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How Big is an Ant Colony?

If you’re trying to get rid of ants in or around your home, it may seem like there’s a never-ending parade of the little critters. Just when you think you’ve controlled them, they come back again. Determined to eliminate ants, you inspect your property. You may find they’ve taken over large sections of your lawn with sprawling ant hills. You might find them under stones or piles of wood and in pavement cracks. You’re mind is abuzz with questions. Are all these ant hills connected? How big is this ant colony? Could this be more than one ant colony? There must be zillions of them.

Zillions is probably not a very scientific estimate. So just how big is an ant colony? It depends on a number of things, including what type of ants you have. With over 12,000 different species of ants in the world and their many methods of building their colonies, there is no simple answer.

Let’s look at three common ant colony types found in Canada:


eliminate ant colonies carpenter ants

1. Carpenter Ant Colonies

Carpenter ants are excellent foragers, building extensive underground habitats, usually leading to some form of food. Their colonies exist in wood such as trees, moist or rotting stumps, and sometimes in the wooden structures of your house like your deck or windowpanes. Carpenter ants are more than a simple nuisance. They can cause structural damage to your property by excavating through wood.

A carpenter ant colony often starts as a central base and spreads out to smaller colonies in the surrounding area. The size of the colonies and the area they inhabit is dependent on the amount of food available as well as the presence or lack of predators and other ant colonies. A nest can take several years to mature to a size of about 3,000 workers when the single queen will then start a new cycle of reproduction.

To locate a carpenter ant colony, look for slit openings in wooden structures and a sawdust -like material that has been pushed out of the nest. This is the residue created by carpenter ants as they chew through wood creating the hidden tunnels of their nests.

2. Pharaoh Ant Colonies

Pharaoh ants are known for being a major indoor nuisance feeding mostly on sugar, grease and dead insects. They are expert foragers, causing them to build intricate and widespread trails and routes. A pharaoh ant colony can have several queens allowing it to fragment and bud into new colonies, quickly growing to an enormous size. A single colony can bud into an area as large as a street block in less than six months. Each individual bud can contain 2,500 workers. To get rid of ants, ‘budding’ can present a major barrier because multiple colonies act cooperatively and form back into a single colony after attempts to eliminate ants.

3. Pavement Ant Colonies

A pavement ant colony can be built in a variety of soil types from sand to loam, or under stones or wood. Their familiar mounds appear as ant hills built near foundations and in the cracks and gaps in pavement or patio stones. Where pavement ants exist, you may witness ant colony sidewalk fights in the spring as unrelated colonies compete for territory.

A pavement ant colony usually has one queen, but sometimes more, resulting in a larger numbers of eggs. Colonies can be in close proximity and worker ants can sometimes be seen carrying eggs from one colony to another to find better environmental conditions. Pavement ants form large colonies, often containing over 10,000 workers.

Identify the Ant Colony

To eliminate ants, the first step is identification. Do you have carpenter ants, pharoah ants, pavement ants, or maybe another species? The behaviours, habitats and colony sizes of each type may be different. With so many variables, it’s difficult to determine the size of an ant colony around your property. But the number in a colony may not be as important as determining what type of ants they are.

Are you trying to get rid of ants in your house or around your property? Are you wondering how big the colony is? To get rid of ants, first try to determine what kind they are. Then call the professionals at Magical Pest at 905-738-6676 to eliminate ants.

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