Do Thief Ants Build Nests?

Solenopsis molesta is one of the smallest species of ants, commonly called thief ants, but they are also known as grease ants due to their preference for greasy foods.

Do Thief Ants Build Nests? Thief ants build nests to spend their lives, protect eggs, get warmth, store food and water, and hide from predators. They build nests close to larger ants to steal their eggs and larvae to get nutrients after creating narrow tunnels leading to their colonies or begin to live within their colonies. They build bigger mounds over a few weeks to months.

Nest building is one of the prominent behavioral characteristics of ants, which is essential for their survival because they cannot spend their whole lives on the ground surface.

Why do thief ants build nests?

Thief ants are pretty small insects ranging in size between 0.5 and 1mm that are named so for their stealing behavior. They are known to create underground nests to live securely.

Every insect needs a space to spend their lives because they all have to reach a common place after doing their daily tasks according to their jobs.

Some colony members remain inactive and spend their lives within the mound while waiting for the workers to return with the food particles in their mouths to feed them.

In contrast, a colony contains a large population of active members that go out to navigate their territories and collect food, while others look for the risk of predator attack to ensure safety.

They build compact, narrow tunnels within a mound to keep eggs in separate chambers. It helps avoid over-filling of queen chamber with eggs that are continuously reproducing or laying eggs.

In addition, it helps them hide from the attack of predators as they can quickly run towards their homes and hide under the ground to avoid the risk.

These can also provide warmth to insects at a time when everything is hidden under a thick sheet of snow on the ground and can pose a risk of death due to freezing.

They also have to store the dead insects and their eggs to use them for nutrition during winter, so they can make a separate chamber that becomes a reservoir of food.

Furthermore, thief ants make nests to reach the colonies of larger insects as they make their way through their homes to the eggs and larvae of other ants.

How do thief ants build their nests?

Building a nest is quite a hectic or challenging task for tiny insects because it is a long-term process that can take weeks or months to complete.

Thief ants have bigger colonies and need more space to adjust their polygynous colonies. They look for suitable places and choose areas closer to other ants’ colonies.

Most commonly, they usually create mounds within the soil where they see colonies of red imported and argentine ants at a close distance.

Sometimes, they reach nests of other colonies and live in close association with them. These tiny insects are dangerous and can attack and kill their queens and eggs on a large scale.

They use their tiny legs to dig deeper into the soil to make tunnels and adjust their colony members within the tunnels by creating distinct chambers.

These grease ants can also build nests under rocks and choose rotting logs to ensure the survival of their colonies when they do not find other suitable places for living.

Furthermore, they have tiny mandibles that can help chew off the wooden material, make tunnels, and get inside the cracks to make their own home.

Where do thief ants build nests?

Thief ants can make their nests at different places as they can survive in different habitats. They can become indoor pests by sneaking through tiny spaces or cracks in the walls or floorboards.

You can find these ants close to the colonies of red imported fire ants because they are also tiny insects having 2 to 3-mm long bodies.

Accordingly, they build nests in rainforests and grasslands and come indoors to live in narrow spaces like areas behind baseboards and walls.

The red imported fire ants usually live under the floors and behind the baseboards, so they also make a home in this location to remain closer to their colonies.

It is easy for them to reach their nests when living at a close distance to attack brutally to kill the adult workers and queens and steal their eggs for the future.

In addition, they also choose habitats of argentine ants because these are prey insects of the grease ants that can reach their colonies by making underground tunnels opening into their nests.

Accordingly, you can see these insects living in hidden areas like cabinet voids, wall cracks, and under the countertop, as they can easily sneak through small spaces.

They get attracted to moist places like under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, where the colonies of argentine ants are also present.

Do thief ants keep dead ants in their nests?

They build nests based on multiple chambers and narrow tunnels to keep the eggs and provide space for inactive members of the colony.

Thief ants or Solenopsis molesta do not leave their dead fellows alone on the death spot and fulfill their responsibility of being a fellow even after their death.

Accordingly, they quickly reach the death spot after detecting pheromones released from the dead insect after a day or two when it starts decomposing.

A group of these insects carry the dead insect over their bodies by mutual coordination and bring it inside the colony, but they do not keep their dead bodies among them.

They bury dead insects in a midden and make a pile of their bodies at a distance from their nests. The presence of dead insects can pose a risk of contamination as their bodies can attract other insects.

Accordingly, they are kept inside a midden where all the dead fellows get buried because it is not considered safe to assign a chamber for dead insects among them.

Do thief ants build bigger nests?

The size of nests depends on the number of members in a colony, as a small size colony needs a small space to accommodate its members.

Thief ants build bigger homes because their colonies contain hundreds or thousands of members. They have polygynous colonies containing 2 to 8 queens and many workers.

Moreover, the female flying insects take flight in late July to mate and get sperm to fertilize the eggs. She lands on the ground and chooses a place to build the nest.

After that, she lays eggs and takes care of the brood until they become adults. The adult workers take care of the queen and become a workforce to build their homes at desired locations.

Most worker population indulge in this building process and collectively create deep tunnels in the ground. Creating a home for thousands of insects takes a lot of time and effort.

However, their continuous effort and persistence led to the formation of bigger nests in compact shapes with tunnels linked to the colonies of other ants for stealing purposes.

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