We have seen living or dead ants around the gas pipes. External temperature and food sources in proximal areas of pipelines can also draw ants to natural gas.
Are Ants Attracted To Natural Gas? Ants are attracted to natural gas due to its rotten egg-like odor, structural gaps in pipes, heat, and moisture. Moreover, nearby food sources and chemical signals can also draw them to pipes. A few ants also produce methane, and nests of leafcutter ants are hotspots of this gas.
Some factors affect their attraction to natural gas, including the presence of surrounding vegetation and nesting spots in the walls or other narrow spaces.
Why are ants attracted to natural gas?
Natural gas can attract ants to pipelines and leakage spots due to its strong odor and chemical signals in a particular area.
Rotten egg-like odor
Natural gas gives off an attractive odor in the surrounding areas that smells like a rotten odor. This odor can irritate people, but it can potentially attract insects.
These insects can be a sign of leakage and help detect the leakage spot because their receptors for smell are many times stronger than humans.
It is supposed that the major constituent of natural gas is responsible for producing this strong odor, and methane constitutes more than 85%.
However, methane is a colorless and odorless gas that cannot draw insects into nearby areas as it cannot produce an odor to entice them.
So, it is interesting to know the chemical compound responsible for this odor if methane cannot grab the attention of ants. It is the power of mercaptan, which is an additive in the gas.
Methanethiol gives a particular odor to it, making it noticeable for ants and even people, as it will not be possible to detect dangerous leaks without recognizing the odor.
The chemical compounds in the gas can also resemble the chemical signals ants release to create foraging trails. They begin to follow these signals by relating them to food.
The pleasant odor and detection of chemical signals draw ants to it, but their efforts go wasted when they do not get food after reaching the destination.
So, the presence of ants in areas of leakage can be due to confusion in detecting the signals; otherwise, they are not inherently attracted to natural gas.
Natural gas contains a small amount of water that creates a moist environment around the pipes and grabs the attention of ants living at close distances.
They can detect moisture in their surrounding areas and reach such places in a short time because they need water to hydrate themselves.
Moreover, they prefer to make nests in wet places because these areas help keep their bodies moist and prevent dehydration.
Condensation around pipes creates a favorable environment for tiny insects and inadvertently attracts ants to crawl spaces or areas close to leaky pipelines to seek moisture.
Production of heat
Ants prefer to live in mild environments and look for warm areas to build their nests and reproduce. Leakage of natural gas is followed by the production of a small amount of heat around pipes.
Moreover, these pipelines can leak due to unintentional hits on the pipes during the digging process. The flaring of natural gas leads to the spread of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other gases.
This warmth can potentially draw thermophilic species of ants close to leakage areas. They are sensitive to heat and reach indoors for warmth when it is cold outside.
Nearby food or nesting source
Sometimes, they get attracted to food sources near pipelines, making people believe these insects are there for natural gas.
However, some other attractants or food sources can appeal to hungry ants looking for nutritious food in their surrounding areas.
I found ant trails close to the pipeline in my house, and all are attracted to the stains of dirt and grease on the pipes.
They can also reach for nesting spots or small holes close to gas pipelines and make their nests.
Structural gaps along pipes
Small structural gaps in the pipes provide suitable entry points for ants and allow them to enter the pipelines.
Their small bodies favor entrance to narrow spaces, so they can quickly reach inside the pipe. However, it can be deadly for insects because they can die of suffocation in a short time.
It poses problems in breathing by reducing oxygen content in the air. They cannot survive without oxygen for more than 24 hours and begin to die.
Accordingly, some get out of the pipes to ensure survival, while others die if they do not find an entry hole quickly.
Do ants produce methane gas?
Methane is a main constituent of natural gas, while some species of ants naturally produce methane from their bodies. Their nests are hotspots of methane and carbon dioxide.
These methane-producing species of ants belong to the Atta cephalotes or leafcutter ants group. They live in tropical forests and emit a large content of methane in their nests.
This species is known for cutting leaves and building a platform for fungal growth. They transport leaves to underground nests and provide moisture to support fungi for growth.
Moreover, researchers identified that these ants emit methane gas as a metabolic byproduct of digestion after consuming leaves.
However, it contributes to the overall methane content in the environment, but the amount of methane is relatively lower in the air.
The amount of methane produced by this species depends on the colony size, as a larger colony can emit a larger content of gas than a smaller one.
It also depends on the external temperature and insects’ diet, as they produce excess methane in a warm environment when they have access to healthy leaves.
How to stop ants from getting attracted to natural gas?
You can discourage ants from getting attracted to natural gas by closing the entry route and making nearby areas undesirable for them.
Moreover, maintain cleanliness and avoid the accumulation of dirt on the pipes and nearby areas to keep ants at a distance from them because dirt attracts them.
They can enter from holes and gaps close to the gas pipelines, so you have to inspect the areas properly. Inspect the gaps and cracks to seal the entry points and keep them out of the building.
In addition, remove the outdoor attractants and food sources, like dead insects and grease stains, to make areas less attractive to ants.
You can put some deterrents around the pipes if you see a large number of ants that can help get rid of insect nests around the pipelines as they look for other safe places to live.
Furthermore, consult pest control services in your area and ask for their help to remove them from your house.