Photo: Kaan Sezer / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Another way that ants gain a competitive edge is by foraging for resources at different times of day, when rivals are not active. This process, known as “temporal niche partitioning,” is one way some ants have evolved to be nocturnal hunters while others are active in the morning or afternoon. By dividing the day into different periods of activity, ants avoid competing with all other species in their area at the same time in a mad rush for food.

When you consider how temperature and time influence ant activity together, it becomes easier to understand the highs and lows of seasonal ant activity. More important, understanding what drives these changes will better prepare you to adjust your ant management program as seasons change.

So, the next time you find yourself up against an ant problem you can’t get a handle on, take the time to review the foraging behavior of your target species to make sure your inspection efforts and control strategies align with their daily and seasonal activity.

About the Author

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Dr. Bentley is director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association. You can reach him at mbentley@pestworld.org.

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