Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related families of wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. They are a diverse group of more than 12,000 species, with a higher diversity in the tropics. They are known for their highly organized colonies and nests, which sometimes consist of millions of individuals. Individuals are divided into sub-fertile, and more commonly sterile, females ("workers"), fertile males ("drones"), and fertile females ("queens"). Colonies can occupy and use a wide area of land to support themselves. Ant colonies are sometimes described as super organisms because the colony appears to operate as a unified entity.
Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ant species are Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, parts of Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, and other remote or inhospitable islands. When all their individual contributions are added up, they may constitute up to 15 to 25% of the total terrestrial animal biomass.
Termites, sometimes called white ants, are not closely related to ants, although they have similar social structures. Velvet ants, although resembling large ants, are wingless female wasps.
Modern society considers the ant a pest. Pest control with regard to ants is more a matter of controlling local populations than eliminating an entire colony. Attempts to control ant populations of any kind are temporary solutions.
Typical ants that are classified as pests include pavement ants (otherwise known as the sugar ant), Pharaoh ants, carpenter ants, Argentine ants, and the red imported fire ant. Control of species populations are usually done with bait insecticides, which are either in the form of small granules, or as a sticky liquid that is gathered by the ants as food and then brought back to the nest where the poison is inadvertently spread to other members of the brood — a system that can severely reduce the numbers in a colony if used properly. Boric acid and borax are often used as insecticides that are relatively safe for humans. With the recent insurgence of the red imported fire ant, a tactic called broadcast baiting has been employed, by which the substance (usually a granule bait designed specifically for fire ants) is spread across a large area, such as a lawn, in order to control populations. Nests may be destroyed by tracing the ants' trails back to the nest, then pouring boiling water into it to kill the queen. This works in about 60% of the mounds and needs about 14 litres (3 gallons) per mound.
Ants that tend other insects can indirectly cause pest infestations. Many homopteran insects that are considered as horticultural pests are controlled by the use of grease rings on the trunks of the trees. These rings cut off the routes for ants and make the pest species vulnerable to parasites and predators.