Albinism is not common among ants as it occurs due to genetic mutation in the parental genome and becomes visible in offspring.
Can Ants Be Albino? Ants cannot be albino because it occurs due to a genetic issue when recessive genes are passed on to new offspring from parents having mutations in melanin genes. However, termites are known as white ants due to similarities in physical appearance and habitat and are mistakenly considered albino ants.
Most probably, you have seen some white crawling insects looking like ants, but these are not common ants and are actually termites because these two insects look alike.
Why can ants not be albino?
Insects and other higher organisms contain a melanin pigment involved in the coloration of their internal body and external exoskeleton, making them slightly different from each other.
Every species has a slight variation in body color and size due to different genetic makeup, as some of them appear bright red or brown, while others have pale yellowish bodies.
Moreover, this variation in the body color of ants is due to changes in the expression of genes involved in melanin production and produces a distinct pigment.
There are rare chances for them to be albino because albinism is a genetic issue commonly observed in animals and other higher organisms due to biological factors.
Any organism becomes albino when there is a mutation in one of the melanin genes in its parents. These defective or non-functional genes are passed on to the next generation.
This kind of genetic problem is not common to these insects as it is a germline mutation. This genetic mutation in melanin pigment occurs due to hormonal imbalance and other skin issues.
These changes in melanin expression can also occur due to aging as a few genes stop expressing over time. Moreover, they have smaller bodies and lesser opportunities for mutations to occur.
A smaller number of genes in insects are involved in regulating the function of melanin compared to higher organisms, so the chances of variations are lesser.
Is there any difference between white ants and termites?
Termites are commonly known as white ants because albino insects are not so common to be seen indoors and living in grasslands and forests.
These white-bodied termites are unpigmented workers in a colony having soft transparent bodies appearing in creamy white color. Soldier termites are wingless and appear white-like workers.
Most probably, you can get confused by seeing whitish pupae in the colony that can make you feel there are albino ants in a colony, but it rarely occurs in hundreds of thousands of insects.
In addition, you can see adult ants with transparent bodies when their old reddish or brown-colored exoskeleton gets removed accidentally.
It takes time to grow a newer shell when they look like an albino. Still, it is not an albino insect because it is a temporary physical alteration, not a permanent change in genetic makeup.
Where are white ants commonly present?
Ants and termites have similar habitat requirements as they attack wooden logs to make deep tunnels inside the soft wood where they can live safely.
The white ants or termites usually eat wood after chewing while making tunnels in the log, but carpenter ants chew and through the sawdust out of the log.
These insects usually invade rotting or decaying wood material with good moisture content due to mold growth and find it a perfect spot for living.
In addition, they invade soft wooden logs that are rotten and decaying, providing a good moisture content and an ideal spot for living.
Termites eat the wood while ants chew it to make deep tunnels, so these white-bodied termites seem like white ants, but there is no such thing in reality.
Furthermore, some giant albino ants are commonly found in the scum pits and mystery caves, where they find suitable prey to live long by dragging bodies inside their mounds collectively.
So, you can find them living in a place where they can find plenty of food and moisture to ensure their survival and avoid starvation.
How do you identify white ants?
It is challenging to differentiate common ants from white ants or termites by their physical appearances, like body length and color.
Both of them form colonies and build nests around plants and trees. They have swarmer or flying members in a colony that shed wings after mating and spend their lives within a colony.
White ants have short stature and appear wider than regular ones having sandy-colored bodies. A few distinctive features of these insects are thick antennae and the absence of eyes.
Moreover, you cannot see them crawling everywhere as they prefer to remain hidden, unlike other regular ants, and come out only in mating seasons.
You can find them close to the wooden furniture, doors, windows, and wooden logs in the backyard as they like to eat only wood, unlike omnivorous ants, which can eat almost everything.
In addition, you have to look for the signs like damaged timber as these termites chew wood from the inside and destroy it entirely at a slow pace.
A damp wood with slight discoloration also confirms the presence of termites, as they can produce moisture, allowing mold to grow and give off a particular moldy odor.
Windows and doors are hard to open when termites live inside the wooden material. The presence of frass and discarded wings indicate their colonies and flying insects in that place.
Furthermore, these can produce a clicking sound that can be heard clearly at night when there are no other loud noises from electrical appliances.
How rare is an albino ant?
Albino ants are not common insects in nature as there are rare chances of mutation in the small-size genetic makeup of these organisms.
Most probably, you will not see an albino spider or other bugs in the surroundings commonly because these are only produced after parental genetic mutations.
Moreover, it happens when suppressed or recessive genes are passed on to new offspring, which slightly vary in color and appear lighter than the darker parents.
Some giant albino ants, usually bigger termites, are located in the forests, but no particular regular insects of this species still have white bodies.
These can be produced artificially when researcher modifies their genetic makeup by genetic engineering methods or to study albino insects.
How do you get rid of white ants?
It is essential to get rid of white ants or termites from the house using natural repellents and baits primarily, as they are destructive pests and can cause severe structural damage.
Creating barriers for these tiny insects using repelling chemicals can help avoid damage to the maximum extent. In addition, some chemical-killing solutions and termiticides can also help get rid of them.
Boric acid is quite effective powder against a large number of pests and kills these insects slowly, leading to the removal of whole colonies.
Furthermore, essential oils like neem oil and white vinegar can be used as potential repellents for wood-eating pests and keep them at a distance.
Deadly baits are good to consider for their removal, in addition to food-grade diatomaceous earth powder, which interferes with their digestion and causes dehydration.