Ant Nests in the House: Life in an Ant Colony

Only the wandering ants and driving ants in the warm countries can do without a “permanent Ant Nests”. Due to the frequent change of hunting grounds, they only build bivouac nests of living ants, brood, and queen protected in the middle (Eciton or Dorylus) when they migrate.

Place Of Ant Nests

The sedentary ants, on the other hand, have a “protective permanent nest”. You build e.g. Earth nests, earth mound nests, earth nests under stones, hill structures made of plant material, nests in dead and living wood, cardboard nests, nests made of leaves spun together and nests in ant plants.

The dwellings range from modest accommodations under bark and bark of trees or in fallen, hollowed-out branches to giant castles of our forest ants with structures protruding up to 5 m into the ground with more than 1,000 fist- and loaf-sized chambers and a system of corridors several kilometers long.

Nests Depend On Habitat

Nests are extremely diverse depending on their habitat and species, but they never contain cells or honeycombs as in the other social hymenoptera. This means that the colonies remain mobile and can move with the queen and brood at any time. The best known are the mound nests of the forest ants made of needles, branches, bud scales and earth, often with a tree stump in the middle.

Nests Layer

The inner layer consists of coarse plant material, the walls of the complex duct and chamber system are smoothed with a mixture of saliva and earth. The outer layer of densely packed smaller parts of the plant fends off cold and rain. Openings are used to regulate the climate. By spraying with paint it was shown that the mound 40 cm deep is completely restructured within a month in order to prevent rot and fungal attack, which are favored by heat and moisture.

These nests with so-called scatter domes and also the raised earth nests of path and meadow ants absorb the heat rays better than flat buildings. The path ants and meadow ants like to build earth nests under stones, as stones act as an ideal warming plate. Underneath is a corridor system with many chambers.

Black-brown garden ants and yellow meadow ants also create their nests with a small earth dome around grasses and other plants. The cardboard nests of our glossy black wood ants (Lasius fuliginosus) are special: They build in stumps or hollow trees, chop up wood and earth materials and knead them with choked honeydew.

A special mushroom grows on this “paste”, which lives on the sugar and gives the nest walls the necessary stability. Wooden nests exist in a wide variety of forms, from tiny nests under the bark or in knotholes to many meter long hollows in trees.

The Ross ants (Camponotus) that occur here, our largest species with 14 – 18 mm, usually leave enough water and nutrient pipes ( to keep the tree alive and above all eat the soft material out.

Some colonies are so small that they find shelter in acorns or snail shells. Mention should also be made of the leaf nests of the weaver ants (Oecophylla) in Africa, where the workers hold leaves together and stick them together with the spinneret secretion of their larvae.

They hold the larvae like a tube of glue. Especially in warm countries there are symbioses between plants and ants, in which the plants provide “spaces” (myrmekodomatia) such as B. enlarged thorns in the buffalo horn acacia (Acacia spec.) In Africa or stems of the giant bamboo in Malaysia or the hollow stem axis in the ant tree Cecropia spec. This gives ants protection from enemies and moisture, and they defend the plant against predators.


Ants have to find their way both in the pitch-dark interior of a nest and in an area outside the nest, which can be up to several hundred meters long. This happens on the one hand with the light sense organs. However, in terms of visual acuity and visual distance, these are not nearly as efficient as the human eye.

Landmarks and the position of the sun are mainly used for orientation. In addition to the “sense of light”, other senses (e.g. the sense of touch, smell and weight) and other factors play a major role in leading the ants to their destination. In the nest area, individual nest zones can be differentiated with the help of thermo and chemoreceptors.

The ants find their way in the darkness of the underground passage system through a pronounced sense of touch and through scent patterns. Outside the nest, numerous species of ants create roads on which the sales representatives move. Ant trails are usually marked with trace substances. The ants use these scent traces to orient themselves.

You can even find your way around at night. The species differ in the development of their sensory organs depending on their way of life. The sense of sight is more pronounced in Formica species that mainly hunt and gather. A scent orientation is mainly found in aphid colony visitors, therefore also more strongly in Lasius species.

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